Original release: October 19th, 2000
Running time: 90 minutes
Country of origin: Germany
Original language: German
Writers and directors: Ben Reding, Dominik Reding
Cast: Sascha Backhaus, Simon Goerts, Jens Veith, Sandra Borgmann
Back in the time when I was visiting Berlin quite often, I’d usually go along with friends to see whatever movies they were keen to catch on a Friday or Saturday night before heading out for drinks, a nightclub or a concert. During that time I caught many films, but one which always stayed in my mind was Oi! Warning, a film written and directed by the Reding brothers.
Despite not seeing it in English or with any subtitles, oddly enough I was able to follow it, and though its story was centred on a German boy and his encounters with quite a different group of friends from mine, I felt I could somehow relate to it.
In the film we meet Janosch (Sascha Backhaus), a 17-year-old boy who’s experiencing an identity crisis. After leaving home he meets Koma (Simon Goerts), a German skinhead and his wife Sandra (Sandra Borgmann) who’s expecting twins. Having no place to stay, Koma lets the boy stay with them in what’s to be their kids’ nursery and before long Janosch starts to adopt the ideas and style of his friend who’s actually a neo-Nazi.
Janosch not only shaves his head and swaps his clothes for a more militant look, submersing himself in the skinhead culture – complete with the boots, jacket, jeans and braces – but he also becomes infatuated with Koma and there are lingering scenes in Oi! Warning where we see him gazing at the slim and muscular body of the man. These scenes, as I remember them, were not unlike those I saw in Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will (1935) and Olympia (1938).
Whether or not Koma realises and invites this homoerotic gaze is left for us as the viewer to decide, but Sanda decides to fix him up with a girlfriend, Blanca (Britta Dirks) and while the girl is keen on him, it’s clear he’s not the least bit interested in her.
Moving on from the skinhead culture, Janosch then becomes fixated on a self-styled group who modify their bodies with tattoos and piercings and encourage free sexual expression. It’s here he meets Zottel (Jens Veith), a gay left-wing punk whom he has an affair with.
Now with an outlet for his homosexual desires, Janosch then realises the skinheads and the punks are enemies and Koma dislikes the boy’s new friends and his newfound relationship with Zottel.
Film in black and white, Oi! Warning’s cinematography is beautiful in its raw and gritty look at a sub-culture we rarely get such a look at on film. While its characters are a little intimidating to say the least, the actors, including Sascha Backhaus, Jens Veith and Simon Goerts, are nevertheless compelling to watch as the story unfolds to an inevitable climax.
Being just a bit older than Janosch at the time, and feeling a little like a fish out of water in Berlin, it was easy to relate to the teenager in that I too was searching for a place to belong. The difference however was that I never felt the need to submerse myself in a sub-culture that wouldn’t have me anyway! Still, Oi! Warning was a film that remains in my memory as one that was not only beautifully filmed but one that also told about the dangers of being a misguided youth and trying to fit in where you don’t belong.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .