'Flights of Fancy': Film Review
A young man struggles to cope with his father's devastating mental illness in Christian Bach's family drama.
The devastating effects of a family member's mental illness are explored to moving effect in Christian Bach's intense drama about a son coping with his father's schizophrenia. Featuring superb performances by veteran German actor Tobias Moretti and Jonas Nay as the father and son, respectively, Flights of Fancy recently received its welcome U.S. premiere at the latest edition of NYC's KINO! film festival devoted to contemporary German cinema.
23-year-old Simon (Nay) has long coped with the issues attending to his celebrated architect father Hans' (Moretti) disease, helping his beleaguered mother, Elli (Stephanie Japp), raise his younger sister Maja (Ella Frey) even while trying to decide whether to follow in his father's professional footsteps. But when Hans' condition worsens, as evidenced by such behavior as his trashing a neighbor's satellite dish that he suspects of spying on him, the problem only intensifies.
When Simon falls in love with Verena (Hanna Plass), a young hospital worker, he refuses to tell her the truth about his father, even when Hans is taken away by the police and forcibly committed to an institution. He also finds his job as a school bus driver threatened, as the parents refuse to let him attend to their young children.
Hans is eventually released and sent home but, refusing to acknowledge his condition, he stops taking his medication and his illness only worsens. At first it manifests itself in disturbing but relatively harmless behavior, such as when he puts metal foil on the walls of the family home. But he eventually again runs afoul of the law, fleeing a traffic stop. Later, when he again tries to avoid the pursuing police in his car with his son in tow, it results in a terrible car accident that results in Simon hospitalized with head injuries.
The filmmaker explores the tortured family dynamics with intelligence and sensitivity in such scenes as when Simon angrily confronts his mother, demanding to know whether she knew of Hans' condition when she married him, and later agonizing over whether he himself will eventually suffer from the disease.
Presenting no easy solutions, Flights of Fancy emerges as a thoughtful, harrowing portrait of a young man wracked by conflicting emotions and a father who in his more lucid moments is all too aware of the devastating toll that his disease is taking on the people he loves. The magnetic Moretti commands the screen as the disturbed patriarch, while Nay delivers a sensitive, moving portrayal of the troubled son who eventually realizes that he cannot save his father but only himself.
Production: Roxy Films, Glory Film, BR, ARTE
Cast: Tobias Moretti, Jonas Nay, Stephanie Japp, Hanna Plass, Ella Frey
Director/screenwriter: Christian Ach
Producers: Andreas Richter, Annie Brunner, Ursula Woerner
Executive producers: Nathalie Scriba, Ralf Zimmermann
Director of photography: Hans Fromm
Production designer: Markus Dicklhuber
Costume designer: Anke Winckler
Composer: Lorenz Dangel
Not rated, 90 minutes