My Brother’s Name Is Robert and He Is an Idiot Review

Spoilers Alert:

The philosophical drama was a hit at the Berlinale MY BROTHER’S CALLED ROBERT AND IS AN IDIOT for intense controversy. But Philip Gröning delivers a provocation with an announcement that is so clumsy that in the end it is no longer a provocation. We reveal more about this in our review.

The Plot Summary

Summer heat. A gas station in the countryside, cornfields, wind and distant mountains. The twins Robert (Josef Mattes) and Elena (Julia Zange) are lying on the grass and preparing for Elena’s final exam in philosophy. For 48 hours, the summer meadow, a forest and a lake are her universe. For 48 hours, the gas station is their only contact with the outside world. 48 hours to break away from childhood and the symbiosis of the twin world. Twin games, bets, conversations about philosophy. And the more they fight to get away from each other, the more they are drawn to their shared world. When the weekend is over and the sun rises over the gas station again, nothing is as it was before. To be too much one to become two. And not being one enough to remain one. end of childhood. End of the world.

Movie explanation of the ending

At the beginning of the year, the Berlin Film Festival repeatedly caused a stir due to its selection of films. Both the one-take terrorist attack “Utøya July 22nd”, the documentary drama “Touch Me Not”, which deals with physical taboos, and Philip Gröning’s almost three-hour philosophy lesson “My brother’s name is Robert and he’s an idiot” caused controversy. the latter even got boos. Nevertheless, the USA feuilleton celebrates the film about a pair of siblings who spend most of the time lying in the grass and reciting the philosopher Martin Heidegger until the already tense relationship between the two escalates in the last three quarters of an hour. And admittedly: Anyone who is even a little familiar with the theses of the creator of “Being and Time” may recognize in the ramblings of brother and sister the quintessence of what Heidegger used to found fundamental ontology at the end of the 1920s. The only problem is that it’s anything but cinematic. Philip Groening (“The Policeman’s Wife”)who not only took over the direction, but also wrote the script (together with co-author Sabine Timoteo, “Who actually invented love?”), along with his characters, gets so lost in the exploration of human existence that he forgets about creating plausible characters. And the film stands or falls with these, which drags on endlessly and ultimately leads to a finale that is so banal, so lurid and clumsy that you couldn’t be more indifferent to it.

A cricket listens to “La Javanaise” by Serge Gainsbourg

Philosophy is one of those topics that is often in the eye of the beholder. Some recognize it in all sorts of things, others never. And the diverse theses of great philosophers are by no means accessible to everyone. In the case of “My brother’s name is Robert and he’s an idiot,” Philip Gröning wants to prevent the philosophy of his film from remaining hidden from his audience. And so he doesn’t just let his characters say things in seemingly endless dialogues that young people their age would never say (the main thing is that what they say is somehow reminiscent of Heidegger’s theses). He also begins his film directly with a scene that one could just as easily think was an editing error: for a split second we see the protagonist couple lying on the grass before the actual film begins. Some will ask themselves what this is all about, others, who perhaps already know in advance what awaits them in the next 176 minutes (!), may recognize this as the first comment on the question of what time is, where the present ends and the future begins. “My brother’s name is Robert and he’s an idiot” undoubtedly begins ambitiously, Gröning follows a meticulous concept. It’s okay “about the nature of time, about philosophy, life, sex and death”, says the press release. So maybe it’s the purpose of being able to feel for yourself afterwards that you’ve just spent three hours with two people who are repulsive in every way – three hours have rarely felt that long.

What particularly caused a lot of conversation after the Berlinale was the last three quarters of an hour of “My brother’s name is Robert and he’s an idiot”. Until a catharsis occurs, the course of which is anything but surprising due to the many hints and gestures made by the twins beforehand, the script deals with the relationship between Robert and Elena. But even though Gröning, who also works as a cameraman, extracts the optimum of elusive tension from the prevailing idyll by repeatedly focusing on the details that are barely visible to the naked eye and that don’t fit into the peaceful image of a harmless summer day Bringing back memories of Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist”, in which the remote abysses of forest flora and fauna also became ominous harbingers), the chattering teenagers remain completely one-dimensional. The ambiguity of the premise arises solely from the strong camera work. Elena and Robert, on the other hand, can never refute the first impression that they are two spoiled brats with a penchant for Heidegger who hide behind quotes so as not to have to reveal themselves. Gröning confuses excessive rituals, screaming arguments and clumsy audacity with profound character drawing. And so in the end, what happens has to happen, simply because the two characters have already constantly shouted it in your face (there is even the motif of the person who first tortures animals before he attacks people, which is now too striking even for serial killer films to see it being processed). This is at best a provocation with an announcement – and therefore nothing more.

Violence lies dormant in all of us. Elena (Julia Zange), Erich (Urs Jucker) and Robert (Josef Mattes)

Especially in stories that (have to) be carried by a few characters over a longer period of time, it is particularly important to connect with them on some level. This doesn’t even have to be about sympathy. Sometimes particularly interesting worldviews or just a certain character quirk are enough to spark interest in the people acting in the film. But if the two travelers in Hans Weingartner’s celebrated road movie “303” were too artificial for you, you should know that at the end of “My brother’s name is Robert and he’s an idiot” you’ll find yourself back in the company of Jule and Jan without much thought wanted back. The conversations between the two also sometimes seemed too constructed to be authentic. Furthermore, the ending completely destroyed the concept of the film. But at the same time, the two protagonists acted and debated on an equal level with the audience – sooner or later every viewer found themselves in at least one of the countless discussion approaches. Joseph Mattes (“Groupies don’t stay for breakfast”) and Julia Zange (“The Long Summer of Theory”) Robert and Elena, on the other hand, embody a pair of twins who keep each other and the viewer at a distance from the beginning, whose (familial) relationship to one another is an assertion at all times. The two could just as easily be friends, strangers, or none of the above. The two define themselves solely through their philosophical outpourings presented from above, so that the taboo break intended by the creators does not work in the finale. What remains are three hours of supposedly intellectual exchange. Without knowledge.

Conclusion: Is “My brother’s name is Robert and he’s an idiot” philosophical because people talk about philosophy all the time? Perhaps. Are the two main characters, whose brother-sister relationship is not lost for a second and which creates no emotional fall for the anything but scandalous finale, corrosive and unbearable? In any case! Do you have to see the film? Definitely not.

“My brother’s name is Robert and he’s an idiot” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from November 22nd.

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