I was pleasantly surprised by Knallhart (Tough Enough) a German film from 2006 which sneaked out in September in the UK without my noticing it. I caught it at Cornerhouse in Manchester and was glad I did. It’s always good to see a film when you know nothing about it and this intrigued me from the off. The 15 year-old central character is well drawn and offers a range of emotions that seemed believable. It’s a film which in different ways reminded me of La Haine and Sweet Sixteen and I can’t think of higher praise.
Michael Polischka is a 15 year-old with an attractive mother of “only just over 30” as she reminds him. At the beginning of the story, Michael and his mother are thrown out on the street by her rich lover in the leafy suburbs. Michael finds himself in a tough inner city area of Berlin in a dismal flat and forced to attend an inner city school which seems rough even by UK standards. And the story moves on from there in quite conventional ways. The film makes the usual connections between crime and delinquent youth and recent immigrant communities, in this case two East European youths, who befriend Michael at school and take him home to chill out, and the ‘enemy’ gang, led by a Turkish youth. Eventually Michael gets involved as a drug-runner working for a suave and attractive young Turkish crime lord. He also casts envious eyes at Turkish family life (and a gorgeous young Turkish woman). The ending is well handled and explains the enigmatic beginning — all in all a well-executed youth picture/crime story which offers a view of the ‘New Berlin’. Well worth catching.