Genre of the Week: Vadder, Kutter, Sohn: A Family Comedy and Drama About Reunion and Restarting Life Locally


There is an old saying that the late Paul Gruchow once wrote in his work “Grass Roots: The Universe of Home”: You go where the good people go. We make sure our people grow up in an environment where they can one day return. While half the graduating class of an average high school in a local town remain  to start their families, the other half move to greener pastures, whereas half of those people eventually make their way back home after years of making a living and realizing it was not for them.

And as a person sees in this latest German film “Vadder, Kutter, Sohn,” home is where the heart is, even if there are changes in the surroundings.  In this Genre of the Week drama, the focus is around the father, Knud Lühr (played by Axel Prahl), who fishes for crabs for a living, directs a rather dysfunctional choir that is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary of its founding, and is an avid gambler. He is rather well known to the locals of the village of Nienkoog, located in the Dithmarschen District in Schleswig-Holstein. One day, he encounters his lost son, with whom he had no contact for over a decade. Played by Jonas Nay, Lenny left with his mother for Hamburg, where he learns a trade as a barber/hair dresser and tries his luck in the business, only for him to lose everything, including his Apartment. Flat broke, he returns to his place of childhood, only to see many changes that he does not like at all and is eventually on a confrontation course with his father for his wrongdoings that made his life turn into a  mess in the end. Realizing that he was becoming very unlucky with his business and his choir, Knud tries to win back the love for Lenny, getting him reused to the life that he once had before leaving for Hamburg.

Two factors played a key role in bringing Lenny back to his original self. The first is the bango, which Knud sold while Lenny was gone. Deemed as his indentity and his “starting capital,” Lenny freaks out when he learns the news of the bango, is lukewarm when Knud wins the bango back through a game of poker, and after failing to resell the bango, warms up to it by playing the tunes he learned while growing up.  The other was a former classmate, Merle Getjens (played by Anna von Haebler), who is a local police officer that has a rural precinct and whose heart is in the healing process after her love-interest walked off to Kiel with another woman. Realizing that she and Lenny were on parallel paths, she awakens his interest as a hairdresser which later helps him rediscover himself and eventually reunite with his father and the people he once knew but left behind for “Nichts.”

To understand the film more carefully, you should have a look for yourself. Enjoy! 🙂


The song that is played throughout the film and is sung by Prahl and Nay can be found here:

Vadder, Knutter, Sohn is a film that combines comedy and drama, but also compares cultural and societal aspects, such as rural life in Dithmarschen versus city life in Hamburg, an established family versus lone wolves looking for love and a place to settle down, the have/have nots versus the has beens, the past life versus the present (including all the crises), and finally the is versus the should be. Each element is found in the characters, Knud, Lenny and Merle, leading to the quest to find the real Person, as Merle told Lenny after he kissed her in the hair dressing scene: “First find out who you are, then the rest will come after.” Eventually that came with not only the 100th anniversary concert but the elements that went along with it.

This leads me to a few questions for you to think about, let alone discuss:

  1. If you were like Lenny, would you return to your hometown, why or why not?
  2. What elements of your hometown do you miss? This includes the people in your life, places you visited as a child growing up, the food that you ate, extra-curricular groups you were in, and lastly, valuable assets you had (or even still have)?
  3. If you were to think about returning to your hometown, would these be the reason or are there other factors?
  4. If there was one element in your life that you did growing up, that you want to do again, what would that be?
  5. If there was one element in your life that you regret having done and would like to do again, what would that be and why?

These were the questions that the three characters faced during the film, but they are ones that you as the reader should answer at least two of them. Otherwise you must have had a very bad childhood. Having grown up in rural Minnesota, I had my places I used to go as a child, sports I used to do and music groups I was involved with, such as a barbershop quartet, madrigals, caroling, etc. And while I have already settled down permanently in Germany and closed the opportunity on moving back to the region, singing, especially in the barbershop quartet, and eating a “Wunder- bar”- an ice cream bar made with nuts that was homemade by a local (but now, non-existing) gas station would be the two I would not mind doing again.

What about you? What do you miss?


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There are two sets of parallels among the three actors/-resses in this film. Axel Prahl and Jonas Nay both come from Schleswig-Holstein, so you can tell by the use of dialect and slang in the film. Prahl originates from Eutin, located southeast of Kiel, whereas Nay was born in Lübeck, home for its marzipan, maritime district, Holsten Tower and historic bridges. Prahl and Anna von Haedler star in the beloved German mystery series Tatort, where the former is half of the “Dream Team” for the Münster series. He Plays Frank Thiel, whereas his counterpart, Dr. Karl-Friedrich Boerne is played by Jan-Josef Liefers (who is from Dresden). Despite coming from Göttingen in Lower Saxony, Anna von Haedler plays Sabine Trapp in the Tatort-Cologne series, assisting the detectives, Ballauf and Schenk. Neither of the two have crossed paths in a Tatort episode as of present.

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Featured Literature of the Week: Danielle

As mentioned at the time of its relaunch as a website, the Files will present featured literature to be posted on a weekly basis to provide readers (and in this case, viewers) with an opportunity to look at the genres written or produced in the English language with a focus on life in Germany.

Our first profile looks at feminism and sexual liberation in the form of poetry and film. Danielle was written by Robert Grant and produced by B-Street Productions based in the Berlin suburb of Neukölln. It had made its debut in 2005 but was dedicated in honor of its 10th anniversary a few weeks back. It focuses on a girl living in an apartment in Berlin, who had just broken off a relationship with another man, despite the fact that they had a close relationship, on the brink of something hot and intense. The film presents two very contrasting sides of the story. On the one hand, there is a girl in her mid to late twenties, who had just returned from a late night rendezvous, feeling liberated after having produced a closure with her ex-boyfriend. The video shows even more as she strips down from her tight clothes and dress and slips on loose clothing, as if she had been given new breath of life and a sense of freedom she had never gotten before.

On the other hand, there is the narrator who cites the poem and is heartbroken. He looks back at the affair with the girlfriend, describing all the joys and pain of making love, only to see it disappear with the girl walking out the door, but not before leaving a scar that he has to wear, even when he now loves another woman. The man is lost and confused, not knowing what had happened and why it ended after enduring the love he encountered with the girl in the apartment, let alone the friendship he had that was just as memorable. And even when he falls in love again, he will always remember the rendezvous, asking himself what and how the love would have been like had he not broken off the relationship.

The poem and the video looks at the sexual liberation and the ability to love freely between the man and the woman. What is not surprising is the setting of the piece, which was in Berlin- or any city in the eastern half- to be exact, for after the Revolution of 1989, there was the revolution of the sexual liberties, as many young people of that time, tired of the repressive East German communist regime, engaged in free loving in ways that would make an average American household living in the Bible belt, let alone many parts of Bavaria, to close their blinds and switch off all forms of media and bury themselves in the Book of Genesis.

According to sources on the Fall of Wall and life in East Germany (or GDR), the Politburo tried controlling the population and their way of life, even in the case of romance. Many partners were ripped apart, others were suppressed in order to please the Communist party the SED. Those who tried fleeing were arrested and imprisoned. When the Wall fell, so did the machine that tried to control the way the population lived their lives, and even made love. Many people wanting that freedom to choose who they want to love got that wish. And while this free loving mentality is still being looked down upon in some parts of the western half of Germany, the ability to experiment with romance, mixing it with a sense of hedonism, as seen in the poem with the girl being free from a broken-hearted man, is still predominantly strong in many parts of the eastern half of Germany, let alone in some of the big cities, like Berlin, Cologne and Leipzig, just to name a few.

This video and poem that you are about to watch represents a classic example of this liberation and freedom that both partners received in the end. I hope you enjoy this clip as the first of many literary features to come on the Files.  Viel Spass beim Anschauen! 🙂


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