Two Sides of the Same Euro

Karla Lončar of the 2014 Talent Press reviews Benjamin Heisenberg's farcical SUPEREGOS, which features in the Berlinale Panorama.

Benjamin Heisenberg's SUPEREGOS

Benjamin Heisenberg, German director of internationally acclaimed dramas SLEEPER (SCHLÄFER, 2005) and THE ROBBER (DER RÄUBER, 2010), presents his latest feature film SUPEREGOS (ÜBER-ICH UND DU, Germany) in this year’s Berlinale Panorama. SUPEREGOS is a dramatic buddy-movie with strong elements of irony and farce, a departure from Heisenberg’s usual, more serious approach.

Nick Gutlicht (Georg Friedrich) is a middle-aged used book dealer, who owes money to local gangsters. He accidentally becomes a chaperon to the elderly theoretical psychologist Curt Ledig (André Wilms), who is torn with guilt over his involvement in the Nazi-regime. Although these two resist friendship at the start, each holds the key to solving the other’s problems, a realization that dawns on them gradually. The protagonists seem completely different at first. Nick is relatively young and comes from a working-class family. He doesn’t read books, he just sells them. He is also an escapist, unwilling to think about his debts. Curt is an elderly middle-class intellectual, observant and smart but unhealthily fixated on traumas from his past. But as the story progresses, Nick begins to show a fear of being in the kitchen, which is one of Curt’s phobias; he also develops an eye twitch just like Curt’s. Similarly, Curt becomes more motivated to break through the constraints of his life. Heisenberg presents those similarities visually, but the characters also state them verbally, which is unnecessary.

It’s not hard to conclude that Curt and Nick represent two types of German identity: one that is old, traumatized and guilt-ridden due to its National Socialist past and one that is young, future-oriented and money-driven. Ultimately, they are two sides of the same coin, an idea that’s cleverly indicated with a rich array of symbols including a white cat that keeps finding ways to sneak into Nick’s presence and a paper cat on a shelf in Curt’s office.

The plot revolves around these two "egos," and the film bears a strong sociopolitical message, but its style is unpretentious, ironic and visually pleasing, and Heisenberg leaves the end somewhat open. He suggests to the audience that in today’s Germany, psychological issues that force people to behave in certain ways may never be resolved, and certain moral discussions will never be concluded because what really matters to most people is plain old criminally derived money.