This year Christian Zübert released Tour de Force, a new German road movie starring Florian David Fitz (Jesus Loves Me), Jürgen Vogel (The Wave), Julia Koschitz and Miriam Stein.
Hannes, his wife and their friends meet for their annual bicycle tour. This year Hannes decides to go to Ostend in Belgium. Having been diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), which his father suffered from as well, Hannes wants to be euthanised there, a plan initially unknown to his friends.
Tour de Force deals with ALS, an incurable illness that recently received public attention via Twitter’s #icebucketchallenge, as well as the taboo topic euthanasia.
How does one react to a friend wanting to kill himself because of an untreatable illness?
The film shows that one has to mind the dignity of that friend and that everyone has his or her own way to tackle subjects like euthanasia and terminal illness. The group first stops at Hannes’ parents’ house, where Hannes tells his friends about his diagnosis and his decision to go to Belgium to be euthanised. Shock is the main reaction of his friends and at first they aren’t able to relate to his reasoning. Hannes considers ALS to be a loss of his independence, if not a loss of his dignity. He is not used to being in need of constant, intensive care. However, the decision of whether to be euthanised should not have been reached just by himself.
How does one treat taboo subjects such as euthanasia?
In my opinion, it is important to stimulate the public to reflect. As a medium, film appeals to a broad audience and therefore taboo topics such as active euthanasia or incurable illnesses can be made accessible by using a more light-hearted setting. This movie is a very satisfying example of how to behave when a friend of yours wants to be a “suicide tourist”. It draws one’s attention to the important issues of illness, friendship, dignity, marriage and parental relationships without using overly emotional music, only focusing on the excellent performances of its actors. This approach emphasises the relentless ways of the world, however uncomfortable they may be, and it provides an appropriate stage for acting out the practices of “suicide tourism”. Because of historical practices in the Third Reich, where clinical homicide had been a tool for the ethnic cleansing of society, active euthanasia is illegal in contemporary Germany. As a consequence, terminally ill people from Germany now tend to venture into neighbouring countries like Belgium, Switzerland or Luxembourg, where euthanasia is not as heavily regulated.
All in all, this movie treats very important issues in a sensible way, which is why it is very worthwhile to watch.
Toni was listening to Deep Purple’s “When a blind man cries” while writing this article.