Highway to Hellas full movie review - Another not successful take on Germany meeting foreign culture in films
"Highway to Hellas" is a German movie from last year (2015) and the title already implies that the film has a strong connection with Greece in a not so great play on words citing a famous song.
The film is directed by Aron Lehmann and it is certainly one of his most known works. If you like German films, you may also know his take on Michael Kohlhaas starring Robert Gwisdek and that film is in my opinion superior to this one here. But lets take a closer look at "Highway to Hellas". Lead actor Christoph Maria Herbst ("Stromberg") stands for Germany while Adam Bousdoukos ("Soul Kitchen") symbolizes Greece. Lehmann also worked on the script with two other writers and this is a bit shocking as I'd expect a script to be much better then, but apparently they weren't able to or did not want to point out each other's weaknesses. The movie runs for 85 minutes approximately and deals plays entirely in Greece. An inspector from Germany comes to the country in order to evaluate what happened with the money Germany sent to Greece and if they really used it for good purposes such as building and operating a hospital. None of this was done, so I guess you would want to see the money being taken away as an honest German citizen? But no. We are still supposed to feel with the Greek and I must say I struggled a bit with this. I personally did not find Bousdoukos' character likable at all, also with this approach to women, but yeah, clearly the writers wanted us to like them despite (or maybe because of) his flaws. And they wanted us to dislike Herbst's character because of his stale bureaucratic approach to the subject. I personally really felt the other way around.
Anyway, apart from who I liked and who I disliked, the film also has some weaknesses in terms of the story. First of all, the approach of letting Herbst's character's boss' scream like a mad woman all the time via phone was not too impressive and actually pretty gimmicky. But there are worse problems in there too. One would be that honestly the character transformation of the protagonist feels as generic as unrealistic, but sadly also as expected as it gets. He does not care about the Greek and their culture, he slowly grows closer to them, then there is that pivotal stereotypical moment when he feels betrayed by them (and rightfully so) and is all mad again, but at the end, he of course understands that they are the one where he belongs and that Germany restrained him from becoming who he should become. It is a character transformation yes and it is not a good one for sure. Keep in mind that he falls for the scam artists too. Very very little quality in terms of writing. All the Greek characters, i.e. the supporting players, did not have good material to work with either, if they had any material at all. Eventually, this is just another very generic, very forgettable take on a German movie that is a bit of a culture clash, a subject that has been done so many times in the past, frequently as bad, but sometimes also better ("Die Fremde" for example). I do not recommend seeing Highway to Hellas and I was also slightly disappointed with Herbst here. I really love "Stromberg" and his performance there, but some of the stuff he has done afterwards just isn't convincing at all. Don't watch.