English Title: Good Times
Original Title: Beste Zeit
Country of Origin: Germany
Studio: Monaco Film GmbH
Director: Marcus H. Rosenmüller
Screenplay: Karin Michalke
Cinematographer: Helmut Pirnat
Editor: Anne Loewer
Runtime: 95 minutes
Genre: Heimatfilm, Comedy
Kati and Jo (Sturm and Thomass), two 17-year-old women and best friends since childhood, question whether they would miss their small Bavarian hometown of Tandern if they left. When Kati gets accepted into a year-long exchange programme at an American high school, her days in Tandern seem numbered. Everyday life in the province and at her parents’ farm becomes more meaningful to her and she realises that during a year abroad she would miss spending time with her family and friends. She is also anxious not to miss her first romance with the soldier Mike (Brückner). Kati recognises Tandern as ‘home’, and decides to give up her travel plans. Good Times is set in the mid-1990s and it is spoken in the Bavarian dialect.
Good Times is Marcus H. Rosenmüller’s second Heimatfilm after his successful debut, Grave Decisions (2006), and it is the first part of a trilogy set in the small upper-Bavarian town of Tandern. All three films are based on writer Karin Michalke’s youth memories in her native Tandern, and deal with the coming-of-age of two young women, Kati and Jo. The second part of the trilogy, Beste Gegend, was released in 2008. Beste Chance concludes this Heimatfilme trilogy and is scheduled for release in 2011.
What makes the rather unspectacular plot of Good Times engaging from a film historical perspective is the representation of ‘America’ (as an idea rather than as a country). Within the Heimatfilme context ‘America’ often serves as an embodiment of cosmopolitanism. Just like ‘the city’, ‘America’ was often depicted as a threatening ‘Other’ and, as such, challenged representations of ‘home’ in classic 1950s Heimatfilme. In a reaction to the conservative Heimatfilme of the decade following World War II, ‘America’ in the anti-Heimatfilme of the 1960s and 1970s was imagined as a utopian space promising salvation from the constraints of (the German) Heimat. In the 1980s writer-director Edgar Reitz took another prominent anti-American stance in his TV-series Heimat (1984), where US society is associated with a lack of culture, rootlessness and consumerism. Rosenmüller, as one of the most important representatives of the new generation of German Heimat film-makers, depicts the image of America as a mere fantasy. In the (re)negotiation of the German concept of Heimat, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and within the context of globalisation, America seems to have lost both its utopian and its dystopian potential. Throughout Good Times, Kati’s plan to go to America remains vague. There is no discussion about why she chose to apply for an exchange programme with an American high school, nor does the film show her preparing for her year abroad. It is no surprise to Kati’s friends when she decides to get off the airport bus and to stay in Tandern. Similarly in Rosenmüller’s film Räuber Kneißl (2008), and in recent Heimatfilme by other directors, such as Hans Steinbichler’s Hierankl (2003), the cosmopolitanism associated with America is no longer seen as desirable.
Although the ‘American dream’ is ultimately dismissed in many recent Heimatfilme such as Good Times, it is noteworthy how much attention America and elements of American culture occupy in the renegotiation of home in Rosenmüller’s films. Without the pending journey to America Kati would not have been prompted to revisit what home means to her. The American-style country rock soundtrack to Good Times, composed by Gerd Baumann – a novelty in recent German Heimatfilme – further underlines and embraces the impact of American culture on Kati’s life, and by extension, on the German search for identity since World War II. Good Times displays nostalgia for the ‘otherness’ of America against which ‘home’ can be defined, but which seems lost in a globalised world.
Author of this review: Maria Irchenhauser