VINCENT WANTS TO SEA. Starring: Florian David Fitz, Karoline Herfurth, Johannes Allmayor, Katharina Muller-Elmau, and Heino Ferch. Directed by Ralf Huettner. Rated MA15+. Restricted. (Strong coarse language). 91 min.
This sub-titled German movie has a strangely unforgettable title that needs some explanation.
The film has been the recipient of many audience choice awards at international film festivals, and movingly tells the story of a young, 27-year old man, Vincent (Florian David Fitz), who suffers from Tournette’s syndrome. Vincent’s disability causes him to make sounds and movements that he cannot control, as if “there is a clown” in his head forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do. He has been institutionalised by his father. Vincent is estranged from his father and has very few happy memories of his alcoholic mother, but she looked happy once by the sea. He wants to travel to Italy, so that he can throw her ashes into the ocean and give her what he thinks she desires. The sea, as expressed in the title of the movie, thus becomes a metaphor for hope and direction in Vincent’s unfortunate life.
Vincent escapes from his institution with two other inmates – Alexander (Johannes Allmayor), who obsessively can’t stand anything that is unclean or dirty, even human touch, but who likes the music of Bach; and Marie (Karoline Herfurth), who is a teasingly rebellious anorexic, who dulls her pain with drugs. The movie journeys the three of them through some spectacular scenery that is photographed beautifully. It takes us, and three young people, from Munich to the sea via the Swiss Alps, and the Brenner Pass. The three try to live with their disabilities in the best way they can. In the middle of their journey, they are intercepted by Vincent’s overbearing father, Robert (Heino Ferch), who couldn’t face Vincent’s disability, being too busy trying to get re-elected as a politician. But now Vincent’s behaviour will embarrass him, and he has to get involved.
Despite a good deal of drama on the journey, what emerges from the movie is how much the likeable group of escapees earn respect for their capacity to cope. In very different ways, they face enormous difficulties in coping, and we come to sensitively appreciate their resilience and fortitude in marshalling a range of skills even they themselves didn’t know they had. The three inmates have stolen their therapist’s (Katharina Muller-Elmau) car, which none of them knows how to drive well, and we learn a lot about them as they make their way toward the sea. Their outwitting of their pursuers creates some comic moments that lighten the seriousness of other themes.
The script of the movie was written by Florian David Fitz who plays Vincent, and his role reminds us of Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man”( 1988), who suffered from an autistic speech disorder. The film mixes genuine character study and situational comedy where the predicaments created by the three test their mettle to cope. At its heart, it is a film about misunderstood people and the causes of their problems, but it is also about the growth of understanding of a father for his son, and how love can bond unlikely people together. The sex scene that occurs between Vincent and Marie focuses movingly on what intimacy reveals about two personalities in turmoil.
To some extent, the scope of what the movie attempts is too ambitious, but its raw honesty is obvious. The ending of the movie is sobering. We suddenly find ourselves back in hospital where Marie is raging against her survival, and the film makes us think long and hard about the future of Vincent and Alexander, who move out anxiously into the world to determine their chances.
This is a thoughtfully-directed and well-acted movie that celebrates freedom for the disadvantaged, and a modern sound track, playing soft rock music, helps to provide youthful appeal. By taking disability as its launching point, it engenders joy and enthusiasm in a rather special way.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out March 15, 2012.