Acting It Out (1993): German Road Comedy

Palm Springs Film Fest–A disparate, eccentric young trio of would-be actors cross paths in Acting It Out, a German road comedy that is structurally innovative and beautifully shot.

Assured, fluid direction and charming performances should transcend the film’s particular locale and humor. Representing the very new German cinema, this movie has potential commercial appeal that goes beyond the art house and fest circuits.

The three protagonists of Acting It Out are very different, but they are not types. Ingo (Jurgen Vogel) works as a dishwasher, but aspires to be a writer. While returning a stool left at his restaurant to an acting academy, he is inadvertently mistaken for a student and his moody behavior taken to be an audition.

At the academy, Ingo meets Johannes (Kai Wiesinger), a passionate “Method” actor, and strikes up a friendship. Because of his obsessive fear of auditions, Johannes has already flunked out of seven of Germany’s eight acting schools. He is planning to hitchhike to Munich, his last resort as an actor, and persuades Ingo, who has been jilted by his g.f. Margot (Magdalene Artelt), to accompany him. Along the way, they meet Ali (Gedeon Burkhard), a suave, handsome lady-killer and would-be actor, who joins the journey.

The film’s first half is set on the road, where the trio periodically separates only to regroup again–accidentally yet symmetrically. En route they encounter an array of odd characters (a hard-rock punk dressed in leather, an aging homosexual) that add to picture’s quirky texture.

The comrades eventually find their way to Munich, where they settle and prepare their auditions buoyed by deep and trusting friendship. They experience joyous and amorous as well as disappointing adventures, finally coming to terms with their true ambitions–and themselves.

Though following a clear structure, Jurgen Egger’s innovative script is loose enough to seem improvised. The narrative goes beyond the established conventions of an off-beat road comedy, tackling some serious observations about life’s chances, unpredictable encounters that turn fatal, opportunities given and missed, etc. However, pic’s pensive sequences are inventively interspersed with truly whimsical ones depicting the impassioned auditions. The students take on everything from Faust, Hamlet and Woyczek all the way to Tom in The Glass Menagerie, Gene Hackman in The French Connection, and Marlon Brando in The Godfather.

Acting It Out is conceived with depth and freshness: Nothing looks rehearsed, yet each scene is fully orchestrated. Throughout, helmer maintains a poignantly observant perspective on his lead characters and the twists in their identities.

There is good chemistry among the three young actors, who form an impressive ensemble. Gernot Roll’s brilliant camera work has a smooth but edgy quality that is perfectly complemented by Ueli Christen’s seamless, unobtrusive editing.

It’s to helmer Sonke Wortmann’s credit that his movie contains not one false or boring moment. Demonstrating that Hollywood is not the only industry to specialize in road comedies, Acting It Out adds a distinctly Germanic touch to this popular genre.