An unconventional tale about an even more unconventional German family where everyone hides a dark secret Agnes und Seine Bruder a.k.a Agnes and his Brothers (2004) mixes elements typically reserved for trendy dark comedies while at the same time plays out as a satire of a society with some serious moral flaws.
Hans-Jorg (Moritz Bleibtreu) is a sex addict who spends most of his time at the local library enjoying the everyday flow of attractively dressed college girls. His working day typically ends up with a secret (and quick) masturbating session at the women's restroom. Hans-Jorg is a virgin who has never had enough courage to ask a woman out.
Werner (Herbert Knaup) is a promising politician whose career has taken off and now the sky is the limit. At home however he is anything but successful. His son hates him while his wife openly disagrees with his lifestyle. Between the two sex has become as mechanical and cold as Werner's dealings with his political opponents.
The third brother, Agnes (Martin Weib), is a transsexual who lives with an abusive partner with plenty of anger in his heart. She works in a local dance club where more often than not horny men will reach out and grab her behind. Agnes dreams of being loved for the person she has become but love never seems to be around when she needs it.
Fast-paced and visibly influenced by the quirkiness of Almodovar's early work for the most part Agnes and His Brothers successfully proves the allusion that perversity can be fascinating to look at. Striking an uncanny balance between dark humor and twisted romance this highly-decorated German picture far exceeded my expectations in the area of character development. From Hans-Jorg's social mishaps to Werner's unpredictable collapses to the drama following Agnes the mood in this picture shifts as regularly as a traffic light.
If there is an area in Agnes and His Brothers that drags a bit it is the noticeably rough dialog which at times seems to be preventing the picture from completely abandoning conventional storytelling. Add to that a semi-feelgood ending which I thought grounded the picture even more and Agnes and His Brothers falls short of becoming the surprising contemporary take on the Adams Family some critics prematurely concluded it was.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 but not enhanced for widescreen TV's the print for this release appears to have been sourced from the German PAL DVD. Not surprisingly what we have here is the mandatory "ghosting" mixed with some additional flaws. One such noticeable issue is the obvious color-bleeding which becomes rather distracting when the DVD is viewed on a larger screen. Furthermore, the fact that anamorphic enhancement is missing is puzzling to say the least and I could not help but think that this was a quick and cheap transfer meant to generate a few extra $. No matter what the justification behind this release it is quite obvious that the presentation is not on par with what we have come to expect from well-respected distribs and I have a hard time recommending you spend money on it. Which I believe is rather unfortunate as this is indeed the only English-friendly release on the market!!
How Does the DVD Sound?
Not much to rave about here either!! Presented with a basic 2.0 German track and fixed English subtitles the audio is for the most part clear while dialog is easy to follow. Given the elaborate music score however and the presence of a much more advanced mix seen/heard on the German R2 disc I am to say the least disappointed by the mediocre R1 treatment.
Aside from a photo gallery, a trailer gallery for othee First Run Features releases, and a Biographies section there is nothing else to be found here.
A good film with very good storyline receives yet another questionable presentation from First Run Features and Co. This truly is quite a disappointment as I like what the company releases a great deal and always look to be surprised with a deserving transfer. In fact, on more than one occasions I have noted that should First Run Features learn how to properly treat their films we could very well have a distributor as exciting as UK's Artificial Eye.