Daniel Brühl is a famous German actor who had his first notable role in the cult comedy drama “Goodbye Lenin”. He also tried his hand in Hollywood, so we remember him as a Nazi officer from Tarantino’s “Ruthless Bastards”, Niki Lauda in “Rush” or as Laszlo Kreizler’s psychiatrist in the “Alienist” series. Like many actors before him, Brühl decided to try his hand at the role of director, and his directorial debut, premiered in the competition program of the festival in Berlin, turned out to be an interesting black-humorous drama / satire in which he himself played the main role. Although the screenwriter of “Nebenan” or “Next Door” was Daniel Kehlmann, the idea was conceived by Brühl himself, and he plays a character that somewhat auteurizes himself.
And not himself, but his Daniel can be any European actor who enjoys star status and is smiling at the Hollywood breakthrough. So Daniel is currently negotiating a role in some kind of superhero movie and is preparing to go to London for an audition, and before his flight from Berlin, he will go for a coffee in a neighborhood cafe. In the opening scenes, we see Daniel getting ready, leaving the modern apartment where he lives with his wife, children and nanny, busy with obligations and convinced that his life is perfect. People stop him on the street, they want to take pictures with him, and when he enters the neighborhood cafe, it will turn out that a mysterious guy named Bruno (Peter Kurth) is waiting for him there, with whom he will start a conversation.
Of course, Daniel is vain, probably like anyone in his situation because he is successful, well-off and famous. Bruno is his exact opposite, an older man whom no one notices who does some average and ordinary job and who is not only Daniel’s neighbor, but also a regular guest in the same cafe, whom Daniel has not noticed at all until now. But that will change because Bruno will gently engage him in a conversation about various topics such as the differences between East and West Germany, gentrification, work, marriage, family and social hypocrisy. Very soon, Daniel will realize that Bruno knows a lot about him, and the conversation that Daniel initially tried to avoid will turn into a heated discussion that will completely change the vain actor’s life.
The whole story actually rests on a great burst of verbal fire between the two main characters, and Brühl is excellent as, almost playing himself, his whole life slowly begins to fall apart and he realizes that he is actually living an illusion and that because of his preoccupation with himself he has not been able to understand much of what is happening around him and what the neighbor who put in a little effort understood. The dynamic of the relationship is finely achieved here, and the contempt between the two main characters is very sensitive, and over time it will turn into open hatred and even fear. And while at first it seemed to him that the whole world was in the palm of his hand, over time it will become clear to Daniel that everything is out of control and his perception of himself will completely fall apart. “Nebenan” was a fun and dynamic, intriguing and cynical film that is at the same time a solid social critique, a poisonous satire almost on the edge of tragicomedy.