December 2011: Weihnachtsmann Gesucht
Weihnachtsmann Gesucht is usually one of the first stops that most people make when searching for Christoph Waltz’s older works. YouTube has a subtitled version of the film, and even without them, it is easy enough to follow along with the storyline. The film is lighthearted, cute and very lovely, Warm filters are used to give a golden, holiday glow to the lovely vintage-style fashions and the old-looking town.
Christoph Waltz stars as Johannes Böhmke, the owner of a pet store who is so attached to his animals that he won’t let anyone else buy them (especially not children). He is the living embodiment of the Grinch, but what made his heart two sizes too small was the loss of his beloved wife, Marion. Well, he didn’t exactly lose her – she lives across the hall from him in the same apartment block, and the only thing separating them is the concrete wall. Johannes spends his days brooding and stalking his ex-wife, trying to get her attention, spying on her with elaborate devices, and generally feeling bad for himself. Marion (Barbara Auer), the ex-wife, is an accountant who left Johannes due to him not wanting to have children. It is obvious from the outset she still loves him but is just so angry with him because of his stubbornness and refusal to grow up. She antagonizes Johannes at times, and at other times tries to ignore him.
Things start to change for Johannes when a new store employee arrives for seasonal work. Johannes can hardly stand to deal with people most of the time and it’s even worse at the holidays. The new employee is a student, with a variety of part-time jobs including dressing up as Santa and paying visits to the local houses. An unfortunate accident in the back of the pet shop causes him to be unable to walk, thus unable to be Santa and walk through the neighborhood. He convinces Johannes to dress as Santa and do his job as the accident was partially caused by Johannes’ temper. This leads to one of the film’s best parts – a segment of an unenthusiastic Christoph Waltz dressed as Santa, embarrassing himself in front of the local kids interspersed with shots of him at a service station buying and consuming miniatures of ouzo to get through the night.
Johannes’ fortunes take a turn for the worse when he visits the house of Sacha, a young boy whose parents are fighting viciously and are on the road to divorce. Through a few strange coincidences, Sacha becomes convinced that Johannes is the real Santa and starts stalking him through the town as Johannes stalks Marion. Johannes sees his friendship with Sacha as a way to convince Marion that he has changed, however Marion is not interested due to finding a new boyfriend.
The film features Christoph Waltz in one of his far-too-rare romantic roles (yet still managing to be the antagonist). Of course, there has to be some drama and intrigue and police involvement, a suspected crime and some heart-tugging drama, but by and large, it is a lovely Christmas story and certainly worth viewing.