So working off of Ami of Schwabenland’s post on Bully, Der Schuh des Manitu, as well as bringing some levity after last week’s post – I thought I would add another well-known German actor/director who’s a household name in the Land of Beer and Pretzels: Til Schweiger.
Ami mentioned (using Der Schuh des Manitu as a great example) how comedy doesn’t always translate from language to language (or culture to culture – not every American gets Monty Python and we share the same language!).
But I know what you must be thinking….ok there are two possible directions your mind may be going:
1. What does Til Schweiger have to do with Comedies? I only know him from Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds
Video is NSFW (Not Suitable for Work)
2. Who the hell is Til Schweiger?
So let’s back up a minute. While Bully has been a household name since his Bully Parade days in the late 90s, Schweiger had already made a name for himself in the 1991 action/racing film Manta, Manta:
But a cult favorite of his work was his directorial/producer debut in the 1997 film Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.
If you haven’t seen this move – I highly recommend it. This film actually has a perfect example of how a joke in one language does not translate in another.
The movie is about two men (Martin Brest and Rudi Wurlitzer) who meet in a hospital. They are there because they both suffer from an incurable diseases (brain and lung cancer respectively) and are literally “knocking on heaven’s door” and only have a few weeks (or few days) to live. They break out of the hospital when Martin discovers that Rudi had never seen the ocean and they decided they must go because apparently all they talk about in heaven is how beautiful the ocean is. Hilarity then insues.
In the early parts of the movie, Til Schweiger’s character, Martin Brest, asks the nurse:
“Schwester können Sie mir einen Blasen… oder Nierentee bringen”
He is technically asking the nurse for tea, but phrasing it in such a way that actually means he was asking for a blowjob.
It boils down to the word Blasen und Nierentee – it’s a type of tea and just Blasen is slang for a BJ. T and I had watched this dubbed in English and Martin simply asks the nurse for a BJ (they didn’t even try to translate that) – obviously it’s not even remotely funny in English. He just comes off like a creeper! I only knew the joke because T had actually paused the movie to explain it to me.
Imagine having to pause through every comedy or every joke in order to explain the nuances to someone who doesn’t understand the cultural background of what was just said.
Welcome to living in a bi-cultural household!
For the most part – American and German sense of humor actually jive pretty well. That is why a lot of American comedies have done quite well in Germany. However, there are occasions where the joke falls flat on its face and epically fails. These cultural misunderstandings are actually funny in their own right.
I highly recommend adding Til Schweiger on your list (that list where you already wrote “watch Bully movies”). His sense of humor is quite dark but his movies will still hit you right in the feels.
T told me that Schweiger did a lot of romantic comedies; I just couldn’t see it. I found this hard to digest – mainly because the first movie I had seen him in was Inglorious Basterds. He spent his screen time mainly quiet and brooding and when he did speak – it was quite a shock. But then again he was also in the American film This Means War, which is also a romantic comedy – so who am I to judge?
Anyway, I hope you are enjoying our little burst of info concerning the German Film Industry -so I will leave you with the trailer of another good Til Schweiger film: Keinohrhase (translates to Rabbit without Ears – it’s about a playboy who was sentenced to community service as a day care run by a girl he used to torment when they were children….it’s a romantic comedy so you can obviously fill in the rest).
Back to you, Ami!