Die Mitte der Welt [Center of My World] (2016)

Die Mitte der Welt
Director: Jakob M. Erwa
Writer: Jakob M. Erwa
Based on: Andreas Steinhöfel‘s novel
Cast: Louis Hofmann, Sabine Timoteo, Ada Philine Stappenbeck, Inka Friedrich, Svenja Jung, Jannik Schümann, Nina Proll, Clemens Rehbein, Sascha Alexander Gersak
Seen on: 29.8.2021

Content Note: bimisia

Plot:
Phil (Louis Hofmann) lives with his mother Glass (Sabine Timoteo) and his sister Dianne (Ada Philine Stappenbeck) in an old mansion at the edge of town, but he just spent the summer abroad. Returning home, he finds that things between Glass and Dianne are tense and Dianne is barely talking to him. Fortunately, there is still his best friend Kat (Svenja Jung) with whom he can still have fun. When school starts, it brings a new student to their class, Nicholas (Jannik Schümann). Phil is convinced that he met Nicholas once already, but in any case, he feels very drawn to him. And Nicholas seems to return his interest. Between family, friends and first love, Phil has to figure out where he stands.

Die Mitte der Welt felt a little bit more like wish fulfilment and fantasy than I would have liked, but other than that, and the usual bimisic trope of the bisexual just not being able to be content with one person, it was nice enough.

The film poster showing Phil (Louis Hofmann) lying between Nicholas (Jannik Schümann) and Kat (Svenja Jung), but they are upside down. Below them, the rest of the central cast can be seen much smaller, standing in a group.

Die Mitte der Welt didn’t feel particulary realistic to me. The way people live, talk and interact with each other all comes with a note of articiality that doesn’t seem so much like a deliberate stylistic choice but rather a glamoring up of life because it looks better on film (I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if it already started there). So, of course, Phil and his family live in a crumbling mansion, a normal house wouldn’t do. Of course, his mother’s friends (Inka Friedrich, Nina Proll) aren’t just supportive second parents, they actually hand over the keys to their garden house, so Phil can fuck in peace. Of course, Dianne and Glass aren’t just fighting the normal mother-daughter fights, it’s literally a question of life and death. [There’s a certain narcissim here – everything revolves around Phil in the end – that is a normal perspective for a teenager to have, but that the film treats as not just Phil’s POV, but as fact.]

Arguably, most movies are larger than life, but Die Mitte der Welt just didn’t manage to sell me on its grandeur, it always seemed to be reaching for it and falling just short. I think a lot of it has to do with the dialogues that just felt off to me. Partly because of the mix of German and English (explained by Glass being from the USA originally), but not only. I, too, mix English with German sometimes, but usually only with particular people and topics, not, like, randomly. (Of course it’s entirely possible that I’m just too old and not in the know when it comes to the language of youth today.)

Phil (Louis Hofmann) and Nicholas (Jannik Schümann) sitting back to back in Phil's bed.

I also had issues with the queer representation in this one. I mean, on the one hand, I liked that Phil is out as a matter of course, and that we also get an older sapphic couple. On the other hand, the bisexual Nicholas cheats on Phil with a woman and literally says that he needs both him and the woman in his life which just made me sigh. This trope needs to stop. Plus, it means that there is no happy romantic ending and can we just please get queer people being a happy couple at the end of the film for once?

Even though the film obviously doesn’t work perfectly, and left me in many ways more dissatisfied than satisfied with its resolutions, it was a nice watch. It does have a few good moments, the cinematography evocatively captures the summer-sunshine-holiday feeling in particular (paradoxically, the film starts at the end of the summer holidays and the beginning of school), and it never grew boring. So, it’s watchable for sure.

Phil (Louis Hofmann) trying to talk to his mother Glass (Sabine Timoteo) while his sister Dianne (Ada Philine Stappenbeck) looks on.

Summarizing: okay.

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