Genre of the Week: Fack Ju Göhte!

Goethe Gymnasium in Flensburg, taken from the Südermarkt. Photo taken in 2011
Goethe Gymnasium in Flensburg, taken from the Südermarkt. Photo taken in 2011

Author’s Note: This article contains some profanity that is not suitable for children under 13 as well as those who cannot understand the logic of this article. If you are one of those who dislikes profanity, you can skip to the next article. It’s better than complaining to the author about this. 😉

Before we go to the genre of the week, let me introduce you to a universal terminology known to everyone today as FAHCK! There are three definitions of this word: one has to do with Romeo and Juliet.  Enough said! 🙂  Another is used as a stress test for a sentence in English, similar to the German word “doch.”  Example, when a German says “Halt doch die Klappe!” it means in English: “Shut the FAHCK up!”  Got the hint there? 😉  And lastly, as seen in the title of this film written and directed by Bora Datjekin and produced by Christian Becker and Lena Shömann, it means in diplomatic terms “Leave me alone with your crap!” 🙂

FACK JU GÖHTE (meaning FAHCK you Goethe) may be a film that has received many awards, including the Bambi Awards, the German Comedy Prize and probably many alternative awards for its excessive swearing. 😉 However, when watching the film for the first couple of times, the main idea is not necessarily school life and how teachers are underappreciated for their work. We saw Lisi Schnabelstedt be doused with ink in front of her eighth grade class, Ingrid Leimbach-Knorr try killing herself by jumping out the window and the main character Zeki Müller lose the seat of his pants because he was glued to the chair. A sign of disrespect by the students at a Gesamtschule bearing the famous German Goethe. A teacher’s nightmare, if he/she does not have the nerves of steel, speaking from personal experience.

The theme in this film has to do with redemption and a new chance at life. The protagonist, Zeki Müller, is released from prison for theft and applies for a job as a janitor for the Goethe Gesamtschule. Yet the primary reason behind the job is to retrieve the stolen money buried during the construction of a new gymnasium (or in German, Sporthalle), and pay up his debts he accrued prior to his incarceration. Because of the suicide attempt of Frau Leimbach-Knorr, Müller is roped into teaching a dysfunctional pupils with an attitude problem and no motivation for anything in school. Faced with the prospect of repeating the 10th grade, Müller gives the students a lesson on life they never forget, showing them the dangers of not finishing school with a tour through the slums, supporting them in what they are doing, and showing them the limits. All of them in an unorthodox way, as seen in the film clips below:

The beauty of this is despite Lisi finding out what Zeki was doing regarding the money, he wins her heart and his job as a teacher, despite not having the qualifications of a teacher (please see article on Lehramt studies). Most importantly, though, Zeki won the respect of his students, despite having to put up with their crap at the beginning.

Fack Ju Göhte satirically brings out the other side of the German education system which has been the focus of scrutiny because of the lack of quality of teaching, combined with outdated materials and lack of technical equipment. Furthermore, the relationship between the teacher and the students have been questionable, especially with regard to authority and responsibility (an example can be found here.) Yet the film should not serve as a scare tactic for future teachers. Although even yours truly (a veteran teacher of almost 15 years) sometimes had an itching to do what Zeki did in the film, I still love my job because of all the quotes and stories the students share every morning, and every single one that has since been stored away waiting to be told to my daughter who wants to be teacher, like Papa. 🙂 And for Zeki, despite all that he had endured, he loves his job in the end, setting the stage for a sequel that is coming out this month.

And if the satire is not enough, here’s a preview of what you can expect in Part II:

More trash talk in the film? Ja. More blunders in the school? You bet? And more fun with the teacher? Absolutely! It would not be surprising if Part II outdoes the original, not just because of the characters (and actors) in the film, but how the story unfolds further into chaos, with the students enjoying the ride. And with a cultural clash on the horizon, you can bet there will be plenty of discussion once the film is released and more accolades pile up, in addition to what the Files’ has given them for Part I. Stay tuned…..

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five years flfi

FAST FACT: A German Gesamtschule is an American equivalent to a junior high school, where pupils between the ages of 11 and 18 attend, regardless of criteria, and basic education is provided with the goal of proceeding to either the Hauptschule or Realschule. A few manage to make it to a technical school or even the Gymnasium (German high school).

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