UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Return to go [Film critique] Frackman, Kyle 2012

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Original Title: Zur?ck auf los! English Title: Return to Go Country of Origin: Germany Director: Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss Producer(s): Frank L?prich, Katrin Schl?sser, Frank Schmuck Screenplay: Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss Cinematographer: Thomas Plenert Art Director:  Editor: Gudrun Steinbr?ck Runtime: 95 min. Genre: Comedy/Drama/Queer Starring/Cast: Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss, Matthias Freihof, Dieter Bach, Paul Gilling, Bart Klein Year: 2000  Synopsis:  Sam (Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss) is a newly diagnosed HIV-positive, poor, Black, East-German man living in a rundown apartment in Berlin. Sam?s relationships with his friends and lovers comprise the support system that helps him through this difficult time. The viewer learns of Sam?s relationship with his ex-boyfriend, Manne (Bart Klein), who dies of AIDS-related complications. A constant companion and eventual roommate is Sam?s best friend, Bastl (Matthias Freihof). Despite and because of serious events in the story, Sam forms new connections with a once and future boyfriend and friend, Rainer (Dieter Bach), who is later blinded in an automobile accident. Bastl brings in his own love interest in the form of Mike (Paul Gilling), a British artist who also moves into the decrepit apartment. Two nearly constant occupations of Sam?s are his effort to record an album of trite East German Schlager songs and his writing of a version of his and his friends? narrative, which the viewer sees unfolding in the film. Towards the end of the film, the trio of Sam, Bastl, and Rainer drive to gay-friendly Denmark for a beach vacation. After contemplating life and its difficulties, the three friends drive back, toward Germany, victorious and reinvigorated.  Critique:  Zur?ck auf los presents a number of complicated social issues, which both the characters and the viewer must encounter over the course of the film:  otherness, race and racism, sexuality and homophobia, HIV/AIDS and the fear of the disease. Within and around these themes, binaries and the importance of time and space become crucial elements in the unfolding of the narrative. The two most prominent themes of the film are race and sexuality, and these are treated rather differently. The more prominent of the two is race, as it is the source of both implicit and explicit criticism. For example, racism is treated explicitly in a scene in which Sam directly confronts and challenges  a gawking White grocery store employee. Implicitly, other scenes are visually constructed to point to the film?s goal of thematizing race: for example, only Black faces appear on a TV that Sam is watching, or the stark contrast between Sam?s skin color and that of a facial treatment mask. Sexuality, on the other hand, is treated with a greater sense of certainty in the world of the film. Whereas Sam faces ostracism due to his race, he finds security and comfort in the predominantly gay social scene depicted in the film. With this dichotomy, Sanoussi-Bliss shows the  The film also plays with time and space in a number of interesting ways that add to ???. We see clocks running backward and characters barely missing each other. Through the introduction of non-urban Danish landscape, the film draws on a trope that is common in gay- and especially HIV/AIDS-themed films: namely a journey to the country as ?balm? for an ill person.1 Indeed, the film recalls other traits of HIV/AIDS films. For example, the trio?s time in Denmark is interspersed with shots of what appear to be ?home movies? of the vacation. We are reminded of scenes from Philadelphia (1993), for example, in which friends and acquaintances watch old home movies of the recently deceased protagonist. But despite these similarities, the film?s ending  diverges from the typical AIDS-movie ending. Zur?ck auf los ends more or less happily and optimistically as the friends travel back to Germany, ?back to go,? as the title suggests Critics praised the film, although a few expressed some unease at the lightheartedness with which the film?s themes are treated.2 One of the few German films to thematize the experiences of Black Germans, Return to Go uniquely shows the link between different kinds of marginalization like race and sexuality, while also repeating the social criticism (and AIDS satire) of filmmakers like Rosa von Praunheim (cf. Nicht der Homosexuelle ist pervers, sondern die Situation, in der er lebt and Ein Virus kennt keine Moral).  Author of Review:                                                   1 Kylo-Patrick R. Hart, The AIDS Movie: Representing a Pandemic in Film and Television (NY: Haworth Press, 2000), 67-80. 2 Pamela Jahn, ?Sex zwischen Tanke und Altbauwohnung; So klein, so sch?n kitschig: In den Filmen ?Zur?ck auf los? und ?Chill Out? ist Berlin schwules Idyll und heterosexuelle Seelengemeinschaft zugleich,? taz, die tageszeitung, March 27, 2001, 22. Kyle Frackman  


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