The “rallies” are “academies,” basically bubbly conventions where smiling young like-minded faces gather, live-stream vlogs with their selfie sticks, buy t-shirts, sample gins and hear presentations.
And those speeches? They’re Tony Robbins-affirmative, TED Talk slick and Promise Keepers creepy.
The “Re/Generation” messaging announces “We are the future,” “We will save Europe by being Europe!”
But don’t you dare yell “Sieg HEIL!” in the middle of all this good, clean fun.
“That was YESTERDAY! Get over it!”
No, today’s Nazis are social media savvy, with ISIS like online testimonials, slightly-sanitized messaging delivering by “leaders” — speakers, pop starlets and racist rappers — delivering telegenic sex appeal.
That’s the gripping setting of “Je suis Karl,” a German thriller about pan European nationalism, the fascism/white supremacism that has gained a foothold in much of the Western World. It’s a somewhat cumbersome, drifting drama that feels misassembled, somehow. Good elements are here. They’re just arranged in the wrong order.
An almost giddy, 40ish couple (Mélanie Fouché, Milan Peshel) vlog their way from Berlin into Budapest. They’re there to smuggle a refugee (Aziz Diab) they met in Greece into Germany. Whatever the law, they have made their own moral choice.
And Yusuf gets in.
Sometime later, Alex (Peshel) picks up his oldest daughter Maxi (Luna Wedler of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”), gets home and signs for a package that will blow up their entire apartment.
Only shocked Alex and confused, enraged Maxi survive. “ISLAMIC TERRORISTS!” the headlines scream. Alex is thrown completely adrift, seeing dead crows, like the one he picked up after the blast, everywhere. Maxi, hounded by the media, finds herself shielded by a handsome stranger.
But when Karl (Jannis Niewöhner of “Godless Youth”) pulls out a brochure, Maxi hears warning bells.
“What ARE you,”(in German with English subtitles) she wants to know. Some Christian cult recruiter?
No. “Re/Generation” is what the organization is called. And he sugar coats the hell out of what they actually are — Proud Boys (and Girls) with better wardrobes and slimmer waistlines. Maxi isn’t put off. She’s read the headlines. And she is attracted to the perfect-haired hunk making the pitch.
Unlike her, we’ve seen the flashback that came with Karl’s introduction to the story. We saw him dye his beard, saw him pick up the bomb and deliver it. As we saw in much of the “riot” footage in America, it’s the violent racists who are enflaming the country by pretending it’s “the other” who are carrying out terrorist acts.
Director Christian Schwochow (“The German Lesson”) has trouble juggling the two points of view of Thomas Wendrich’s script. We see all the plotting, the German-history-repeats-itself strategizing to create martyrs, “wave the bloody shirt” because “We need the final straw.”
We see the scheming, the lying “testimonials” about white victimhood, the pitiless plotting and planning.
Maxi is clueless, seduced by the seducer, traveling with him as her father struggles to regain his mental moorings and get her to come home.
Giving away too soon Karl’s role in the event that upended Maxi’s life is a classic thriller blunder. Taking away Maxi’s agency in figuring out his/their “REAL game” is another. There’s zero suspense to this. We never fear for Maxi’s safety because she’s among her fellow Master Race.
And “Je suis Karl,” which is performed in German, French and English, waits entirely too long to clue the father in about the deep end his daughter’s plunged into.
There might be a better film in what’s here, something that judicious trimming and re-arranging of scenes could bring out. But you know what they say about movies made for Netflix. “Re-edit? Why bother?”
Rating: TV-MA, violence, racism, sex
Cast: Luna Wedler, Jannis Niewöhner, Milan Peschel, Anna Fialova, Fleur Geffrier and Aziz Diab.
Credits: Directed by Christian Schwochow, scripted by Thomas Wendrich. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:06