By Bruce Bouchard
‘Die Beste aller Welten’ — ‘The Best of All Worlds’: feature, narrative fiction, Germany, 2017.
For those of you who remember and had the nerve for the breakout indie drug-nightmare film, ‘Trainspotting,’ which launched the careers of director Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor, we are straight up in that world in this stunning breakout film from Germany and as fine a debut from director Adrian Goiginger as I have seen. The primary difference (in addition to a full generation later and a different European locale) is that there is a child — a miracle child — at the center of this drug world madness. I am not kidding when I say that this is the No. 1 most astonishing performance by a child, surpassing even the astonishing child in “Lion.” His fear, his deep confusion and his will to survive play out in acting sequences worthy of one of the British Lions.
The film takes place in Salzburg, Austria (the location of “The Sound of Music”). Three generations later there are no dirndls and edelweiss to be found. It takes place in the seedy projects on the fringe of the city where hope is crushed and addiction ravages everything in its path. Helga is a single parent in the projects — with her beautiful and loving boy, Adrian. The sometimes “father” and a horrifying group of addicts populate their small and dirty apartment. Spectacular acting to a person. The mother Helga is reminiscent of Liv Ullmann — and her horrifying war with addiction and epic struggle for survival and a life for her child is a clarion call for sobriety.
This young director, Mr. Goiginger, is going to make a major contribution; I only hope there will be more coming from him. There is an otherworldly magic element here that reveals the inside of a child’s mind who is terrified by what is happening around him — it is his world, and the best of all worlds that he knows…and of course it isn’t.
The density of this conundrum is the center of the film. And the child has no control over any of it, while at the same time wearing a courageous front. This film has won awards for the direction and the mother/son acting team all over Europe. So appropriate in our time of existential crisis, as opioid deaths are over the top. This rare, beautiful gem is well worth the pain and suffering of the journey. 105 minutes. Available from Amazon.
Editor’s note: Bruce Bouchard was the executive director at the Paramount Theatre for 12 years. During that time he was also a screener and a host for four of the seven Middlebury New Filmmakers festivals. This series highlights some of the indie gems that came out of the festival. The 7th annual Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival will be Aug. 25-29. For more information, visit middfilmfest.org.