The Miracle Of Bern takes one of the most memorable moments in West German history and turns it into a shamelessly feelgood football comedy-drama. Inspired by the Germans' shock triumph at the 1954 World Cup finals, the movie is as subtle as a Toni Schumacher tackle and frequently verges on the jingoistic. Yet there's no denying its occasional emotional power and believable recreation of post-war life in the country's industrial heartland.
Eleven-year-old Matthias (Louis Klamroth) is football crazy. Living with his mum and two elder siblings in a grim German mining town, his life gets shaken up by the return of father Richard (Klamroth's real-life father, Peter Lohmeyer), a broken man who's spent 11 years as a POW in Russia. Matthias already has a father figure, however: local football star Helmut 'The Boss' Rahn (Sascha Göpel), who's about to pack his bags for the World Cup in neighbouring Switzerland...
"CLICHÉS NOT LIMITED TO THE PITCH"
By their very nature, movies drawing upon real-life sporting events are never far from cliché (think Seabiscuit, Chariots Of Fire). The fact is that the little-fancied Germans did lose 8-3 to Hungary in a group match before coming from two goals down to beat them in the final. But director Sönke Wortmann doesn't limit his clichés to the pitch. The family drama is unnecessarily cloying, and a sub-plot about a rookie sports journalist covering the tournament during his honeymoon is an irritating piece of fluff. The Brylcreamed footballers, meanwhile, ensure that the goalposts aren't the most wooden thing on the pitch.
Ultimately, The Miracle Of Bern feels like watching a proud parent's camcorder footage of their child's formative steps. You can see why it's important to them, but the cuteness factor soon wears thin for the neutral. Now, a story about a Russian linesman - there's a film we'd pay to see.
In German with English subtitles.