Reclaim Your Brain



San Sebastian Film Festival

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- The theme of "Reclaim Your Brain" is how crass TV is corrupting the minds of the masses. But the movie's very own lack of subtlety undermines its message. German director Hans Weingartner, whose last feature "The Edukators" did well in the art house market across Europe, fails to engage from the start. The two main characters are not well-constructed and some plot lines do not seem credible. The crudeness of the film may limit its appeal to German-speaking markets.

TV producer Rainer (Moritz Bleibtreu) got to the top by making vulgar programs such as one in which contestants compete to make a master race. Then the mysterious Pegah (Elsa Schultz Gambar) smashes into his car in revenge for her grandfather's suicide, caused by one of Rainer's shows. Suddenly Rainer is inspired to make intelligent programs. When they fail, he sets off with Pegah to uncover a conspiracy surrounding the rigging of audience figures to ensure the masses are fed only trash TV.

The film's struggles come largely in the area of poorly developed main characters. An opening sequence of cocaine-snorting Rainer speeding through traffic in his sports car plays out a tired cliche. And character of the beautiful Pegah is sketchy in the extreme.

Weingartner and co-writer Katherine Held throw in a series of improbable plot turns. When Rainer is confronted by Pegah, the explanation of her grandfather's suicide seems unlikely. Rainer's decision to jeopardize a highly successful career to save the nation's brains is equally improbable.

But when the pair pull off their "revolution," Germans suddenly immerse themselves in high culture. This works well as comedy: Scenes of Germans throw awaying their TVs and meeting to discuss poetry -- captured by TV news bulletins -- amuse. When Rainer's gang subvert the TV ratings system, Weingartner plays this for laughs well.

The unlikely star of "Reclaim Your Brain" is Milan Peschel, who plays the conspiracy-obsessed oddball Philip. Peschel can do both zany and shy convincingly. But Philip's decision to throw his lot in with two strangers to embark on a TV revolution doesn't ring true.

This movie might succeed as a comedy romp in its native land, but the jokes may be too direct and culturally specific for the film to travel much beyond home.

Kahunna films GmbH with coop99 Filmproduktion GmbH
Director: Hans Weingartner
Writers: Katherine Held, Hans Weingartner
Producters: Hans Weingartner, Antonin Svoboda
Director of photography: Christine A. Maier
Production designer: Udo Kramer
Music: Adam Ilhan, Andreas Wodraschke
Costume designer: Thomas Olah
Editing: Andreas Wodraschke
Rainer: Moritz Bleibtreu
Pegah: Elsa Schultz Gambard
Philip: Milan Peschel
Maiwald: Gregor Bloeb
Anna: Simone Hanselmann
Running time -- 129 minutes
No MPAA rating