Movie Review: 303

It’s October and that means it’s time again for Kino, the German language film festival organised by the Goethe-Institut Hongkong. This year’s event, their 18th, showcases ten new and award-winning films from Germany and – this year – Switzerland. As is the case every year, these films depict thought-provoking and highly relevant stories about rebellion and courage, love and doubt, and yearning and awakening. Last week I reviewed the festival’s opening night film, THE SILENT REVOLUTION. Here is a look at another film that is on view this coming week.

Jule (Mala Emde) and Jan (Anton Spieker) are both 24 years old and in university in Berlin. She’s studying environmental science; he, political science. It’s the end of the school year and neither one has had a good finish. Jule failed her biochem oral exam while Jan missed out on a scholarship that he badly needed. To add to their woes, Jule has just found out that she’s pregnant from her boyfriend who is now living in Portugal. Jan, meanwhile, recently heard from his birth father, a shipbuilder in Spain, for the first time. Needing to tell her boyfriend the news first-hand, Jule packs up her vintage 303″ camper van (hence the film’s title) and heads to Portugal. At a gas station in Berlin, she meets Jan, who has decided to hitchhike to Spain to meet his father. Jule decides to give Jan a ride but the pair hits a speed bump in their new relationship early on when Jan’s opinions and ideas clash with those of Jule’s. She’s an idealist while he’s a pragmatist. It’s pragmatism, however, that keeps them together, and two eagerly engage in philosophical discussions about life, love and relationships as they make their way west. But their talks are really a smokescreen that masks both their inner feelings and, as they head closer to their final destinations, they begin to let their guards down.

Reminiscent of the BEFORE SUNRISE trilogy, 303 paints an interesting picture of contemporary life of young, middle-class Germans, who may be more concerned with the social habits of the Cro-Magnon than with racism, mass migration and the rise of the far right. Okay, it’s a film. I won’t belabour that point. Unlike BEFORE SUNRISE though, 303 is a movie about a road trip and, like all road trip movies, it involves the characters stripping away all their façades and getting to know themselves better. To the film’s credit, Emde and Spieker have such good chemistry together that one may wonder if they’re a couple in real life. (I don’t think they are. The actors, by the way, are seven years apart in age.) Their back-and-forth banter and clowning around together comes across as being spontaneous. Director Hans Weingartner (THE EDUKATORS/Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei) and cinematographers Mario Krause and Sebastian Lempe take every opportunity to film the pair in the soft glow of the afternoon sun, especially once they reach the highly picturesque Loire Valley and then the Basque seacoast, and the sensuality of the film’s locations play well to the characters’ own sensuality. The pair’s inevitable first kiss is wonderfully restrained, just as the characters themselves are.

As far as road trips go, this one’s a pleasure, though at just under two hours, the film could benefit from a snip here and there. (The original version, which premiered in the Generation 14plus section of this year’s Berlinale, was even longer, clocking at 145 minutes.) Even so, it still may encourage you to hire your own camper van and hit the road.

Kino/18 runs in Hong Kong and Macau from October 11 – 21, 2018. For more information, please visit the festival’s website at I’ll be at the festival’s opening night on October 11th at the HK Arts Centre in Wanchai. If you’ll be there, come and say hello at the event’s after-party!

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, October 11th at 8:30 am HK time!

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