FILM / Readers' Screening

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SCHTONK] can lay claim to some rarity value in being a German comedy. More than that, however, it is an even rarer animal, a successful German comedy, both at the box-office and with the local critics (it has been chosen as the best German film of the year and is the country's entry for the Academy Awards). A broad, fast- moving, burlesque about the Hitler diaries scam, it covers some of the same terrain as the recent British television serial Selling Hitler, but from a distinctively Germanic point of view.

It is a satirical account of the sleazy hack whose 'scoop' was, temporarily, the crowning glory of his career, and of the crafty forger who faked lorryloads of Nazi memorabilia, from a large nude painting of Eva Braun (signed 'A Hitler') to an urn purportedly containing the couple's ashes. But it also etches a sharp-edged portrait of a Germany teaming with unreconstructed Altnazis grown sleek and fat on the Economic Miracle, and still so deeply steeped in the Hitler myth that the Fuhrer's meandering confessions about his flatulence and bad breath problems (passages taken verbatim from the 'genuine' forgeries) are seized upon as avidly as if they were high philosophical musings of the future of the Master Race.

'The point is the way the Germans dealt with the Hitler myth after the war, how it has been exploited and is still being exploited,' explains the writer-director Helmut Dietl, whose first film this is. 'It doesn't matter at all what's in the diaries, for Hitler's journals are a sensation, no matter what the drivel. The Germans hoped that Hitler may have been a much nicer bloke than generally assumed, that others - anonymous others - were the real bastards.

'I can understand that some people are awed when they lay their hands on something like the Hitler diaries. But the point is: what kind of awe are we talking about? Are you awed because you found some kind of treasure, or are you awed because it's something that Hitler wrote? And these people were awed because of Hitler. That's a piece of German truth, and it should be said.'

Schtonk] (the title, incidentally, originates in a made-up word which, Dietl claims, Chaplin used in The Great Dictator) opens on 22 January. But Independent readers can catch an early preview at 11.15am on Sunday 17 January at a central London cinema. To enhance the Germanic atmosphere, beer will be provided before the screening by Krombacher Pils. To apply for tickets (one pair per person), send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Schtonk Screening, Listings, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. This offer is strictly subject to availability and unused stamps will be donated to charity.

(Photograph omitted)