(Trailer in German… we will put up an English trailer as soon as one’s available!) Gustave de Kervern and Benoît Delépine always look for the absurd moments that make life funny, but their protagonist in Mammuth, Serge (Depardieu), probably wishes his life were a little less absurd and contained a little less higher organization – read, the government – yet he valiantly faces realities.
Although ready to retire, Serge’s pension is miniscule because he has hardly any work history. In order to raise his pension and allow his wife to retire along with him, he sets out on a road trip to try and find his former employers, in hope they will provide documentation of his jobs. Mammuth is a comedy with some gross exaggerations, and looks like a rough VHS home video at times, but it’s also a surprisingly bitter comment on a way of life that’s about to become extinct. As Serge visits one former place of employment after another, he finds out that he is not only a dying breed, but also something people have come to hate (when they don’t laugh outright) – a person who could potentially live on his pension in reasonable comfort.
Serge is a gentle giant (even though he isn’t the titular mammoth), the kind of man who sheds tears in a restaurant as he hears a traveling salesman talk to his sad little daughter on the phone. He himself barely talks at all as he meets some old friends and makes the acquaintance of a number of increasingly bizarre characters on the road.
What makes Mammuth so entertaining is not only Depardieu – whose skill it is to look like he’s not acting, but simply being – but also de Kervern and Delépine’s perspective on humanity, which is full of irony and black humor and an appreciation of the quirks of life. If you need any introduction to their work, begin with the Kaurismäki-esque road movie Aaltra and continue with the lay-off comedy Louise-Michel. In the meantime, Mammuth is as entertaining as they come.
MAMMUTH | Directed by Gustave de Kervern, Benoît Delépine (France 2010) with Gérard Depardieu, Yolande Moreau. Opens in Berlin cinemas on September 16.