The Film: Viktor Vogel: Commercial Man – Germany
On the surface it’s a goofy comedy with a pop style and wacky lead and at first it seems nowhere close to reinventing the wheel. But when it dips the comedy into some deeper themes it really succeeds in presenting something dynamic.
The reason I picked this film up at the video store was the subject matter. It reminded me of a movie I have yet to see staring Jean Dujardin. 99 Francs is also about the advertising world and my sister brought it to my attention because she’s a graphic designer. As I’ve gone into filmmaking, we’ve talked a lot about the complexities of work in an art that is actually a commerce.
The question, the eternal question, is how to balance the internal need of expression and the external desire to meet fiscal needs. It’s the starving artists question — do I feed my soul or my body.
Viktor Vogel, the wacky comedy, takes on this theme brilliantly. If you watch the extras on the DVD there is a selection that involves the actors pausing in the middle of a scene to look into the camera and talk about what art is. It’s clear there are deeper minds close to this project and it could have been an all out drama. The genius lies in choosing a comedy to hold the weight of the heavy themes.
Viktor Vogel gets a job as a graphic designer when he sneaks into a high-powered meeting and steals the show from the agencies veteran and former hotshot copywriter who is forced to be his partner. This is the Lethal Weapon of the design world.
In the midst of the frothy fun, the casual pop in the directing style, there is some excellent ribbing at the advertising world. Like any film with a wizz kid, you can see his days are numbered but the way it unfolds pairs well with the more dramatic third act.
Who are we when we compromise who we are? Isn’t what makes us great, what makes us unique? Especially when it comes to art — no even more than that. Crucially when it comes to art, if we are not presenting ourselves, communicating a core of self expression, saying something… what is the point?
The back cover of the DVD (and why I absolutely love being able to rent a physical copy) asks if Viktor can hold onto his integrity. It’s not a word being used in a trivial way, it’s the very essence of the film. In this world of remake and reboots the question I always ask is: what are you saying?
The response I have to a film is always in direct reaction to that question and Viktor Vogel addresses this idea wonderfully. You may get old but you don’t get stale unless you lose the will to keep telling the world who you are and why you matter.
The Food: Gingerbread Coffee Spiced Popcorn
My favorite store in the world, Aldi, is a global discount supermarket chain based in Germany. The best, best, most wonderful thing about it is all the imported goodies all year round. But especially at Christmas. Walking the aisles every year is just like Christmas because you never know what new treasures they’re going to have.
I thought of the treats as I devised a recipe for gingerbread spice popcorn. The coffee idea came in with a distant memory of a gingerbread recipe from a Mennonite cookbook that added coffee to the spice mix.
Traditional lebkuchen spices are cinnamon, anise seed, coriander, ginger, cardamom, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and fennel seed. The mixture can also have small amounts of star anise, ground black pepper, and mace.
But then I looked in my spice box and I was missing a few key ingredients when I saw this from a fellow WordPresser who used Chinese 5 spice to make gingerbread cookies. PERFECT. My 5 spice contains cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper, and licorice. Everything I was missing and more. And in previous years I’ve used 5 spice in a variety of recipes, all of which have been wonderful. This recipe is no exception.
For every 1/4 cup corn kernels:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon 5 spice
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon of fresh ground coffee
- 1 cardamom pod
- 1/4 tsp salt (optional)
On low heat, add the first five ingredients. Grind the coffee beans and cardamom.
When the butter is thoroughly melted add the coffee and cardamom mixture. Let it bloom 1 minute over very low heat. Add the sugar (and salt) and let it dissolve completely.
Pour the mixture over the popcorn and stir thoroughly to coat. Eat and enjoy! If you want to, add some melted chocolate drizzle. Yum!
Nothing beats that freshly ground coffee and cardamom combo and with the added depth of the other spices — this mix is perfektion.