What’s in a name? An awful lot if you’re a German and living in Germany. Sonke Wortmann’s How About Adolf? deals with this complex issue by lampooning German attitudes toward its Nazi past.
A dark and effervescent satire informed by Germany’s greatest demon, Adolf Hitler, it is now available on the ChaiFlicks streaming platform.
The plot is straightforward. Elisabeth (Caroline Peters), a teacher, and her husband, Stephan (Cristoph Maria Herbst), a professor of modern German literature at the University of Bonn, are throwing a dinner party for family and friends.
Their guests are Thomas (Florian David Fitz), Elisabeth’s younger brother; his very pregnant girlfriend Anna (Janina Uhse), and Rene (Justice von Dohnanyi), a musician and Elisabeth’s oldest friend.
Elisabeth has cooked an aromatic Indian meal, and everyone looks forward to a convivial evening of fine food and friendly conversation.
When Thomas discloses that Anna is expecting a boy, they take turns at guessing what his name will be. Max? Ivan? Manfred? Erich? Heinrich? Donald? Alexander? Axel? Alfred?
None of the above, says Thomas, providing a helpful hint that leads to a dead end. Finally, Thomas comes out with it. “It’s Adolf,” he says nonchalantly.
Stephan is shocked and reprimands Thomas: “Don’t be silly.”
“Why not?” Thomas counters.
“You can’t be serious,” says Stephan, telling Thomas that Adolf would be especially inappropriate name during this period of rising xenophobia in Germany. “Are you stupid?”
Chiming in, Elisabeth advises Thomas to drop the idea. “You’ll be marking him for life. He’ll be teased at school all day.”
Intervening again, Stephan reminds Thomas that Hitler was “the greatest mass murder of all time.” Thomas stubbornly digs in. “Did Hitler do what he did because of his name? Hitler wasn’t Hitler because of his name. My Adolf is a silent protest against your Adolf.”
The debate rages on, ruining the atmosphere and fraying relationships.
At this point, Anna, an actress, confesses it was her decision to name their unborn child Adolf.
Visibly angry, Stephan takes a pot shot at her, saying that her decision is a reflection of her lousy education. “This chick has a loose screw,” he mockingly adds. To which Anna defiantly replies, “I can call my son whatever I want!”
Thomas tries to lower the temperature, but fails to calm the passions that have been unleashed. The conversation turns nasty and embarrassing. Secrets spill out. Feelings are hurt. Strife erupts between Elisabeth and Stephan.
The dinner party has degenerated into a first-class fiasco, but family ties and friendships remain intact.
How About Adolf? underscores Germany’s sensitivity to the Nazi interregnum. Nearly eight decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, Germans are still grappling with its emotional fallout.