Centre of My World

 

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An idealised love followed by pain that doesn't exclude a feel-good finale.

    
Centre of My World

 

Jakob M. Erwa, a German writer/director, here adapts a novel by Andreas Steinhöfel and, in so doing, he has pleased some audiences enormously. But I am not of their number for Centre of My World as narrated by its protagonist, Phil (Louis Hofmann), comes across as a work told in two conflicting styles and with much flashback material inserted in ways that clash with the need to give the plot forward momentum.

 

Initially it comes over as a dream fantasy of a movie made with gay audiences in mind. Not only does our good-looking hero acknowledge his gay instincts from the start, but his unconventional mother, Glass (Sabine Timoteo), approves of his sexuality and encourages him to enjoy sex with fellow student Nicholas (Jannik Schümann).The scene in which Nicholas arrives back from abroad and catches Phil's eye in school sees the newcomer from Phil's viewpoint: he enters as a god in slow motion and the screen loses all natural colours as it turns red!

 

You could, of course, claim that Ewa is here evoking earth-shattering youthful passion in a symbolical way, but the stylisation extends to snatches of song too and suggests a director's conceit that feels self-conscious. It is, however, in keeping when we find the obliging Nicholas leading Phil on as he suggests that they take a shower together. Put aside the distracting and frequent flashbacks looking at the childhood of Phil and his twin sister Dianne, their mother's stream of lovers and her refusal to discuss who their father was and it could be argued that Centre of My World is a deliberately heightened exercise in gay wish-fulfilment, one extending to Phil having a best friend in Katja (Svenja Jung). But that aspect is at odds with the film's second half.

 

Early on, tensions at home are stressed with Glass and Dianne seriously at odds, but the eventual revelation of its cause even if regarded as melodramatic fits not at all with the idealised tone of the gay love story. True, that story does itself shift gear late on, but the supposedly serious reflections that foreshadow this (Phil's question to his mother when he asks "What exactly is the centre?" and the advice he receives never to throw away the key to the room that contains your fear) have all the profundity associated with the ideas expressed in Forrest Gump (1994). Furthermore, the deeper drama is allowed to yield far too easily to a positive stance at the close. Phil may set off for America but he is able to conclude that he now recognises that the centre of his world is where Dianne, Glass and her new partner are. What may have seemed initially to be a very modern film ends as a sentimental old-fashioned endorsement of family. Obviously there are some viewers who are only too happy to embrace all these elements and to welcome this conclusion, but some may share my dissenting view.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Louis Hofmann, Sabine Timoteo, Jannik Schümann, Ada Philine Stappenbeck, Inka Friedrich, Nina Proll, Svenja Jung, Sascha Alexander Geršak.

 

Dir Jakob M. Erwa, Pro Boris Schönfelder, Screenplay Jakob M. Erwa, from the novel by Andreas Steinhöfel, Ph Ngo The Chau, Pro Des Veronika Merlin, Ed Carlotta Kittel, Music Paul Gallister, Costumes Peri de Bragança.

 

Neue Schönhauser Filmproduktion/PrismaFilm/UniversumFilm/mojo:pictures-Matchbox Films.
110 mins. Germany/Austria. 2016. Rel: 15 September 2017. Cert. 15.