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German Film Festival: Next Door

A successful actor meets his neighbour in a local bar. By the end of the morning, neither of them will be the same.

Popular actor Daniel Brühl (The Alienist; Inglorious Basterds; Good Bye Lenin!) makes his directorial debut with the quirky Next Door.

Written by Daniel Kehlmann, Next Door is basically a two-hander, with some minor characters present almost as set-decoration. Daniel is a successful television star, married to a doctor, and living in a newly gentrified apartment in Berlin. On his way to the airport for a screen-test in London he stops off at his local bar. There he meets Bruno, who turns out to be his next-door neighbour. A conversation ensues which takes unexpected twists and turns. By the end of the morning, neither of them are quite the same as when they walked in.

Kehlmann has really written a play, rather than a screenplay. The dialogue is sharp and intelligent, giving ample material to Brühl and his wonderful co-star, the ubiquitous Peter Kurth. The black comedy explores human relationships, class, and gentrification. There just isn’t quite enough cinematic movement to fill out the screen. Daniel leaves and returns a couple of times, giving the audience some visual relief from the dark, claustrophobic bar, but this is change for change’s sake, rather than being intrinsically driven by the narrative.

Brühl and Kurth keep the tension high and play on the elements of suspense enough to keep the audience engaged. Gode Benedix adds comic relief as the crazy alcoholic Micha.

Next Door is a worthy attempt at a dialogue-driven movie, and has enough charm and intelligence to make the 90 minutes worth-while. Brühl displays a sure and subtle hand in the direction, and will no doubt go onto bigger and better things.

Next Door is currently showing as part of the German Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.

Click here for screening times.

surprisingly charming 3.5 stars

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