Judge P.S. Colbert is goin' to Carolina in his mind.
"Damaged but lovable lost souls on the road."—Variety
Vincent Wants To Sea is a literal English translation of the film's original German title, "Vincent Will Meer." Somewhat lost in the translation, however, is how this fairly standard buddy road film became an awards-sweeping juggernaut in its home country.
Facts of the Case
Following the death of his alcoholic mother, 27 year old Tourette Syndrome sufferer Vincent Gellner (Florian David Fitz) is bruskly packed up and institutionalized by his no-nonsense father Robert (Heino Ferch, Run Lola Run), a politician who makes no secret of his discomfort with—if not complete disdain of—his afflicted son. Once installed at the hospital, Vincent is assigned to share a room with Alexander (Johannes Allmayer), a severe OCD sufferer. Soon after, he's given a tour of the facilities by anorexic inpatient Marie (Karoline Herfurth, Big Girls Don't Cry). When Vincent politely thanks her for showing him around, Marie explains that doing so was a form of "punishment" administered by Dr. Rose (Katharina Müller-Elmau), the institute's head psychologist.
Lickety split, Marie has swiped the good doctor's car keys and, with the mismatched roommates in tow, heads off into the night, vaguely aiming (at Vincent's suggestion) for the Italian seaside. The trio has no map and little patience for one another, but they're off on adventure for the first time in their lives; free of rules, regulations and domineering authority figures. That is until the next day, when Robert and Dr. Rose (a study in contrasts, themselves) begin hot pursuit in Herr Gellner's auto.
Road films, wherein a limited number of characters chart a geographical course while simultaneously embarking on a journey of self-discovery, have lead to a variety of triumphs in cinematic history: The Wizard Of Oz, Wild Strawberries, Weekend, Easy Rider, True Grit. More and more, however, films that employ the trip-as-centerpiece device seem to suffer from a sense of laziness, using a narrative structure that easily equates dots on a map to plot points, with changing scenery setting up a convenient backdrop for revelations, and passing mile markers substituting for forward-moving dramatic momentum. Vincent Wants To Sea quickly falls into this trap, squandering a singular and nuanced performance (by Fitz) on a trek through all too familiar territory, thanks to a by-the-numbers screenplay (also by Fitz).
Tourette's Syndrome, a neurological disorder often characterized by pronounced and repetitive tics, has often been exploited for comedic purposes in film, theatre, and television; usually seizing on the extreme trait of someone who involuntarily spouts profanity (actually called Coprolalia, and present in only a minority of TS sufferers). Vincent's symptoms do manifest themselves in convulsive jerks and uncontrolled bursts of four-letter words, but Fitz has managed to incorporate these mannerisms into his portrayal without letting them engulf the character, itself a monumental accomplishment.
There is a similar authenticity in Herfurth's performance of eating disorder plagued Marie. The ravaging affects of her illness are starkly presented without ever devolving into melodramatics. The odd man out here is Alexander, whose decision to immerse himself in this gypsy enterprise simply doesn't square with his medical history. Although, to his credit, Allmayer's performance often transcends this falsity. Remarkably, the development of the relationship between Herr Geller and Dr. Rose—the "normal" characters—seems even more forced and unnatural, despite valiant efforts on the part of the actors playing these roles.
Like diamond chips in a corn field, there are wonderfully transcendent moments scattered throughout this journey, but the believability of even the most poignant revelations are irrevocably marred by the notion that such earth-shifting, life-altering exchanges would occur between two carloads of pull-me-push-you types over the course of only a couple of days. Director Ralf Huettner contributes to this sense of unreality with a series of wanna-be iconic tableaux, the most grating of which involves the persecuted fugitive trio sitting mournfully atop a giant cross; and Alexander standing lookout over a glorious mountain vista, pretending to conduct Bach music that blares from the car stereo. Why not have him yell "I'm king of the world!" while he's at it? Even more cloying is the repetitive use of Train's hit song "Hey Soul Sister," a brilliant piece of pop music that has been all but destroyed by overexposure.
And how about the film's final image? I won't spoil the ending, but I will challenge anyone to explain how the image caught in freeze-frame signifies anything more than someone deciding that time was up. Roll credits, please.
There's no denying the technical skill employed in the making of Vincent Wants To Sea. Corinth Films has faithfully transferred the audio/visual qualities to this DVD release, in standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 5.1 Surround, with English subtitles translating the German. Extras are scant: the film's trailer, and a gallery of promotional photos.
The product of a skilled cast and crew, Vincent Wants To Sea has an obvious "feel good" appeal, perfect for those who desire movies that "entertain without making you think" (an edict I will never fully understand). Those seeking something weightier and remotely plausible, this will inevitably disappoint.
Guilty of great promise unfulfilled.
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Studio: Corinth Films
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