After his haunting coming-of-age film “Running Amelie,” director Tobias Wiemann once again devotes his full attention to the children. His drama THE PATH Despite the war background, it is primarily an adventure and youth film, without leaving out the cruel truth. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: The Path (DE/ESP 2022)
The plot summary
In 1940, the critical journalist Ludwig Kirsch (Volker Bruch) sees only one way out of escaping Nazi-controlled Europe with his twelve-year-old son Rolf (Julius Weckauf): a path from southern France to Spain over the Pyrenees can take the two of them lead to freedom – and finally to New York, where Rolf’s mother is already longingly waiting to be able to take her in her arms again. The parentless twelve-year-old girl Núria (Nonna Cardona) is supposed to lead Rolf and Ludwig across the dangerous route. When Rolf is separated from his father in an incident, the two children are completely on their own and quickly learn that you can only survive in this situation if you stick together and can rely on each other.
Even though hardly anyone took notice of the last film by “Großstadtklein” director Tobias Wiemann (it wasn’t even enough to sell 100,000 tickets in this country – and that for a family film!), his coming-of-age adventure remained “ “Amelie Runs” is remembered by all those who have seen the story about a young girl with lung disease who swims free from the world around her. And very positively. The reviews for the film ranged from good to outstanding. We were also impressed by Wiemann’s sensitivity to the needs of a pubescent child. The expectations for his new film “The Path” were correspondingly high. Especially because Wiemann remains true to his chosen narrative perspective and once again focuses on two adolescents in his story. And once again the circumstances of their adventure are of a rather tragic nature, because this time it is not a potentially fatal disease that hangs over the main characters like the sword of Damocles, but the Second World War. However, not leaving out the atrocities of the Nazis and preparing them in a way that is equally suitable for children and families is not the greatest strength of “The Path”. Rather, it is about highlighting what young people are capable of achieving with willpower and perseverance.
One of the last harmonious moments between father (Volker Bruch) and son (Julius Weckauf).
On the poster of “The Path” Volker Bruch (“Fack ju Göhte 2”) Only the two young actors Julius Weckauf and the series actress Nonna Cardona, who was completely unknown in this country, are mentioned by name. It would be just as good for a Jytte-Merle Böhrnsen (“Everything once, please”) been place. Or even for a David Bredin (“A Cure for Wellness”)a J. David Hinze (“Head Full of Honey”) or a Bruna Cusí (“Home is mine”). Now, on the one hand, one can argue that the latter in particular are just as unknown as Nonna Cardona and, on top of that, they don’t have enough screen time to justify naming them on the poster. But both can be refuted by common marketing mechanisms: If a big name appears in a film, then it is usually mentioned for advertising purposes – the less well-known ones, on the other hand, are usually ignored. The fact that the “The Path” poster mentions a Nonna Cardona (Julius Wecauf has long been making money with him since his engagements in films like “The Boy Needs Fresh Air” or “Grandchildren for Beginners”) seems like the first big thing Statement from the makers: Director Tobias Wiemann and the author team of Jytte-Merle Böhrnsen and Rüdiger Bertram (“Eat chips”) want to talk exclusively about children, take them and their fears seriously, but also portray them as the only true heroes of this odyssey. And so there are no concentration camps to be seen in “The Path”. There are only very few scenes in which the threat comes from humans. Instead, in addition to the idea of “How do children experience such a refugee situation?”, the focus is primarily on the concerns of the refugees, so that a text panel from “The Path” at the end does not explain how many people lost their lives during the Second World War, but how many people had to flee their homeland – and how many of them were children.
“Director Tobias Wiemann and the writing team of Jytte-Merle Böhrnsen and Rüdiger Bertram want to tell the story exclusively about children, taking them and their fears seriously, but also portraying them as the only true heroes of this odyssey.”
It is nevertheless absolutely plausible that in the initial phase Father Ludwig, embodied by Volker Bruch with pleasant reserve and equally infectious optimism, takes on the role of the “stumbling block”. In general, the script impresses with the greatest possible preservation of life-like situations, so that the emotional closeness to the characters can develop intensively. Although it doesn’t take long for Bruch’s character to disappear from the story, the moment of separation is powerful – also because the chemistry between him and his film son Rolf was so excellent beforehand. The same applies to the direct threat scenarios posed by adversaries or problem situations that unexpectedly arise in front of the young protagonists, which are always just so difficult to overcome that children without adult guidance are challenged in physical and mental performance, but also these hurdles be able to cope credibly. Only two or three moments can be accused of being too cinematic: for example, when Rolf and Núria find a horse and, in classic adventure film style, travel through the beautifully captured landscape of the Pyrenees (camera: Martin Schlecht, “Dream Factory”) literally ride towards their happy ending. And the accompaniment of the dog Adi (yes, this is an allusion to Adolf Hitler!), who causes all sorts of chaos almost in a running gag manner and, on top of that, repeatedly endangers the escape as an unpredictable factor, is a visible concession to the fact that that it should be easier for a young audience in particular to get excited not only with two children, but also with a cute four-legged friend.
Dog Adi definitely has to go on the trip – Rolf promised his mother that…
Nevertheless, “The Path” is based on the novel of the same name by Rüdiger Bertram, which in turn is based on a true story. Something like this doesn’t automatically eliminate any criticism of possible scene constructions, but in this case it actually ensures that the (inevitably dramaturgical) thoughts behind some scenes can be accepted more happily than in purely fictional works. Because in the end “The Path” – like Wiemann’s predecessor “Amelie Runs” – is dominated by a constant reflection on the facts of reality. The casting of various main and supporting characters also contributes to this. In particular, Nonna Cardona, who speaks almost only Spanish/Catalan, gives the story a sense of truth simply because her communication difficulties with the USA Rolf feel real at all times. How often has it happened that in USA productions even foreign roles are played by USAs who are usually already known for many other acting engagements? The creative people behind “The Path”, on the other hand, did the only right thing and relied on appropriate compatriots. Even the creators of international productions don’t always manage to do this. This makes it not difficult to let yourself be carried away by the events in the film – always on the fine line between tension because of the premise and hopeful confidence because you somehow feel safe in the hands of the two main characters.
“In the end, ‘The Path’ – like Wiemann’s predecessor ‘Amelie Runs’ – is dominated by a constant reflection on the facts of reality. The casting of various main and supporting characters also contributes to this.”
Although it was created internationally as a USA-Spanish co-production, the team behind “The Path” was nowhere near as big a budget as many other European productions – let alone those from the USA. Nevertheless, the end product has canvas dimensions that often result from the opulent landscape panoramas. Although occasionally a little overexposed (and with one or two major connection errors – but they rarely destroy an entire viewing experience, and not here either) and visually reminiscent of Til Schweiger’s “Honey in the Head”, the film aesthetics scores points simply because that the unfortunately still “typical USA” studio look does not exist here. On a directorial level, this also gives “The Path” the adventure film charm that the script provides – and which makes the story extremely captivating, especially for a young audience.
Conclusion: Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, the escape drama “The Path” is a beautifully staged and sensitively told adventure story from the perspective of two children, for which director Tobias Wiemann once again demonstrates his skills as a teller of youth stories, without the horror of the circumstances to be completely hidden.
“The Path” can be seen in USA cinemas from February 17, 2022.