EUFF 2016: Our Review of ‘Head Full of Honey’

Posted in EUFF 2016, Film Festivals, Movies by - November 11, 2016
EUFF 2016: Our Review of ‘Head Full of Honey’

The first thing we encounter in Head Full of Honey is a voice-over of a girl, Tilda Rosenbach (Emma Schweiger). She’s talking about things that she’d know. Her grandfather’s Amandus (Dieter Hallervorden) and his Alzheimer’s disease. “People with Alzheimer’s forget lots,” she says. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt that the wording is the translator’s choice. Nonetheless it still screams the affectation of a screenwriter imitating a child. I don’t remember speaking that way when I was 11, not that I would remember, it’s been long. Even her child-like optimism reflects the film’s well, honey-like cinematography. A normal adult’s film goer’s reaction to an adorable child protagonist is to run for the Alps. But I wouldn’t do that just yet, since there are so many interesting things in a movie we’ll call ‘populist.’

Til Scheweiger directed this movie, a piece of trivia I keep having to remind myself. Til who got his fame playing paranoid druggies and murderous basterds. He who sports the same resting b-face for the first half of his film, is capable of such schmaltz. But nuanced schmaltz, once we pay attention to the details because it’s centred on a girl who’s just at the right age. Tilda is old enough to function as a caregiver for Amandus, the right age to be sympathetic to him instead of focusing on her own interests. She’s also old enough to disagree with her parents Niko and Sarah (Til Schweiger and Jeanette Hain). Although of course using those potential skills to plan a road trip with Amandus to Venice is a bit worrying.

Tilda has a charmed life yet it’s still sad for her to grow up while a close family member is degenerating. It might just do the trick for her to grow up properly. Til Schweiger as a director catches moments in his real-life daughter Emma’s face. She realizes the gravity of her family’s situation. She transforms while recognizing specifically what Tilda has to do to take care of Amandus. There are certain scenes when she has to be there as he loses control of his functions. The film is often brash and colourful, favouring broad strokes and gestures so much that it feels like we’re laughing at Amandus instead of with him. But these tendencies stop when she just silently observes, the only character capable of doing so. Yet she takes this all in stride, handling it better than Niko and Sarah do.

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The film doesn’t put Niko and Sarah in the best light, depicted as a typical adulterous bourgeois couple. The latter falls victim to a mostly unsympathetic script which makes her have to complain about Amandus’ junk clashing with her decor. She screams stuff like this in a throaty voice that is not doing her any favours. Surprise, Til Schweiger also co-wrote the script for this movie with Hilly Martinek. I talked about how Tilda is at the right age to care about other people. But the film also assumes that once girls like Tilda grow into women like Sarah they care more about superficial things than they do people. Sarah eventually turns around but that turn feels too late.

In the film’s two hour run it finds time to make fascinating commentary of the world outside its nuclear Teutonic unit. When the Rosenbachs go to a restaurant there’s an immigrant waiter defending Amandus from the place’s chic clients. Another janitor interjects his opinions for Tyrolean sovereignty while Tilda records one of her video voice mails to her parents. These are flawed yet interesting characters written in a movie where we’ll have to take and tolerate the cloyingly bad with the good.

Screening at the Royal at 8:30 PM on Saturday Nov 19th.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.