Dir. Hans Weingartner. Germany . 2007. 132 mins
Anyone who has ever railed against the pernicious poison of reality television should derive a scattering of wry chuckles from Reclaim Your Brain, a Capra-esque call to arms from writer/director Hans Weingartner. Taking aim at some obvious targets, it is slow to warm up but eventually delivers a mildly provocative satire that shares the same anarchic spirit and excessive length of Weingartner's previous film The Edukators (2004). The combination of cartoonish humour, crowd-pleasing sentimentality and star Mortiz Bleibtreu may strike a chord with domestic audiences on the film's German release in October but international audiences may consider the film too much effort for such a modest pay off.
Seemingly determined to tackle all the evils of the modern world, Weingartner has constructed another tale in which a group of disenfranchised outsiders and misfits unite to try and start a revolution. The Robin Hood-figures who sought to challenge a society of docile consumers in The Edukators are now reconfigured as a group determined to tackle the dumbing-down of modern culture.
Bleibtreu stars as Rainer, a hot shot television producer who has grown rich and arrogant on the kind of cringe-inducing shows that Simon Cowell would probably consider more than viable. The latest idea pitched to him is a grisly hybrid of Titanic and Big Brother. When we first see him, he is roaring through the streets in a fast car, snorting cocaine and guzzling vodka. He couldn't be more of a caricature if he tried.
Seeking vengeance for the suicide of her grandfather, the mysterious Pegah (Gabard) deliberately drives into him. Rushed to hospital, he suffers a near death experience and emerges a changed man.
Just like Peter Finch's messianic anchorman in the prescient Network (1976) he is mad as hell and not prepared to take it anymore. He now puts his energies into a hard-hitting, prime time news show that flops in the ratings. Bemused by its lack of success, he starts to investigate how the ratings are compiled and eventually becomes convinced that the system could be manipulated to deliver huge ratings for documentaries, challenging films and high quality programming. It is the catalyst for a revolution in the cultural life of the nation as people are inspired to abandon low-rent brainless fodder and find better things to do with their lives.
If only life were as simple Weingartner's film. His Capra-like faith in the power of the people is very engaging and endearingly expressed in a lengthy montage where people head to the beach, read a book, play with their children and settle down for a bracing evening with the latest in a prime time Fassbinder film season. The naivete is touching but also makes the film a soft, wish-fulfilment fantasy especially when Rainer and his new recruits then set their sights on a city that is so perfectly average that it is used as a model for testing products and goods that might be introduced throughout Germany just like Magic Town (1947) written by Capra stalwart Robert Riskin.
Charismatic leading man Bleibtreu is a big factor in keeping the film on track as its baggy screenplay is eventually moulded and focused into a digestible shape. The supporting cast assembled around him eventually have their own moments in the spotlight as their characters become a little more fully defined and a star vehicle develops into sunny a ensemble complete with feel good ending.
Kahuuna Films (Ger)
Coop99 Filmproduktion (Aust)
The Match Factory (Ger)
Christine A Maier
Elsa Sophie Gambard