Agnes And His Brothers

on June 09, 2006 by Annlee Ellingson
If you met them on the street, you'd never guess they were related: A rising star in the Green Party, Werner (Herbert Knaup) is successful, having gotten Container Deposit Legislation passed, but his professional victories belie a troubled home life with his bored, socialite wife and smart-aleck, pot-cultivating teenage son. Meek librarian by day, Hans-Jorg (Moritz Bleibtrau) attends sex addict meetings at night that do little to curb his libidinous appetite. Truest to herself is Agnes (Martin Weiss), their little brother-turned-sister who refuses to be molded into a homemaker role she's clearly not cut out for.

With the exception of one early scene, in which they attempt a friendly visit to their eccentric old father (the one thing they have in common), these three siblings never appear onscreen together. As a result, director/writer Oskar Roehler could have made three separate films with these characters, and in a way he has, employing disparate filmmaking styles while cutting among the three character's stories, sometimes lingering with one or another for big chunks of time while other times alternating at a quick clip.

Where Roehler spends the most time, it seems, is with Werner, whose story evolves from satiric parody to compelling family drama -- there are few scenes more satisfying than when he takes a chainsaw to his son's marijuana crop -- against a rock beat. Meanwhile, Hans-Jorg's journey is by turns ultra-realistic and hyper-real, particularly as he strolls through the stacks to a poppy a cappella tune -- one has never seen so many scantily clad supermodels outside the runway, let alone in a library, of all places. Oddly, given the film's title, Agnes and her melodramatic storyline are the most inaccessible of the three. If she were given her own film, perhaps we would be granted a peek past her innocent and brave veneer. Starring Martin Weiss, Moritz Bleibtreu and Herbert Knaup. Directed and written by Oskar Roehler. Produced by Stefan Arndt. A First Run release. Drama. German-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 115 min

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