Monday, 17 June 2013

Gandermonium Film Review - 'Das Wunder von Bern'

Now, I know what you’re all thinking. Your’re thinking is this some kind of Miracle that could easily relate to the way Bernie Ecclestone has made his fame and fortune over the years, or his bird pulling techniques at the grand age of 82. Or for that matter, how he indeed made his millions, over the years.  Sadly viewers of Gandermonium, you are indeed correct that is a miracle in itself. But I can’t divulge such information, as let’s face it, if I knew how it did, especially the bird pulling techniques, I wouldn’t be bringing you a write up on the film, that is The Miracle of Bern. After all this is about FOOTBALL, not a write up about some old millionaire duffer.

So what’s it all about then?

As some of you will be aware, and will have seen from Duke’s write up on Zidane. The Editor in Chief a.k.a Taz. Decided that we still needed to engage our brains, knowledge and wisdom over the summer months and keep the viewers of Gandermonium (you!) entertained.  A rather large database of football realted films was put together by the E.I.C and we were each assigned a couple from the list to get us going. So the first one out of the bag for me was indeed The Miracle Of Bern. I thought to myself, I could be a freeloader, like I am sometimes and watch this online, and then put together a little write up. But I thought no, I’ll buy this one for keeps. So a short journey down into Sutton Town, to HMV. A little nosey around the World Film section and for the pricey sum of £10 pounds away I went. For a brief moment, I thought I was onto a complete winner, until I chucked the disc in the Blu-Ray player, and found the film was in German, and sub-titled the whole way through.

Bollocks! I for one am, not a massive fan of films that are A- in German, and B- subtitled the whole way through.  Oh well, if the Guvnor of Gandermonium says it, we shall obey. So, some three and half viewing hours later I bring the Juan write up of....... The Miracle of Bern.

Contains Bernie Ecclestones secrets!

The opening scene of the film drops us into an Industrial area, where the little German kids are running down the street chasing a carrier pigeon which carries a message that the local team have been defeated.....again. We are then greeted by the family featured throughout the film. The family struggle to make ends meet with the father of the family missing! The family run a local bar, to which the mother, daughter and elder son take shifts to keep the family business afloat. The young boy Mattes is depressed that his local side have again lost another game, and joins his favourite way of escaping the depressing loss by speaking with his pet rabbits who he confides with throughout the film.

The eldest son takes control of the ‘family way’ and fills in for the missing father, ensuring that the bar is run to make as much money, given that Germany is in somewhat of an economical breakdown, following the war.

The film then begins to focus on the relationship of Mattes, and Rahn ( Helmut Rahn ). Rahn ( The Boss ) is the local football soccer star,. Whilst on top form playing for his local team ( Rot Weiss Essen), is awaiting the call for his international cap. Mattes is obsessed by Rahns ability; one as football player and the second as a father figure. Mattes promises to be Rahn’s kitbag boy, which gets him free entry into the stadium, thus enabling mattes to escape from the current reality of family depression and tough times.

The power of Rahn.

 The family then receive some news via telegram, some members especially the mother take the news well. The other members of the family find it hard to believe. How can they possibly adjust to having their father back in their lives after him being away for 11 years, as a Soviet prisoner of war in Siberia.

The film then introduces to us- a young looking German professional sports reporter. The young sports reporter is  besotted by the beautiful game, his wife to be, on the other hand, is looking forward to a Honeymoon in Morocco, and couldn’t care less about football, or for that matter any sports. The wife of the sports reporter is a typical German broad, obsessed by clothes, holidays and the perfect life style, even though they are living within a recession.

The film then switches back to the German family living in poverty, and the Prisoners of War are being greeted by the missing loved ones at the train station.  The missing father spots, what he presumes to be his wife, but is in fact his daughter. Clearly his last memory before being shipped off to the prisoner of war camp is that of a younger looking lady. The father asks the questions as to who Mattes is, not remembering that his wife was pregnant, some eleven years previous.

The father then begins to disagree with the eldest son’s musical interest, and Mattes interest in football, causing a rift between the family members. Considering for some 11 years they have coped well in his absence.

The film then flicks back to the ‘better’ lifestyle, that of the young sports writer Ackermann. Ackermann gets the offered the opportunity of a lifetime. To follow West Germany throughout the stages of the World Cup based in Bern Switzerland. Of course, he has to break the news to his wife to be. This as we all know goes down like a lead balloon. With a career opportunity he can’t turn down he breaks the news in somewhat of a relaxed way. His wife states ’24 men chasing after a ball, how boring can it be’....little does she know! She agrees to Ackermann going to Bern but on one condition, she joins him on the trip.

The usual... suspects !

The focus turns back to Rahn. Rahn gets his call up for international duties from the West Germany coach, Sepp Herberger. Rahn leaves Essen and joins the other members of the ’54 team for a pre training session. We are then given a brief oversight into the squad, size, players, and a little bio on each player

We then revert back to the father who returns back to work in the local mine, and suffers a relapse of the working conditions within the prison camp in Serbia. The father still struggling to come to terms with being reunited with his family after spending 11 years in a militarised solitary lifestyle.

Back to the training camp, Herberger puts the German lads through a strict training routine, of which most of the squad are below bar. Smoking and drinking are now banned by the coach, and any player not towing the line, will be sent home. We are then shown Herberger’s secret weapon for the cup games; football boots with adjustable studs depending on the weather and pitch conditions. This small factor of interchangeable studs, playing a big part in the later part of the film.

Das Boot ....geddit?

We return to the family again witnessing the father pulling his daughter, Ingrid away from dancing and enjoying herself with the army boys, again Ingrid trying to forget about life, and the tough times now that her father has returned. Sadly for Richard (absent father) can’t seem to adjust to this, he thinks this type of behaviour is not acceptable. Richard seems stuck in the Nazi regime, and way of life pre and post war.

Mattes and his friends are having a little kick around in the streets, with his father watching his skills, and positioning. Richard feels there is no point in his son playing the game, and walks away, leaving his son Mattes in disbelief.  Mattes trying to copy the tricks and turns of the ‘boss’ but his father Richard, thinks he is somewhat a cheap imitation, and has no originality and will continue to have none, if he keeps trying to be the  like ‘The Boss’.

The first round sees Germany play Turkey.  Turkey had already beaten Spain the qualifier, so the German team are advised not to underestimate the quality of the Turks.  The line up for the Germans for this one, is ; Toni , Laband, Posipal, Kohlmeyer, Eckel, Mai, Morlock, Fritz , Hans Schafer, Ottamar and Berni Koldt.  Rahn missing out on his first opportunity to impress Sebb Herberger, in the first round tie, the German side beat the Turks, 4-1.

Germany are then up against Hungary in the first round, Puskas places one past Toni, and Hungary go onto beat the Germans, 8-3. Herberger is to blame for the result, and the German fans take an instant disliking to his tactics. However there is some madness behind Herbergers chain of thought. With Herberger fielding a weaker side, it gave him time to look at tactics and formations for the coming games, both in the group stages, and that of the playoffs.  

I'll have 10 Puskas please love !

*Bizarrely, I’m currently reading a book called Behind The Curtain which goes into some depth on Eastern European Football, and currently I’m at the chapter, Hungary more kicks than bricks.*-I'll put together a little write up on the book...once finished !

Back to the film, with the defeat to Hungary, a number of the German lads, including the Boss decide to hit the town, and knock a few fine beers back, to numb the pain of the defeat, and the injuries, both physically and mentally.  Of course the new super star sports reporter picks up the fact a number of the squad have been out on the jars, and reports this back to H.Q where the news hits the tabloid German newspapers, again bringing Herberger's position as coach into the spotlight.

Young Mattes has had enough of being bullied by his retuned father, and makes a break to find Rahn in Switzerland. After all, Mattes is Rahns lucky winning charm. Mattes makes his way to the train station, but falls asleep there overnight, only for his father to drag him back home by the scruff of his neck. For his lack in his father’s faith, and self righteousness, Mattes is punished, and will miss the next West Germany game, and is given 10 lashes to further his belief in his father’s ways.

We bounce back to Herberger giving us the line up for the Playoff match Vs the Turks. Toni in goal, defenders, Laband, Posipal, Bauer, Eckel and Mai. Forwards Morlock, Fritz, Schafer, Ottmar and Klodt. Rahn is again left on the bench. Pre match, Herberger reads out a number of letters to the German players, along the lines of ‘ Mr Herberger, when the national team coach dosen’t know  what spectators require at a time like this...then he should buy a rope and hang himself from a tree..but in such a way that the rope can be used again’’. Or how about this, ‘’Herberger, you should be prosecuted for sabotage, you should accept the consequences of this incident as any decent person would do, and resign’’. No pressure on the team to win this game then.

"We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse"

 27th June 1954, Quarter Final, Germany Vs Yugoslavia.

With Mattes confined to house under his father’s Nazi orders. Mattes elder brother brings him a radio so he can listen to the quarter final fixture, and not miss out action. Mattes is pleased, one for being able to hear the match, and secondly as Rahn is featured in the starting line up. However mattes happiness is short lived, as he is beckoned to the family room, for a feast of food supplied by his father. The family are impressed by the offerings, having not eaten such delights in many years. The family are lead to believe that the meal has been paid by Richards’s compensation payout from the German government for being held as a prisoner of war over the period of 11 years.  This payout did not occur, as the German government are going through an economic crisis, and fear that further payouts will lead the Country into further financial difficulties.
The family enjoy the feast that is short lived. Following the supper, Mattes goes outside to speak with his rabbits, only to find that the rabbit cages are open and there are no signs of his beloved friends, until he checks the family bins, and sees the remnants of his loved pets. The basterd father Richard, had murdered Mattes animals so the family could be drawn into a false sense of security.

The elder brother Bruno has had enough of Richards behaviour, and feels its only right for him to leave the family now that the absent father figure has returned to look after Mattas. Bruno leaves and heads for Berlin, where he can make something of his life in , where everyone is equal, and people have freedom of speech.

30th June 1954, Semi- Final, Austria Vs Germany.

On reflection of his (Richards) recent breakdown and the way he is treating his family, he seeks advice and confession from the local Priest. The Priest advises him, that he has spoken with many a ex-prisoner of war, and most are embarrassed about the time spent away from their families, they naturally distance themselves, they try to make everything right again, as it once was, and they pretend they are strong, really they are afraid to show they are still imprisoned. The film then shows Richard taking the long walk home after confession, and he picks up an old war torn football, and starts to knock it about at his feet, flicking the ball between foot and knee, and then flicks the ball over his head, and swiftly strikes the ball, completing a scissor kick, the ball lands between both posts. Perhaps this is the changing point in the film. This is where Richard perhaps begins to find his love for the game, and begins to appreciate his love for his son, and the other members of his family. Richard begins to open up a little and speak of his time in the camp, and the family start to understand how lonely he actually was. ‘ Not-one thought given about his wife or family, and not one word spoken’.

Germany go on to beat the Austrians 6-1.

Is that all you take away...

So Germany go through to the final to play Hungary, whom they have already faced in the group stages.

 The final stages.

Can Germany beat Hungary. Well according to Herberger. "If the sun shines on the Sunday, we wont be able to stop them, we’re an inferior side to them, but if it rains, Fritz weather, the ground will be difficult and we’ll have a chance."

Well the worm has certainly turned for Richard, and early wake up call for Mattas, and there off in the Priests to where you ask. Off to the Cup Final in Bern.  If you remember the ‘Boss' only wins if Mattas is there,

On the morning of the final, there is nothing but blue skies for miles across the Swiss Alps, has the German luck run short. With a further briefing from Herberger, and further talk of tactics, and advising the German squad, that the Hungarians are a weak side, in order to give them the belief that anything is possible...if you put your mind to it!  Lets not forget thought, that even Puskas is suffering from injury he is still in good form for Hungary, and we can’t rule out the other strike option for Hungary, coming from Hidegkuti in the centre of the park.. The Germans have the strength and the tactics, but will it be enough...

On the morning of the game, the Sun still beating down on the Swiss hill, a few drops of rain begin to emerge from the sky. Big studs are fixed to the German boots, would they be in luck, will the weather they prayed for be answered.

It says 'Wankdorf'. *snigger*

As they had in every game of the tournament, Hungary took a two goal advantage. Puskas got the first after 6 minutes, Czibor added a second two minutes later. Two minutes after that West Germany pulled one back. Grosics flapped at a Fritz Walter corner, allowing Rahn to volley home. With less than 30 minutes played, it was 2 a piece. With a heavy pitch, and rainy conditions, Puskas was struggling against the man-marking of Horst Eckel, but Puskas still managing to hit the post. With six minutes of time left on the clock, Bozsik was muscled off the ball by Hans Schafer.  His cross headed clear by the Hungarian centre back, but Rahn picked up the loose ball, and switched his body to the left creating space just outside the box, and drove a low fired shot past Grosics. This goal scored by Rahn was known as the goal that made the German nation.

The Germans are crowned World Champions 1954. A year later all the prisoners of war were reunited with their families, and at the same time, the German economic miracle began, and the Bern eleven never played as a team again.

 A few famous Herberger quotes

"When the apple is ripe it falls from the tree by itself."
"The ball is round, and the game lasts 90 minutes"
"After the game is before the game"

At the start of this film, I thought it would be a bit of struggle to get to grips with it, given it’s sub-titled, but I must admit I really enjoyed it, and have watched it a number of times since. There’s even bonus footage on this disc, which gives you a little snippet of footage of each of the games that West Germany played in.

                              If you've made it this far, you may want to have a little watch of this...

A great watch, infact sod it, all this talk about The Miracle of Bern. I’m off to watch it again.

More film and book reviews to follow in due course.

That’s all from the one they call Juan...for now !

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