Next door

Next door
Original title:Next door
Director:Daniel Brühl
Running time:92 minutes
Release date:Not communicated
In Berlin, Daniel is a famous actor who lives in a beautiful apartment with his charming girlfriend, their two children and the nanny. He is about to leave for London where the casting of a superhero movie awaits him. While waiting for his driver, Daniel goes to the local bar without knowing that he is being followed by his mysterious neighbor, Bruno. This premeditated meeting will take Daniel to the dark corners of his intimacy. Bruno is determined to make his life hell.

Mulder's Review

It is always interesting to discover a first film by an actor because it reveals not only his directorial vision but also new facets of his personality. By delivering a more personal film, an actor can let his frustrations explode on the screen but also his vision of a system putting the actor at the center of the world cinema industry. We can easily understand the will of the excellent actor Daniel Brühl who was able to build a very nice filmography by alternating independent productions and Hollywood productions. Good Bye, Lenin! (2003), Merry Christmas (2005), Two Days in Paris (2007), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Intruders (2011), Rush (2013), The Fifth Estate (2013), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Hostages in Entebbe (Entebbe) (2018), the Falcon and the Winter Soldier series (2020) and soon The King's Man: First Mission (The King's Man) (2021)).

 The fact that actor Daniel Brühl is fluent in several languages has allowed him to alternate between German, French and American productions. His first film Next Door not only marks a promising debut as a director but also allows him to deliver a striking composition. The problem with first films is that they usually show a desire to do too well and thus take almost no risk, but also to give the actor in front of and behind the camera a role too perfect to not only play his popularity but also take a minimum of risk. However, the director and actor Daniel Brühl voluntarily breaks his image but corroborates once again what an excellent actor of world stature he is.

When discovering Next Door, one thinks of Robert Altman's film The Player in its willingness to address the profession of actors and the brand image they build even if it means giving the public an image that is hardly representative of their true personality. We discover Daniel (Daniel Brühl), a world-famous film star who has built a very successful career and who seems to have succeeded in his private life. Everything is going well for him and he is a testament to the wealth he has amassed from his worldwide successes. Recognized in the street, appreciated for his undeniable acting skills, this character seems to be an extension of the actor Daniel Brühl himself. Everything seems to be under his control, allowing him to audition in different countries, especially for an American superhero blockbuster (an obvious nod to Marvel Studios). Married, with two children, everything could have gone on as usual, but when he is about to leave for London for an important audition, his usual routine is changed forever by an encounter in a bar-cafe near his home. His neighbor Bruno (Peter Kurth), who has not only been watching him carefully, will not only change his life forever, but also teach him a strong sense of responsibility. 

While Next Door could have turned out to be a filmed and static play, it is not. Daniel Kehlmann's script is not only totally masterful but also presents perfectly crafted dialogues and a verbal confrontation between two men, Daniel and Bruno, and a questioning of the public and private image, of the responsibilities of an actor but also of a moral code to be kept in order to be blameless and not thrown to the paparazzi who can ruin the careers of famous actors by unorthodox outbursts. Next Door is perfectly paced and has an undeniable musicality, like a metronome beating out the beat at a constant pace without stopping. Far from venturing into the conquered territory of a big budget film, Daniel Brühl's first film is an intimate thriller with almost all the action taking place in a bar. This setting is reminiscent in some ways of Mabrouk El Mechri's very successful film JCVD (2008). Both films focus on the actor's craft, the fact that they have to capture the public's attention, parade around at different events and play a role in their public life.

Daniel's character seems to be egocentric, living in his own world that he has created for himself with his habits, not paying attention to the people around him and thinking only about his career to the detriment of his private life. Daniel Brühl, omnipresent on the screen, signs here a very successful film and shows that by working with very talented directors such as Paul Greengrass, Quentin Tarantino, Ron Howard, Bill Condon, Anton Corbijn, Michael Winterbottom, Anthony and Joe Russo, Helmut Zemo and José Padilha, he was able to acquire an undeniable experience to master a film as much on its rhythm as on the direction of the actors and to see him verbally confronting Peter Kurth is an undeniable pleasure.  In the same way, this film also sends us back by its approach to the emotional strength that emerges from series like Twilight Zone or more recently Black mirror. The many levels of reading of the film easily reinforce its foundation and totally captures our attention. 

The social character of Next Door is also clearly displayed. The film opposes two social milieus, one privileged and the other who must try to live decently but who is getting tired of seeing those privileged no longer realize how lucky they are and how difficult life is. The film also deals with the strong bond between spectators and actors of worldwide repute who can benefit from many facilities by being connected with luxurious brands. Even if some actors want to look good on red carpets, interviews and seem to show their willingness to engage in social work it seems at times to be a way to build a brand image that is often hardly representative of reality. Daniel Brühl is a gifted actor who has kept his feet on the ground and the image of his character here seems to be another reflection of him that is hardly flattering. This way of deconstructing his own myth shows that this actor has understood that the importance is not to line up blockbusters to not finish but to invest himself in projects that are close to his heart whether it is superhero films but also German independent films in which he confirms that he is a great actor who takes a real pleasure like a chameleon to enter different roles. 

There is also in this first film the undeniable shadow of directors like Michael Haneke and the end that we will not reveal will really lead to reflection. In the same way one could wonder if this film would not be simply a fantastic film in the sense that Bruno seems to be like a small voice of Daniel asking him to take control of his life and to assume his mistakes. This interesting reading of the film gives it an undeniable emotional strength.  Certainly Next Door reveals that Daniel Brühl has succeeded in his passage behind the camera and we await his next film 

Next Door
Directed by Daniel Brühl
Written by Daniel Kehlmann
Produced by Daniel Brühl, Malte Grunert
Starring Daniel Brühl, Peter Kurth
Cinematography: Jens Harant
Edited by Marty Schenk
Music by Moritz Friedrich, Jakob Grunert
Production companies : Amusement Park Films, Erfttal Film, Gretchenfilm, Warner Bros. Film Productions Germany
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures (Germany), Eurozoom (France)
Release date : March 1, 2021 (Berlinale), January 2, 2021 (France)
Running time : 92 minutes

Seen on September 29, 2021 (press screener)

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