It's all there. Everything is the same as always. The village, the forest, the robber's hat, the pepper pistol, the spiked helmet of the village policeman Dimpfelmoser. There is probably hardly a novel in world literature whose film adaptations have adhered so almost slavishly to the original as Otfried Preussler's "The Robber Hotzenplotz". And how the characters looked in the books. To Franz Josef Tripp's illustrations.
Marcus Krummacher, the Swiss director, and Matthias Pacht (who had already retreaded Preußler's "Kleine Hexe" with Josefine Preuß true to the original and made it the most successful film of 2018), like Gustav Ehmck in 1974 and Gernot Roll in 2006, are sticking to the plan exactly. And are still wonderfully free.
On the 60th birthday of the original ("The Robber Hotzenplotz" was published in August 1962), nothing was sacrificed to the zeitgeist. The Hotzenplotz is completely unwoked. The dialogues are completely taken from the books (elements from all three Hotzenplotzereien occur). The cast is as extremely potato-German as the books are, which are set in idyllic Germany after the war, i.e. that of 1870/71.
Grandmother's coffee grinder - more modernization is not - looks a little steampunk. It doesn't play "May makes everything new", but something new that carries you through the whole film and you can't get rid of it. The Dimpfelmoser (Olli Dittrich) gets a fuzzy outline under his uniform and a tender romance is implied. The grandmother (Hedi Kriegskotte) and the magical widow Schlotterbeck (Christiane Paul), who is not related by marriage to the national defender, and everyone else in this former Punch and Judy theater are given depth and soul.
Otherwise nothing really happens with Hotzenplotz. Can you call escapism, a short cure for the debate-damaged this republic. Or great cinema.
The cinema still owed us the robber Hotzenplotz. Now that sounds weird. After all, Gert Fröbe was Hotzenplotz. And Armin Rohde was Hotzenplotz. But Fröbe stalked through the German forest as a wooden marionette, a lumberjack without any depth of field. Which suited Gustav Ehmck's film, but somehow wasn't enough.
Rohde gave the robber a lot of sugar (or better: snuff). Which was funny and fit into Gernot Roll's film, but somehow wasn't enough.
Nicholas Ofczarek is now doing what the whole new "Hotzenplotz" is doing with all the stuff, he's making Hotzenplotz a holistic figure. Ofczarek - the Burgtheater warrior who, as the demonic Viennese commissioner in the Sky series "Der Pass" chased Krampus on the German-Austrian border, a mythical, somehow teasing character - can't help it and lets himself be charmed by a wild beard, bulbous nose and all the Hotzenplotz-like frippery he has to wear in order to look like Franz Josef's Tripp illustration doesn't stop him.
Hotzenplotz, this robber from family tradition, is actually a pitiable figure. A precarious existence. "If things go on like this," says Ofczarek's robber, and that's what the book says, "I'll have to look for another job."
He's not a bad person, he says, just a robber. Ofczarek's Hotzenplotz is the most melancholy villain in a long time. You despise what he does and feel sorry for everything that is done to him. You laugh at your idiocy and immediately want to apologize for it. You carry it around longer than you think. But that's how it is with most of the characters in this wonderful (children's) film.
The great magician Petrosilius Zwackelmann is of course the grandiose embodiment of the potato in this kobolz-beating fairy tale. And the basic evil. Zwackelmann is the ancestor of Lord Voldemort.
Like his British descendant, a flawed magician. His magic fails on the potato skin because he just can't get it hexed off the tuber. He - the most German of all magicians - loves potatoes in any form of preparation. Zwackelmann is the villain that Hotzenplotz wouldn't even want to be.
In 1974 Josef Meinrad gave him what one also finds in the not even lower strata of Ofczarek's Hotzenplotz – a snooty Burgtheater joke. And such a diabolical jumping devilishness that it could actually scare you.
Rufus Beck, who gave Zwackelmann in 2006 as a kind of Meinrad revival, did that quite well. And the irony right away. Beck gave the dark lord a double bottom.
August Diehl sweeps away all of that. He must have taken a run-up in makeup, where he seems to have spent a few hours each day of shooting. And then he jumped off. And jumped around like hell. Looks like a mix of late Voldemort, Gollum and Loriot's talk show monster ("Mask? What Mask?"), has over-under cross-bite. And such a wet debate that it's better not to sit in the first two rows of cinemas. If potato addiction leads to such a frenzy of evil, of fun, you really should call the federal drug commissioner.
What are you supposed to do with the Seppel? A – well – bunny hat on his head, a lederhosen robe on his body, braces with deer horn buttons, white shirt, round face, a complexion like milk and blood. Seppel was always the innocence of the country, the little one who thought behind his buddy Kasperl with delay and in whose shadow.
The Kasperl was the Vicky of Dimpfelmoserhausen. The bum was young Faxe. And when Kasperl - after the exchange of hats - has to give the seppel, he acts particularly stupid so that the seppel can be taken from him. That's not very friendly.
Seppel is a diesel thinker, a doubter without a biography – what happened to his parents before he came to his grandmother was not written anywhere, so one could hardly attribute a Hotzenplotzisches father trauma to him. A puppet theater figure with a high proportion of wood.
Benedikt Jenke can be more, become more. Starts as a picture-book bummer - milk-and-blood-and-leather pants etc. And then something happens in him through the shock and darkness in the robber's cave.
The new "Hotzenplotz" tells - in addition to some other things, the story of a beautiful late love for example - also the developmental novel, the self-empowerment story of Seppel. The game of confused identities becomes a game of finding identities. "The Robber Hotzenplotz" is a film for all generations.
Now we need to get to the annoyances and a half. The wasti namely is a problem. Wasti has always been a problem.
First and foremost, of course, for the widow Schlotterbeck, that magically talented woman without whose crystal ball Hotzenplotz could never have been arrested. The wasti used to be a dachshund, but has to be hidden because after a widow's magic accident, it phenotypically resembles a crocodile, but barks.
Wasti became a problem for Otfried Preussler when he forgot to put the poor animal back in a dachshund at the end of the second book. Which is why he finally, animal lover that he was, decided to give the world a third Hotzenplotz, in which the re-capping and a veritable rocket flight could then take place.
Normally, you'd think that with a decent CGI computer these days, it would be relatively easy to come up with an art crocodile that looks better than the crocodile dachshund from 2006, which was also a disaster. Possibly because with the (modest) nine million euros production costs so incredibly many potatoes had to be purchased for Zwackelmann's cellar, apparently there wasn't enough money left over for CGI magic.
For the computer tricks in general - for example, there is great concern about August Diehl in view of the threadbarely put together magic cloth on which he has to whiz through the air as a Zwackelmann in the best Harry Potter manner. And for Wasti in particular.
Not only does he look more like an alligator (those are the lizards with the round snouts), he also seems to be a close relative of Jim Button's half-dragon Nepomuk, albeit like a stuffed one.
Speaking of Jim Button: His adventures, which were also designed extremely lovingly and true to the original, also looked technically flawless because director Dennis Gansel had three times the budget at his disposal.
None of this detracts from the enjoyment of the new "Hotzenplotz". You go home with nostalgic exhilaration past your brand new coffee machine, in front of which you stand as gimpy as the Hotzenplotz in front of the world, because it is smarter than you, but it doesn't produce a melody. Not even "May makes everything new".
Then gently stroke the old books to reassure them that once again no tort was done to them in the cinema. And looks forward to reading them. Eventually anyone.