At first everything looks like a thriller again. A man is dead, and a large number of well-known German television actors are gathering at his grave, including a number of former or current actors crime scene-, police call– and other commissioners, such as Charly Hübner, Devid Striesow, Martin Brambach, Uwe Preuss, Claudia Michelsen. The acting East veterans Thomas Thieme and Jörg Gudzuhn are also part of the party. Will they form a “Soko Lassahn” (that’s the name of the place in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania where the film was shot) and go hunting criminals together? No, thank God they can also do something different – and something else: namely improv comedy.
The six-part ARD mini-series The funeral by director and Grimme Prize winner Jan Georg Schütte is a completely improvised format. The participants play without text, acting and reacting in what they say and do solely on the basis of their role profiles. That’s exactly the appeal of the story, which throws a few amusing twists and turns and sparks from the lowlands of normality.
The background story is a setting that is extremely popular in real and fictional life: A patriarch-type father has died – here the provincial company boss Wolff-Dieter Meurer from “Sanitary Meurer”. The family comes together – here two wives, four children, a foster daughter, plus the relationship and problem attachment. It’s about the legacy, about old secrets and open scores, here also about the inner-German East-West conflict. After all, the whole thing takes place on the soil of the former GDR, which has left its mark on the souls and biographies and very specifically on the interior of the Meurer estate. The associated inn even has a display case with border escape paraphernalia, and the tavern hall for the funeral feast would go well with a Marthaler staging. Provincial influencer Jackie (Luise von Finck) from the grandchildren’s generation keeps the cell phone camera on for her followers: “This is such a cool museum here … uh, Nazi or Stasi.”
The film was shot in just two days on a large yard with 15 different sets that could be used in parallel. 56 cameras, 17 actors, the action improvised in six hours. A huge technical and logistical effort. It’s amazing how well it works and with what a light hand the improv professional Schütte brings all the scenes and threads together at his desk. The point is that each episode is told from the point of view of a different main character. The individual processes are repeated, but always with slight changes in perspective and new details.
The first two episodes focus on the unequal twin brothers Mario and Thorsten, one (Charly Hübner) a trusting teddy bear who has only ever lived for the family business, the other (Devid Striesow) a highly indebted Hallodri who has been away for 25 years and urgently needs money, not least because a wobbly debt collector (Aleksandar Jovanovic) is after him. The opening of the will is a hard blow: everything goes to Vatti’s second wife Gaby (Catrin Striebeck), who looks Pretty Woman in a polka dot dress. Mutti Meurer (Christine Schorn) and daughter Sabine (Claudia Michelsen), who went to the West early, are also duped, as well as the simply knitted neighbor couple Hell, who already saw themselves rising from the Hartz IV precariat (wonderful: Anja Kling and Martin Brambach) . Cause for a lot of chaos and strife.
On this day of the funeral there is a lot of cursing, smoking, cursing and drinking, and once shooting. Enno Trebs puts on a wild toilet bowl art performance as stepson Kevin; others succeed in small cabinet pieces. That sometimes sags, but it’s mostly clever fun, also entertaining because you want to know with voyeuristic curiosity how the actors master the improv parcours. It can be revealed: they are doing great.
The funeral, ARD, 10:50 p.m., episodes 1 and 2. All episodes from Tuesday in the media library.