I am not familiar with Ulrich Kohler’s previous works, which I feel embarrassed about after seeing IN MY ROOM recently at the 56th New York Film Festival Press Screening. I have tasked myself to watch any and all of his films I can find after this because IN MY ROOM is AWESOME.
There have been a lot of films and TV shows about the last man on Earth, even this year, a movie I just saw and reviewed on this site, I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW, has a last man standing theme to it. Thankfully, Ulrich Kohler’s vision is not a cheap knock off of the Peter Dinklage vehicle or any other film before it with the same general subject matter.
IN MY ROOM starts with camera footage at some sort of political rally, where the interviews are not recorded because the cameraman pushes stop instead of play. Every…single…time. We then meet this buffoon. He’s our protagonist, Armin (Hans Low; Toni Erdmann), who to be quite honest, is a bit of an asshole. He’s probably in his mid-30’s and is seen next at a club dancing with a girl who is definitely much younger than him, and then she’s at his house. He’s pretty much 100% certain that they’re going to have sex, but he says something that offends her and she’s out of there.
Next thing you know, Armin is on the phone with his father. He needs to leave Berlin to go to the suburbs because his sick grandmother, who is convalescing in this father’s home, is dying. He travels there and stays until she dies. He leaves the house and goes to visit his mother, who has a choir of women singing in her house and for whatever reason Armin leaves. He ends up falling asleep in his car outside of the gas station. Armin wakes up and goes into the convenience store at the gas station to buy cigarettes. The door is open and the lights are off. He yells hello a couple of times and no one answers. He goes behind the counter, gets the cigarettes and then puts the money on the counter, which is a nice gesture for someone who was such a jerk at the outset of the film.
He then realizes that there are several abandoned motorcycles and a car at the gas pump, with the gas pump still in it and the door open. He starts to realize strange things are afoot at the Circle K (ha-ha) and gets in his car. There’s an abandoned bus, a boat he saw full of people the night before floating askew in the river, and all sorts of other crazy stuff. He goes to his father’s house and screams for him. He doesn’t answer. He goes into his house, and no one is there, except his grandmother’s dead body. Of course, the neighbor’s dog from next-door (and all manner of other animals) are alive. Somehow these tragic events never affect animals in film, probably because they’re better than people and don’t deserve shitty fates.
This is when shit starts to go off the rails. There’s some really unnerving (fake) animal deaths in this film, a funeral pyre, full frontal male nudity, etc., etc. Of course, somehow, this guy who can’t even operate a video camera correctly somehow creates an idyllic pastoral life for himself where he has a horse, chickens, ducks, and a goat. He’s trying to build a dam for electricity, he’s growing his own food, and he’s living off the land and loving it. His patterns are disturbed by another presence, which I won’t mention because YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE!!! I don’t care if you don’t like subtitles YOU. HAVE. TO. SEE. IT.
The movie leaves you thinking a lot. It kind of reminds me of Mother in the way that there are some strange biblical metaphors that are just outside the fringes that you won’t really get unless you’re paying close attention. There’s also the thought that maybe none of this stuff happened at all, and it was all Armin’s dream. Kohler leaves it for the viewer to decide and those ambiguous films are my movie crack. Don’t let the Mother comparisons scare you if you hated that film, as I know like 80% of the misinformed human race does. It’s merely a topical similarity. It’s nowhere near as fucked up. It is a little fucked up, though, and that’s why I like it!