Watch Welcome to Germany
- 1 hr 51 min
Welcome to Germany is a poignant, thought-provoking comedy-drama film from 2016. Directed by Simon Verhoeven, this German-language movie follows the story of a family who takes in a group of refugees from various countries. The film sheds light on the European refugee crisis and the stereotypes and conflicts that arise from both sides.
The central character of the story is Angelika Schnell (played by Senta Berger), a retired teacher who is dealing with the loss of her husband. When her son, Phillip (Florian David Fitz), returns home after a long stay in South America, he shares his latest plan of action: he wants to take in a group of refugees and allow them to stay in the family's large house in Bavaria. Though Angelika initially dismisses the idea, she soon warms up to the cause and even becomes an advocate for the refugees.
As the family prepares for the arrival of the refugees, they prepare a room for each of them, and also engage the services of a lawyer who can help guide them through the legal bureaucracy surrounding asylum seekers. However, welcoming the refugees into their home turns out to be more challenging than the Schnells had imagined. The initial excitement gives way to confusion, frustration, and eventually, fear.
One of the refugees, a Nigerian man named Diallo (played by Eric Kabongo), becomes the focus of much of the conflict. Angelika becomes close to him after learning about his difficult journey from Africa and the horrors he faced along the way. She tries to help him with the bureaucracy, but even her well-intended actions have unexpected consequences. As the anti-refugee sentiment in the area grows stronger, Diallo becomes increasingly threatened and fearful for his safety.
The Schnells' neighbors are not all as welcoming as they are. The family receives hate mail and threatening phone calls, and tensions rise during a heated discussion at a town hall meeting. Some of the locals are unsure about the influx of refugees, and fear that they will bring violence and crime to the otherwise peaceful community. Others feel that refugees are a burden on society and that they should go back to where they came from.
The film does a great job of portraying the complexities of the refugee crisis and the different perspectives that it brings to the fore. The Schnell family's story is just one of many, and the film briefly shifts focus to show glimpses of the refugees' own experiences. Scenes of the refugees behind closed doors, discussing their memories and arguing about their future, help to show the humanity behind the headlines and statistics.
The acting in Welcome to Germany is excellent all-round. Senta Berger is especially impressive in the lead role of Angelika, who is portrayed as a strong-willed and compassionate woman. She becomes the glue that holds her family and the refugees together, even when tensions are high. Heiner Lauterbach brings depth and complexity to his portrayal of Angelika's conservative husband Richard, who is initially resistant to the idea of taking in refugees. Florian David Fitz also shines as Phillip, the idealistic son who is passionate about social justice.
A strength of the film is its ability to balance comedy with drama. The satire is not only directed at the prejudices and stereotypes of the Bavarian locals, but also at the Schnell family themselves. Their good intentions are often misguided, and their actions have unintended outcomes. The occasional moments of humor help to deflate the tension and create a more balanced view of the situation.
Overall, Welcome to Germany is a deeply relevant and moving film that addresses the refugee crisis in Europe in a nuanced and non-judgmental way. The film shows both sides of the debate, highlighting the legitimate concerns of those who are hesitant to welcome refugees, while also exposing the irrational fears and prejudices that are often behind these concerns. By humanizing the refugees and depicting their individual struggles, the film succeeds in making the crisis personal and relatable.