Political commentary is everywhere these days. Five minutes on social media, and you will see opinions from your friends, family, social media influencers, and celebrities alike. Videos, articles, and images shared hundreds upon thousands of times, trying to catch your attention and get you involved. Je Suis Karl, a new Netflix Original Film, is just that but with the added question—what if you were tricked into taking a position while you were at your most vulnerable? The German movie is directed by Christian Schwochow, staring Luna Wedler (Maxi), Milan Peschel (Alex – Maxi’s Father), and Jannis Niewöhner (Karl).
Je Suis Karl tells the story of a young German family torn apart when a bomb is set off in an apartment building, killing the Mother and young sons and leaving the Father (Alex) and daughter (Maxi) in ruin. Maxi, who is both enraged and traumatically distraught, falls in with a charming and persuasive young man, Karl. But Karl has a dark and destructive past, as he seeks to use Maxi’s pain for his own mission.
Typically, I would grapple with the proper structure and words to use in my review while being extremely careful not to delve too deeply into what makes a movie worth watching. That being said, I have to be blunt and let you know why this is a horribly uncomfortable film.
The entire foundation of the film is a twisted take on a terrorist group manipulating a young woman and weaponizing her fear and anger before she has properly mourned, to serve their right-wing agenda. The biggest issue with the film is that it spends most of its two-hour run time trying to convince Maxi, and thus the audience, that this xenophobic and racist stance is justified and very little time showing you how abominable this opinion is.
While the format and execution of the plot miss the mark, the film does portray a truly devious villain, by not only highlighting actions early on but also by showing his charisma as a likable person to be around. A true snake amongst the sheep. Look, Wedler and Niewöhner’s performances were pretty decent, but even they can’t resuscitate this poorly conceived film.
There is probably a message here about the seduction of the youth within Europe that parallels with the danger of an outdated, and at times failing political system, but the result felt like more of a love letter to the far-right movement rather than trying to condemn it. It left such a horrible taste in my mouth by the time it ended.
Speaking of the end, there is a brief moment where they try to make a u-turn in the big 4th quarter to show Maxi the error of her ways, but again it almost feels too little too late for the message to have been fully received. There just isn’t any balance in the narrative. Again, that could be the perspective that Schwochow was striving for—that political warfare is much more devious and self-serving than anticipated—but please take a step back and look at the final optics. I do believe the film was attempting to tell a tragic story of a girl becoming involved with a group of twisted extremists manufacturing terror in order to further their hateful agenda, but ultimately it’s so out of balance that the messaging feels completely muddled.
Overall, Je Suis Karl was not the movie I saw advertised. It’s so far out of balance, and its message is particularly muddled. The optics of this whole film are quite shocking. Seriously, please skip this one.
Je Suis Karl is available now exclusively on Netflix.
Je Suis Karl
Je Suis Karl was not the movie I saw advertised. It’s so far out of balance, and its message is particularly muddled. The optics of this whole film are quite shocking. Seriously, please skip this one.