Having enjoyed watching Good Bye Lenin, I was looking forward to Wolfgang Becker’s earlier romantic drama “Das Leben ist eine Baustelle.” [Eng. Title: Life is All You Get.] – it was after all well received at festivals, and also starred a younger Martina Gedeck. On hindsight, perhaps I should bear in mind the one-swallow idiom more often…
Jan (Jürgen Vogel), a clueless young Berliner, stumbles from one crisis to another – all of his own making, as he plods along between jobs and lovers. The film starts with him breaking up with Sylvia (Andrea Sawatzky) – no reason is given, and later gets arrested after mistakenly attacking two undercover police officers chasing a young woman. The woman’s name is Vera (Christiane Paul), a street singer, who got into trouble following a local riot. Jan is fined a large sum, and when he returns home, sister Lilo (Martina Gedeck) is preoccupied with her lover-boy to even listen to his story. He also gets fired the following day, and to round off a bad day, one of the girls he’d slept with tells him that she’d just discovered that she is HIV-positive, courtesy of her official boyfriend.
Vera bumps into Jan one day and asks him out on a date, and he diligently sticks to the appointment even if it meant leaving his dead dad lying where he found him – by the kitchen table of his flat, face down on a plate of unfinished pasta. They move the corpse together when a drunk Jan is fortuitously brought back to his dad’s place. The one bright spark in Jan’s life however, is his relationship with Lilo’s daughter, five-year old niece Jenni (Rebecca Hessing), who sees him as the father figure that she never had. Vera’s mysterious life away from him perplexes Jan. He follows her home one day, only to discover that she has a partner, even if unbeknown to him, she’s actually ending that relationship at the time. Jan and Vera play further convoluted games before the curtain falls, by which time the audience stop caring about their fate…
If there was a reason for Jan’s reactions and attitude, it has either not been properly explained, or has been poorly interpreted by the cast, and I’m quite surprised by the positive reviews elsewhere. But I doubt if I’m going to watch this film again any time soon to see if my first impressions were harsh. The film also appears more dated than it should be, and unfortunately ends up in the list of rare negative reviews from this author. Nevertheless, readers’ comments with a different opinion are always welcome.
The Nudity: Andrea Sawatzki, Jürgen Vogel, Christiane Paul, and Christina Papamichou
The liberal nudity is a reflection of protagonist Jan’s (Jürgen Vogel) preoccupation with sex, first with Sylvia (Andrea Sawatzki), followed by Vera (Christiane Paul), and finally the Greek woman searching for her brother, Kristina (Christina Papamichou).