Je suis Karl – an important wake up call for the extreme right in Europe (Berlinale review)

Je suis Karl – an important wake up call for the extreme right in Europe (Berlinale review)

Somewhere in Berlin. But not just any time, this is here and now. A postman delivers a parcel and, soon afterwards, everything changes. A terrorist attack rocks a family to the core. Maxi – who loses her mother, her brothers and her home – tries to look forward, but is still deeply insecure. Nothing seems to work. Her father is as traumatised  and doesn’t seem strong enough to handle the loss of his wife and kids. Then Maxi, run after by reporters, meets Karl. A handsome young man, who liberates her from her paralysis and urges her to conquer her fear. He is amongst the organizers of an event of European students who are looking for solutions to the catastrophic situation on the continent: they use fancy words like change, society, our Europe, youth and change again.

When Maxi joins Karl in Czechia, the event seems to be like an Erasmus conference / party with lots of young people, dancing, clubbing, drinking. Moreover they are all sympathetic to her because of the traumatic experience she went through. But these people that on the surface seem normal, are the heart of the extreme right all over Europe. And they are there to take advantage of Maxi’s grief and ultimately take over all over the continent.

One might say that “Je suis Karl” is a wild exaggeration. And indeed probably it is, as it concerns its characters and the fast plot pace. But as it concerns the political facts, not only it is no exaggeration, but instead, a wake up call on Europeans on the extreme right and the power it has in the continent, especially in the era of the internet and social media. You see, we got used to the last years to picture the extreme right as Trump and his semi-lunatic fans, or the murderers of Golden Dawn. What we usually ignore is extreme right figures that have some political charisma, abandoning the neo-nazi rhetoric for a mainstream one, that still has all the misanthropic ideas, propaganda and provocation. The film exposes the connection of the various European extreme right organizations with each other, a connection that we have seen in other films like Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade”. This time though, we see a close up to young people, and this is shocking, both because we expect a level of open-mindness from the youth, but also because we see the young people’s power. A power that we can realize both in their reckless, fearless actions, but also in the fact that they are the ones that “carry weapons”. It’s not a coincidence that a character in the film mentions that this is the time the extreme right youth is having the most actual weapons in Europe. A quote that both mirrors the fact that extreme right attacks are nowadays probably comparable, if not more than foreign terrorist attacks, but also is an important plot of the film.

Christian Schwochow does a fine job directing the film, like his previous tries like “Paula” (2016), although the screenplay, as inspiring it is, it surely needed some clearer priorities , trying to include too many characters and events. Luna Wedler (known mostly from Netflix’ Biohackers) and Jannis Niewöhner, the protagonistic duo are giving performances that might be key to their future career, as they both are multilingual and talented actors. Milan Peschel gives also a memorable performance as tha father of Maxi.

Grade: 3.5/5

by Christian Schwochow
Written by: Thomas Wendrich
with Luna Wedler, Jannis Niewöhner, Milan Peschel, Edin Hasanović, Anna Fialová
Countries: Germany / Czech Republic Year: 2021
Runtime: 126 minutes

Share on Social Media