The movie critique portion of this review was written by my colleague Ishmael Hurst.
In all aspects of life, we are encouraged to move on from the pains of the past. From scandalous family secrets to the skipped pages in a history book, there are ́some skeletons you just don’t waltz out in polite company. Nobody wants bones at the table. But try as we may to bury yesterday, it’s always just a shovel and a few scoops away. How About Adolf? warns us, with equal parts tension and humor, how hard it is to stop digging once you start.
Peacekeeping school teacher Elisabeth (Caroline Peters), the film’s introductory narrator, and her husband Stephan (Christoph Maria Herbst), a corduroy-clad, prickly and pretentious lit professor, intend to host a perfectly peaceful and pleasant dinner party for friends and family. While Stephan busies himself grouchingly searching for a set of keys he doesn’t immediately require, Elisabeth toils over preparations in her role as the perfect hostess. Family friend René, an effeminate symphony clarinetist who dons a full tuxedo to the casual affair, arrives first and does his best to remain agreeable and unassuming. Thomas, Elisabeth’s black sheep brother, with a rascal’s smirk and a bone to pick, swings in soon after to serve as the evening’s wrench. By the time his poor, pregnant girlfriend Anna arrives, the dinner party is doomed.
Beyond some obvious bristling between Stephan and Thomas, whose attitudes toward life are inherently opposite, the conversational weather is calm until Thomas casually reveals his intent to name his unborn child after history’s most infamous genocidal dictator. Thus ensues a heated philosophical exchange of licks, with the inflammatory professor attacking from the moral high ground while his coy foe flippantly deflects. Though Stephan’s emotional response is reasonably sound, Herbst injects him with a bloated pigheadedness that makes Thomas’ natural charisma all the more convincing, even when he’s clearly having fun at his brother-in-law’s expense. The argument refuses to die, instead escalating and changing course as more personal revelations between the party-goers are aired. As the tight-knit group continues to unravel, no feelings are spared and none remain blameless- except, perhaps, patient Elisabeth, who just wants everyone to calm down and enjoy dessert.
Despite the stacked interpersonal drama, How About Adolf? is an effective comedy of misunderstandings. It earns laughs best with the black-humored, eschewing slapstick for sardonic wit and exasperated bickering. The performers strongly deliver and bounce off each other with ramped inertia, as demanded by such a minimally cast film. They’re easy to believe as a closely-woven group with complex, emotionally layered dynamics.
What’s in a name? The film explores this question with engagement and whimsy, but doesn’t seek to truly answer it- after all, it really depends on whether or not that name is synonymous with atrocity. How About Adolf? asks us to consider the power of things unsaid. Does a name remain defined by its past only if we refuse to use it? Can our relationships with those we love ever move beyond the unnamed resentments we bury, but never forget? And, most importantly, is it okay to name your child Josef?
How About Adolf? comes to Blu-Ray from Menemsha Films in a 1080p presentation that is truly a beauty. While this is not a visually rich film, the interiors are presented with a grand clarity in which you can see an incredible amount of detail. There are not intense pops of color, but what is featured is rendered quite nicely. The white levels are handled beautifully, along with the deep blacks that do not appear to suffer from any compression artifacts. There are many scenes that feature dim lighting that hold up exceedingly well. There are a few scenes that appear a bit hazy in the more dimly lit elements, but that appears to be something inherent to the original source rather than a transfer issue. There are no instances of intrusive digital noise in the presentation. The skin tones look very detailed and natural all around. This presentation is definitely a strong addition to the Blu-Ray format.
The Blu-Ray disc comes with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track in the original German with optional English subtitles, which brings this environment to life perfectly. This is a film that is driven by dialogue and does not feature much in the way of action. The surround speakers get some nice engagement early on with a delivery guy on a motorbike, but it rarely gets more active than that. The score is showcased well here with a gently enveloping use of the surround speakers. The dialogue comes through crystal clear without ever being overpowered by the environmental effects or overlapping dialogue The sound design is very natural and directionally accurate with all of the sounds positioned just right in the mix. As this is not an action-heavy film, the activity in the low end is nearly nonexistent. The audio presentation represents the film perfectly from beginning to end.
- Trailers: The theatrical trailer is included for How About Adolf?, which shows off the movie well. There are also trailers for Crescendo, The Keeper, The Last Supper, Promise At Dawn, Those Who Remained, and The Tobacconist.
How About Adolf? is a really clever, darkly humorous interpersonal tale that has fun while tackling some broader themes. The performances are very strong all around, and the pacing of the film is very effective so that you are never left feeling as if the story is spinning its wheels. Menemsha Films and Kino Lorber have released a Blu-Ray with a rock solid A/V presentation that should please potential fans. Recommended
How About Adolf? is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Menemsha Films and Kino Lorber have supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.