You yell at the screen and cover your eyes. But this is no horror film. It’s a highly sophisticated cinematic tale of the affectionately desperate pursuit of an adult female executive by her aging father who takes on Grand Guignol attire – atrocious, fake vampiric teeth and bad wig – and the name “Toni Erdmann” as his alter ego. On second thought, it is a horror film.
Directed and written by Maren Ade, Toni Erdmann is an utterly riveting take on the tender, potent and sometimes ferocious Father-Daughter archetype. The dyad consists of practical-joker dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek), who tries to revitalize his disintegrating relationship with 30-something daughter Ines (Sandra Huller), who’s busy climbing the corporate ladder at a management consultancy in Bucharest.
Winfried has a history of being a kidder – “I like to make jokes,” he says – and a fetish for assuming the guise of chomper-challenged “Toni” when he feels like playing the Trickster. Because his relationship with Ines is disintegrating anyway, the old man feels he has nothing to lose. So, he pursues her, intruding into her life, alone and with her colleagues, posing as “Toni Erdmann,” an executive coach.
At the core of Toni Erdmann is the Solar regenerative principle. The Sun represents creative force, authentic self and the wonderment of unbridled childlike expression. However, it also addresses a father’s challenge to let go of his parental role, as well as a child’s owning the best attributes of the father who sired her. For Ines, committed to fit into her cutthroat work environment, embracing her share of the lesson is no walk in the park. Stripping down – both literally and figuratively – to her essence may be the only solution.
Turns out the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree which, here, is a very good thing.
In short: Ines is a piece of work. Winfried/Toni is a piece of work. Toni Erdmann is a great piece of work.
Archetype: Father. Daughter. Identity. Trickster.
Astrology Archetype: ☉☿ (Sun, Mercury)