Berlin.

The title recalls the classics of cinema: “Isn’t Life Beautiful? by Frank Capra. of 1947, a great tearful Christmas. To “Life is beautiful” by Roberto Benigni (1997).

Also in “Wunderschön”, Karoline Herfurth’s third production, it is a tragic comedy that touches the heart. All is not beautiful either in this work. There are five women who get tangled up again and again in the pitfalls of life in the most glorious and saddest ways. With well-known movie faces such as Emilia Schüle, Nora Tschirner, Martina Gedeck, Friedrich Mücke and Joachim Król, “Beautiful” has a top-notch cast. And Herfurth itself also has one of the most central roles.

Appearance as a central theme

Herfurth plays Sonja, an increasingly desperate mother, who not only suffers from her career-obsessed husband (Mücke), but also doesn’t really enjoy the role of mom. Martina Gedeck is Frauke, in her late fifties, who hopes for more from life than just cooking and having boring conversations with her elderly husband. Both son and daughter have already moved on, the latter dabbling in the world of modeling – the dark and cruel sides of which are brutally and honestly dissected by director Herfurth.

The theme of appearance (once a little girl asks: “What do we look like?”), her own perception and that of others: this is the fixed star in terms of content, around which the very entertaining stories of the film. Teenage Leyla (Wonderful: Dilara Eylin Ziem) also struggles with her appearance, finally finding the right valve for her in baseball.

Courage to ugliness

Above all, Tschirner, the fifth woman in this virtuoso choreographed ensemble, is an event: the 40-year-old actress, musician, former presenter, who also starred in Herfurth’s 2016 debut film “SMS für Dich”, captivates with her brat, touching the art: she is a single art teacher who not only attracts attention with her shaggy hair and a blue bandage that always adorns her right index finger.

No, his fiery old red Golf is also arousing interest. So too is a vivacious fellow teacher, with whom Tschirner only gets involved (at first) in a mini affair. There are few local actors who are able to display their courage to be ugly and bold in such a kind and sympathetic way – without ever falling off the fine balance between slapstick and serious.

The chemistry is good

Tschirner, however, probably wouldn’t be able to tap into her potential as well if she didn’t have such an experienced director (by now) and likeable and refreshing opponents and teammates on camera in Herfurth: that the chemistry between the two is special , the purely professional relationship The actress sometimes seems to transcend, as can be seen in one of the most beautiful scenes. The tearful art teacher stands outside the door of her no less deranged best friend: Am I an obnoxious hermit?, asks Tschirner desperately. Whereupon Herfurth hugs her warmly – not just playfully: “No, no, you’re just terribly boring sometimes!”.

It’s moments like these in which Karoline Herfurth can demonstrate her special flair for sad and extremely funny moments in the most beautiful way. With a classic like “Isn’t Life Beautiful?” by Capra, with Benigni’s 1997 award-winning “La Vita è bella”, Herfurth can’t quite keep up. One or the other twist in history, but also certain criticisms of traditional models and perspectives are then too predictable. But one thing is the sumptuous 131 minutes of cinema offered to us by the 37-year-old actress and filmmaker in the middle of the second Corona winter, in any case: magnificent.

Beautiful, Germany 2020, 131 min., FSK from 6, by Karoline Herfurth, with Nora Tschirner, Friedrich Mücke, Martina Gedeck (dpa)