Best Before

Das Ewige Leben (German for eternal life), the latest instalment in the Simon Brenner movies from Austria, starts with the usual slight comedic misunderstanding. Brenner, forever unshaved and in his shabby green jacket, wants to get social security, but has no job, no fixed address, no money, and no ID on him. “You’re homeless,” the woman behind the counter tells him. Maybe that has not occurred to Brenner.

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This is the fourth Simon Brenner movie; all of them have Wolfgang Murnberger as a director, and Josef Hader as the ever-deteriorating ex-cop ex-private eye ex-ambulance driver Brenner. I can’t think of a more interesting investigator still at work – although technically, he investigates nothing, but stumbles onto wrongdoings almost by accident, and reluctantly. This movie takes a dark turn: Brenner has massive, crushing headaches and solves that problem with shooting himself in the head. He survives, barely, with a bullet lodged in his frontal lobe and pressing on his optical nerve; after his coma, he is convinced that someone wanted to shoot him. He suspects the local chief of police (Tobias Moretti).

547840b9a9add_bHe’s not wrong, in a way. The plot is never discussed, but it’s there for you to figure out. There is an old crime involved, committed by – yes, you guessed it – Brenner himself, and some childhood friends. There is now a young woman who turns out to be the daughter of the woman who was part of Brenner’s gang. And that daughter is now his therapeutic councillor. Her husband is the chief of police – but the chief was also part of that gang of bankrobbers. There is blackmail, murder, memory loss, possible incest, all part of the Wolf Haas novels the movies are based on. And there’s one very devious cat.

There are moments in this movie that are as funny as the other Brenner movies, but here, after the suicide attempt, everything is tinged with a silvery melancholy because Brenner is no longer middle-aged, but veering towards getting old, and in bad health. Dr. Irrsiegler (Nora von Waldstätten), pretty and wholesome, is perfectly friendly while plotting and planning how to save her husband. There is Köck, an antiques dealer, also part of the old gang, happily blackmailing whoever is nearest.

w964Das Ewige Leben is less funny than the other movies, and Der Knochenmann, with its grisly story and tight plot, is still the best movie in the series, but this one is definitely worth watching. There are eight novels out, three of them newer than this one, which should give us three movies more with him. There is a Brenner movie every four years or so. That’s quite a long wait until something is happening again.

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