Regime changes, fascinating pockets of history and David Hasselhoff tearing down a wall with a sledgehammer, the divide between East and West Germany is a fascinating one. It is one studied thoroughly for an exam period which, thanks to head injuries, cheap wine and a general disregard for learning. No pocket of history is safe from the flaccid exposé of the romantic comedy. But this is not The Death of Stalin. Even staring at the box of Goodbye, Lenin is more fun than a watch of A Stasi Comedy. Such is the modern run of humour, though. Maybe those won over by the witty style of whatever their youth dredged up are to blame, or maybe it is Leander Haußmann and the style the run of comedy antics the past five years has seen finally taking its toll.
Haußmann is well-placed to articulate the East Germany of old although the expectant glumness is right in the forefront. Abandoned streets in the opening of this feature as a man dressed in a similar fashion to James Dean struts down the street is one way of getting through the cut-and-dry awareness of East Germany. Stopping at those empty streets as the red light is shown, the utilitarian perception and will for rulemaking is shown. But one Jack Kerouac mentions later and it is clear to see the line A Stasi Comedy takes and how it is not, thoroughly, aware of what it wants to do. Present a dilemma, oppose it with fear of rule-breaking, and then what? What then? Live life under the thumb.
What use is that, as the harmonica continues to blow, the flashes into the future and the life beyond a horrifying, divided time for Germany, flutters on through. His clumsy push to the modern era and back again, the phone-wielding relatives far away from the fear of being watched always. Different forms of permanent observation. One the ultimate horror, the other annoying. Whether this is the real meaning, whether it is meant to be part of the nicely-styled yet underwhelming core of A Stasi Comedy is unknowable. Haußmann portrays his characters as bumbling when trying to make effective criticism, as effectual when he wants them to be clumsy. They are two styles which do not mould and the iconography, paired with record-scratch moments, becomes rather dull.
Still, life back then was probably rather dull and if A Stasi Comedy wanted to go out of its way to showcase that, it does a successful enough job. Haußmann brings colour and neon lighting in when he can and just about every scene is held in a stilted regard for those living and breathing within a wild city where there is no place for normalcy. David Kross is a fine leading man but does not leave much of an impression. Well, at least they had a decent style back then. A few jackets to add to the Amazon wishlist, but beyond that, a tremendous fumbling of an intricate and dangerous time. It was no The Lives of Others, of course not, but a bold move to slap “comedy” in the title when this Haußmann piece is bereft of it.