Next Door | Nebenan (2021)

September 27th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Daniel Brühl; Cast: Daniel Brühl, Vicki Krieps, Peter Kurth, Rike Eckermann, Aenne Schwarz, Gode Bendix; Germany 2021, 92 min.

Spanish-German actor Daniel Brühl, who shot to fame in 2003 with Wolfgang Becker’s GDR satire Goodbye Lenin, also stars in his autobiographical themed feature debut, a political satire that riffs on Berlin’s modern day gentrification.

Essentially a two-hander It all takes place in a bar in Berlin’s now upmarket Mitte district where Brühl is self-important film and TV thespian Daniel preparing for a screen test in London. After the obligatory early morning work-out he swings by his favourite cafe (where owner Hilde jokes about the ‘new’ craze for espresso), and shoots the breeze with his East Berliner night-worker neighbour Bruno (Kurth), who regrets voting for re-unification ultimately handing over the power to the capitalist West.

Daniel has a private lift to his lush penthouse but relationships wise the two are on the same page:. Bruno listens to Daniel’s marital up and downs with Clara (Schwarz), who is now having him followed, Bruno knows the territory having had to put up with his wife’s unfaithfulness. But the men also share a chequered past with each other: Daniel’s father also cheated Bruno’s over the ownership of the flat Daniel now lives in. And the security agent has also found out that Clara herself has been playing the field and that Daniel himself is hardly pure as the driven snow as we will discover in the film’s end titles.

Daniel Kehlmann’s script is laced with satirical subtexts but these are only relayed verbally making the whole things feel rather claustrophobic: Next Door could have worked better on the stage or even as a radio play. We only see Clara for a few minutes groaning at being woken up early, and Hilde holds court as a sort of a verbal umpire who eventually falls out with Daniel.

DoP Jens Harant does his best to liven things up with overhead shots of the bar, the few street scenes make a welcome change from the interior bound verbal duel between Daniel and Bruno. The dialogue is sharp, and Bruno’s grievances are certainly plausible. but there are too many characters serving as bland window-dressing: Daniel’s two children and a particularly aggressive drunkard, and Vicki Krieps is under-used in the support.  Next Door makes a good point regarding gentrification and social inequality in Germany today, but cinematographically it misses the mark. AS





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