Dir: Hans-Christian Schmid. Germany. 2000. 97mins.
Prod co: Claussen + Woebke. Int'l sales: c/o Claussen + Woebke (+49 89 23 11 010). Prods: Jakob Claussen, Thomas Woebke. Scr: Hans-Christian Schmid, Michael Gutmann, based on the novel by Benjamin Lebert. DoP: Sonja Rom. Ed: Hansjoerg Weissbrich. Mus: Christoph Kaiser. Main cast: Robert Stadlober, Tom Schilling, Oona Devi Liebich, Julia Hummer, Dagmar Manzel, Burghart Klausner, Joerg Gudzuhn.
Just five months after 16-year-old Benjamin Lebert earned the distinction of becoming the youngest German bestseller author ever, director Hans-Christian Schmid adapted Lebert's novel, Crazy, a tale of teenage boys coming of age in an upper class boarding school in Bavaria. Its honest, straightforward approach registered strongly with German audiences and its unobtrusive style - unlike most teen drama, here the adults are not caricatures - should improve its prospects of reaching a broader age-group internationally.
In his novel Lebert recounts a year of his own life, and Schmid was authentic in shooting at the very school Lebert attended, a castle set in an impressive rural landscape. The episodic tale centres on the slightly handicapped Benjamin (Stadlober) who has flunked out of several schools because of his weakness in math. He befriends roommate Janosch, but conflicts ensue as they both have an eye for beautiful classmate Malen. Standard teen plot points - sex, alcohol and peer pressure - are handled adroitly by the accomplished teen cast. Dagmar Manzel is a stand-out as Benjamin's over-stressed mother.
If the film lacks dramatic development, its quasi-documentary-style narrative makes up for it by allowing Schmid time to develop supporting parts. After 23 (1998) and It's A Jungle Out There (1996), Schmid proves himself yet again a superb director of young protagonists. Lebert's experiences arrive on screen undiluted, in a striking contrast to recent German success Just The Two Of Us (Harte Jungs) that used a very similar plot line but riddled it with every cliche in the book.