aka “Oh Boy!”
“Slacker” was one of the great movies of the nineties. Some critics say that it defined the generation and described perfectly the sense of loss after the Cold War, which was, arguably, won by the West. That oxymoron, sense of loss after victory, came from the disappearance of the adversary which influenced so many in the everyday America. Once it was gone, it was hard to find a direction for the entire generation. “Slacker” was the movie which described the lonely roar disillusion. A few days ago I’ve seen “Coffee in Berlin” and I was stunned by the similarities. Niko Fischer (Tom Schilling) is another lost boy in the senseless times. He fucked up everything that he could, he lost his direction and he is detached from reality just as he’s invisible. The theme of the “Coffee in Berlin” is interesting, but it’s focused solely on Fischer and his perception of the world. His inability to get coffee in a huge city as Berlin is the repeating gag and a metaphor of his inability to accept the end of childhood. He studied law and left college, but at the same time he took money to complete his studies. That hypocrisy doesn’t concern him at all. He roams through the monochromatic Berlin and tries to find people who will understand where he’s going to. He lights his cigarette on the toaster, doesn’t have any cash (since his financing was cut off) and he just broke up with his girlfriend. There is one word to describe it all: apathy. That’s the general atmosphere of the “Coffee in Berlin”.
We see what’s Niko is going through from the perspective of others. He meets his friends who are just equally fucked up as he is and he tries to establish something out of it, but he can’t. There are no surprises intended for him and, seemingly, there will be no happy end. The movie follows Niko through one day and one night. His thoughts and his surroundings are depressing. He irritates the viewer and on some occasions you just want to slap him in the face to force him to wake up, to make something out of himself. Then he does something else and makes you think he has a spine. He is intelligent, empathic and he cares. Typical example of the man too intelligent and sensitive for his own good.
He’s just another “Slacker”, as in Linklater’s movie, but he’s slacked for the 21st century. Around him everything looks bleak, gray and unambitious. He’s a product of society. If slacker of the nineties screamed, slacker of the twenty first century drowns in self-pity and his sole ambition is to get that cup of coffee. Will Niko get the cup of coffee? Will he do something with his life? He reminds me of a man who wakes up and before his morning coffee, he’s still dreaming. For Niko, that dream lasts too long. Dreams aren’t reality, regardless of how much we would want them to be. Apathy is dangerous. It can lead to different sorts of extremism.
We’re reminded of that in one of the final dialogues of the movie. Reminiscence of the Nazism and the Crystal Night resonates through Niko’s dreamland and the transience of life becomes the most important theme to it. Then, Niko comes to the crossroad. His dilemma is simple: To live and leave a mark or to vegetate and disappear. That dilemma won’t be answered in the movie, but it doesn’t have to be. Niko will decide for himself. We followed him through an unremarkable day in the bleak and depressing, black and white Berlin.
Sometimes, these unremarkable days are the ones which mean the most.