Friday, 13 April 2012

'Iron Sky' Review - And Watching English Language Films in Berlin

We went to see Iron Sky at the CineStar in the Sony Centre on Wednesday, which was great entertainment and full of laugh-out-loud moments. It has creative and original ideas in abundance, and is visually rich with great steam-punk cgi special effects and luscious screen-candy actors. Additionally, the soundtrack is awesome.

Its humour is very much in the style of Mel Brooks at his Nazi/Star Wars-spoofing best, but sadly without the same level of acting and direction (or budget). The humour ranges from the lowest common denominator to knowing references to Nazi history, and in a way it would be better called the Ironical Sky (oh hold me, hold me, before my sides split!).

The premise of the film is that a group of Nazis escaped to the dark side of the Moon in the final moments of the Second World War, where they established a Moon colony with plans to return to Earth just as soon as they have got their supreme weapon fixed (named the Götterdämmerung, naturally - not the only Wagner reference by far). Problem is, with time their technological knowledge  and culture have degenerated somewhat, with only an old mad-professor type (ironically with a resemblance to Einstein) left to complete the project, and the children on the base being taught that the Nazis are a peaceful race.

The fun begins when a hunky black American model lands on the Moon, is captured by the Moon Nazis, and thereby inadvertently delivers into their hands the essential super-computer needed to get the Götterdämmerung launched. That super-computer being a mobile phone. Moon Nazis then hop over to Earth in a dinky UFO to get more of these phones because, typically, the battery ran out before it could be used properly. I'll leave it there for you to see how the plot expands.

Well, plot such as it is because it has enough holes to fly a space-zeppelin through. The scenes were sometimes a bit disjointed, but then it did take three years to make, with 10% of the funding coming from the internet community (individuals credited in a long list at the end). But you can forgive all that for a wonderful parody of Sarah Palin as the US president trying to get elected for a second term, which is worth the admission-price alone.

As an aside, when the German's talk about people living on the Mondrückseite (the far side of the moon), they mean that they are ignorant and out-of-date. Just though I'd throw that in there.

Of course there was an added frisson of watching a film full of Nazi regalia in a cinema just 800 metres from Hitler's former Chancellory and bunker, and the German audience gave lots of nervous laughs at the audacity of e.g. a swastika shaped moon colony. But this film definitely has an anti-Nazi (and anti-Republican Tea Party) message, despite some pretty sexy (male and female) Nazi characters.

There are lots of literate nods to other films, including Dr Strangelove, Star Trek, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Moon (the Nazi base is powered by helium 3), Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator, Hitler's rage scene in Downfall, and Team America: World Police.

The stunning soundtrack is dominated by Laibach, whom we had seen the week before at the Heimathafen in Neukölln. Indeed, Laibach had projected most of the film onto the stage backdrop during their gig, so we felt that we had already seen the film. There is also reference to Laibach in the film, when the Moon Nazis come to Earth and get a makeover when they are requisitioned to lead the Sarah Palin look-alike's re-election campaign: the swastikas have been replaced with the logo from Laibach's Volk album. Tracks from that album are of course in the film, most effectively 'America'.

The costumes in the film are something Max Mosley would have gagged for (or been gagged for), especially when given a makeover into shiny black BDSM short-skirted Nazi chic. It actually got me thinking, somebody back in 1930's Germany must actually have got together a team to sit down and design all the Nazi uniforms and regalia right down to the last Totenkopf button and jack-boot buckle. What strange brain-storming sessions they must have been.

Not just the wardrobe is well designed; a lot of thought has gone into the entire concept and realization of the film, so that there is a consistency and originality that is stamped all over Iron Sky. We were particularly impressed with the thought and level of detail that must have gone into the UFO's, and especially the awesome Götterdämmerung.

In conclusion, the funniest Finnish film we have seen, ever. And in comparison to the sparse number of comedies to come out of Hollywood in recent years, the best original comedy film we've enjoyed in a long time.

Definitely worth seeing, just don't go expecting any kind of cinematic or acting masterpiece. Sit back and prepare to laugh your stockings off.



A final word about watching original language films in Berlin.

The bad news is that German audiences absolutely hate sub-titles. They would much rather watch foreign (by which I mean English) films very badly dubbed into German. This applies to English language television as well, and it is somewhat distracting hearing Jamie Oliver or Jeremy Clarkeson speaking German in a deep voice. Interestingly, when the Danish-Swedish crime series The Bridge was shown on German TV (it was made in collaboration with ZDF) it was dubbed into German, whereas in the UK it was shown with sub-titles. Personally I think that an actor's voice is just as important in the projection of a character as their body-language, but I'm in a minority here.

The good news is that the Berlin CineStar Original in the Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz always shows original language films, and often shows German films with English sub-titles as well. Check out the forthcoming programme here.

(Addendum: apparently Iron Sky will only be on release for one day in the UK. One day! So ironically it looks like you would have to come to Germany to watch it on a movie screen.)

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