Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Snowman's Land

by Chris Baldwin

From an American point of view, this movie is extremely bizarre, though it is not too far off the mark for other German and Scandinavian comedies. Despite the seeming pointlessness of the plot, there are several possible aspects of contemporary German society that one can take away from Snowman's Land.

The movie itself follows the path of a hit man named Walter who botches a job and subsequently cannot find work until he goes to the remote Carpathian Mountains to work for a reclusive criminal. Once there, he runs into an old acquaintance and the two pass their time doing nothing in an incredibly isolated mansion waiting for Berger, the criminal businessman, to return. In the meantime, Sibylle, Berger's young, sex- and drug-obsessed wife accidentally kills herself and so Walter and his colleague must hide the body. In the end, everyone except for Walter is killed or goes missing, and so he packs his bag and walks off into the snow. As an epilogue, Walter becomes an exterminator somewhere hot, dry, and definitely not Germany.

This film does not mention the euro crisis specifically, but it does reflect some current economic realities. For one, Walter's joblessness though a simple error and his inability to find new work are not necessarily unfamiliar experiences for Germans. The movie takes place in a world of drugs and prostitution, yet the criminal elements seem to blend with legitimate business. This seems to indicate that illegal means are the way to really make money despite longing for normal jobs, such as ski resorts and restaurants. The volatile relationship between organized crime and the use of drugs and prostitution to finance the organizations is embodied in Berger and Sibylle. It becomes evident that the dangerous and unpredictable drug and sex trades are ultimately unsustainable when Sibylle accidentally kills herself.

In addition to the concerns regarding criminal involvement, by locating most of the film in the Carpathian Mountains the movie also expresses trepidation regarding further incorporation of Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union, whether by their eventual adoption of the Euro or the progressive elimination of internal borders within the European Union, and the wildness and isolation surrounding the mansion can represent other Eastern European countries' continued lack of integration. On a less political note, the characters also express a certain desire for more natural spaces in an increasingly urban Europe, even while aiming towards further development.

The movie ends on a seemingly positive note. After walking off into the snow, Walter becomes an exterminator in what appears to be southern Europe. By including this epilogue, instead of just letting the movie end uncertainly, it seems to suggest that there is an escape from drugs, prostitution, and other sorts of crime, as well as hope for Germany and German society. Nevertheless, unpleasant and dangerous situations may lie before the final goal, and the path to reach there remains unseen.

The snowy wilderness in which the movie takes place effectively portrays a sense of isolation, danger, and apparently comedy.

Chris Baldwin is a double major in History and Spanish with a minor in Portuguese, for which he received a FLAS scholarship through the European Union Center. After graduating, he will pursue a doctorate in History and ultimately plans to become a professor with a focus on Iberian history. Languages feature prominently in his personal interests, and so in addition to those previously mentioned, Chris also studies Catalan, Basque, Esperanto, Latin, and Irish and is involved in Catalan and Esperanto language and culture groups on campus. His other primary hobby is a fictional world, similar in principle to that of Tolkien, in which he can explore historical and linguistic principles in a creative setting.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, accessed 1/30/13. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Snowy_Mountains_in_January.jpg

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