Herr Lehmann

Last week I went to see Leander Haußmann’s adaptation of Sven Regener’s Herr Lehmann, (translated into English as Berlin Blues). The book and subsequent film were a huge hit here in Berlin nailing the curious atmosphere in SO36 as the wall fell - a slow motion dissolution that the kietz still waxes nostalgic for and occasionally indulges.

Haußmann had sweetened the origanal very slightly and removed a couple of of things. Karl's secret other life, the mysterious older woman who is known to none of his freinds makes no appearance here but the vague suggestions of a overenthusuastic encounters with the devil's dandruff are sufficient to make the narrative coheer. I fact I think I liked the film better than the book - perhaps (having read it in the translation) something of the tone was lost.

In Haußmann’s film, as in the book, the East Germans remain on the other side of the wall. The narrative is driven lazily by the eponymous anti-hero, Herr L, who works in a bar and aspires to little else than sleeping late and avoiding commitment. An everyman who skates lightly upon the ice, Herr L seemed to capture the imagination of a generation to young too have been there the first time around and the nostalgia of generation old enough to know better. A world in which little exists beyond the Kietz.

This is X-berg indulging itself in popcorn, beer and furtively passed joints as the sun falls at the Frieluftkino. Row after row of hastily erected deckchairs. The audience twice, three times, the size it was a week back amusing itself as the credits roll and die Fledermaus makes its nightly appearance, a torn piece of black paper caught in the breeze.

Then that Dog shows up, as Her L stumbles down the street in the bleary cinematic dawn of 1989 and the audience fall silent.

We recognise the locations. The Spiel und Spass on the corner of Schleisicher Tor, the Imbiss, nah’ Kottbuser Tor, Weiner Strasse and finally, though none of us have been there, all of us recognise the Abfall with its motley cast of characters – all of us swear that we remember that bar. '36 in '89 in '36 in '07. Eighteen years. A short lifetime.

Karl, Herr L’s friend succumbs to madness brought on by lassisitude. His employer is paranoid with cocaine and his parents are coming to pay him a visit. Christian Ulmen’s performance is wholly believable, complex and endearing. The audience laugh in all the right places – recognition of the mildly weird sensation of watching a feature film set in the very location in which we were watching it but set eighteen years ago.

A small black hole opening in the vicinity of Maranienplatz.