Director Joachim A. Lang messes around MACKIE MESSER – BRECHT’S THREEPENNY MOVIE the classic template of the Threepenny Opera into a wonderfully meta-humoristic fake-making-of, which is smugly commented on by an excellent Lars Eidinger. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
After the outstanding worldwide success of “The Threepenny Opera,” the cinema wants to win over the celebrated author of the piece. But Bertolt Brecht (Lars Eidinger) is not prepared to play by the rules of the film industry. His idea of the “Threepenny Film” is radical, uncompromising, political and pointed. He wants to make a completely new kind of film and knows that the production company will never agree to it. She only cares about success at the box office. While the fight between the London gangster Macheath (Tobias Moretti) and the head of the begging mafia Peachum (Joachim Król) begins to take shape before the author’s eyes in his film version of the Threepenny Opera, Brecht seeks a public confrontation. He takes the production company to court to prove that the financial interests are overriding his rights as an author… A poet stages reality – this has never happened before!
Movie explanation of the ending
Three acts, 21 songs and countless quotes that entered pop culture. “First comes the eating, then comes the morals” is one of them. It describes a situation that is just as relevant today as it was in 1928, when Berthold Brecht’s most famous play celebrated its premiere in the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin. Since then, “The Threepenny Opera” has been a teaching material for countless generations of students, with diverse interpretations, adaptations for the stage and television screen and, last but not least, the supplier of countless timeless catchy tunes. Even “Die Toten Hosen” singer Campino tried a controversial variation of the material in 2008, not to mention the scandal-ridden rockers Rammstein, whose song “Haifisch” is based on the world-famous “Morität von Mackie Messer”. All of these are just examples of how strongly “The Threepenny Opera” has influenced the work of many artists. Almost everything has been done with the material, ranging in quality from outstanding to catastrophic. Another modern adaptation, even if it could be the first significant one for the big screen, is not necessarily needed. Director Joachim A. Lang (who also directed the Bertold Brecht documentary “Brecht – The Art of Living”) chooses the best approach one could only wish for for his “Threepenny Film” in order to emphasize the modernity of the material and at the same time not to be repeated. He stages the material as a kind of fake making-of by taking a look behind the scenes of a fictional film adaptation, which is accompanied and appropriately commented on by none other than Bertolt Brecht himself. The result is eccentric and not always fully developed. But it is also extremely entertaining.
Pirate Jenny (Britta Hammelstein) with the other prostitutes of the brothel.
For “Mackie Messer – Brecht’s Threepenny Film,” director and screenwriter Joachim A. Lang chose a very smart narrative structure to essentially direct two films in one. On the one hand, his screen debut is about Brecht’s fight against the film industry, which is skeptical about adapting his world stage success at the time (“The Threepenny Opera is an attempt to counteract the complete stupidity of opera!”). On the other hand, Lang also recreates classic motifs from the original 1:1 and with the help of the most modern staging means, which the main actor Lars Eidinger was made for the role (“Personal Shopper”) keeps breaking through with commentary. So anyone who has never heard of the Threepenny Opera will get a feeling from this adaptation as to whether any of the classic film or stage variations, and especially the music, will appeal to them. They are and remain the heart of the Threepenny Opera and can also fully develop in the accompanying Threepenny Film. Whether you can do anything with the voices of the actors, all of whom sing live, remains a matter of taste until the end. But the pleasant imperfection always creates a certain closeness to the characters, even in the most intoxicating singing performances, which makes it completely bearable that a Hannah Herzsprung (“Wer bin ich”) or a Tobias Moretti (already played his role of Macheath in a TV adaptation of the “Threepenny Opera”) are not blessed with the strongest voices.
The very theatrical setting, in keeping with the context, exudes the charm and splendor of a stage play that is both modern and perfectly suited to the time. However, alongside Lars Eidinger, who embodies the intellectual, ambitious and perfectionist Berthold Brecht without a trace of false arrogance (as a rule he actually knows better than those around him and doesn’t just pretend), Joachim A. Lang breaks down again and again from the theatrical problem context and makes the piece itself the object of discussion. The individual excerpts from “The Threepenny Opera” merely serve to illustrate what Brecht and the media donors are discussing. The conflict between these two instances is much more interesting and simultaneously addresses the same themes that the original material already highlighted. These two narrative levels cross over again and again and ultimately lead to a finale that is never subversive, but still brand new, in which it is no longer clear what is fiction and what (cinematic) reality. “Brecht’s Threepenny Film” is a meta-film as it is written in the book, which also doesn’t skimp on accusations. From the stupid audience to the even stupider financiers to the actors, everyone gets their fat off. And the same applies here: It’s not subtle, but at the same time Lang hits the notes in his script so precisely that you can hardly do anything to counteract Brecht. The fact that he cleverly evades the current criticism in the features section is another plus point that we are only too happy to give him thanks to his sheer audacity.
The London begging mafia.
In this case, taking over all the scenes as Lars Eidinger doesn’t even require much work. “Mackie Messer – Brecht’s Threepenny Film” is tailored through and through to the attitude of one of the most striking USA actors today. Around him, the ensemble manages to oscillate perfectly between a more offensive, theatrical game and reserved, cinematic acting. As a viewer, you always know from the acting whether you are in the reality of the film or on the theater stage, where rehearsals for the Threepenny Opera and later other plays are taking place. The further “Brecht’s Threepenny Film” progresses, the less clearly Joachim A. Lang mixes the different narrative levels and ultimately resorts to stylistic devices that seem to break with the logic within the film at the moment of their appearance. When, for example, paint ends up on a film camera where none should actually exist at that moment, because we are not on a film set in that scene, but in real life, Lang makes it finally clear that ultimately the whole of life is subject to a single production. This may seem theatrical at first glance, but ultimately it is exactly what best describes Bertold Brecht’s intention. After all, in the end only as much truth prevails as we assert.
Conclusion: Not everyone will like the way Bertold Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera” is handled here. But who wants to see the umpteenth new edition when you can make something completely new out of it? Joachim A. Lang succeeds in creating a modern remake and media satire in one, which shows one thing above all: the material is more current than ever before.
“Mackie Messer – Brecht’s Threepenny Film” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from September 13th.