As is well known, in order to produce something really great, every single cell is important. If, 3.8 billion years ago, at a club party in the depths of the ocean, a pastel amoeba-like creature hadn’t suggested rather clumsily (“we could become much more complex”) to an equally transparent colleague that we share with each other instead of just ourselves, there wouldn’t be any today Humanity heating up oceans and thinking about themselves in movies.
The single-celled organism, as it is told in “The History of Mankind – Slightly Abridged”, however, expresses doubts: Does she really want to set a development in motion that might end in the Anthropocene? she does If something is going to go really wrong, we know that by now, it takes at least two people.
why are we like this Learning nothing from disasters? Despite all the identity-political discussions that want to give each humanoid individual expression its own visibility, the overall question of “our” history seems to be of great urgency at the moment: Authors such as Yuval Harari (“A Brief History of Humanity”), Johannes Krause/ Sebastian Trappe ( “The journey of our genes – A story about us and our ancestors”; “Hybris”) or David Graeber/ David Wengrow (“Beginnings – A new history of mankind”) landed with their promises of brevity, overview and new perspectives on our way of being Bestseller. Graeber/Wengrow even rely on a kind of party concept: Even before the emergence of agriculture, they write, “bold social experiments” took place that “resembled far more like a carnival procession of political forms than the dreary abstractions of the theory of evolution”.
So everything could (have been) different, something that satires have always reminded us of, and that is where their subversive as well as their enlightening potential lies. As if director Erik Haffner and his co-screenwriter Chris Geletneky understood Graeber’s and Wengrow’s carnival thesis as an assignment, they let the great and sometimes also incredibly stupid inventions and developments of mankind in their film “The History of Mankind – Slightly Abridged”. baroque equipment and costume splendor: from the bearded Axel Prahl as the pop star Socrates to Jasmin Schwiers as a taster intern Jessica at the helm of the Titanic and Carolin Kebekus as a tactical bachelorette party weapon in World War I to Bastian Pastewka as a mafia boss firing off Dadaist proverbs.
An earlier evolution of the film was the ZDF comedy series Sketch History, which aired from 2015 to 2019. There are old acquaintances, for example, the two craftsmen Horst and Jürgen from Berlin (Alexander Schubert and Holger Stockhaus): “The most capable craftsmen in the whole world” are called together to build the Great Wall of China, “both of them”. Whether everything will be ready by the Year of the Dragon is questionable, says Horst: “It’s a tight panty”. How they know how to shrink the visions of the client and the epoch-making works back to the smallest dimensions works reliably here too.
However, Haffner and Geletneky do not want the film to be understood as “a mere series of sketches”. They therefore enrich the concept with a background story and have a guest star appear in each episode: In order to convince extraterrestrial life of the grandiosity of humans, Dr. Gerhard Friedle (Christoph Maria Herbst) and his research team contributed the famous “Golden Record” to the Voyager mission in 1977. The pizza-sized data medium not only stores the formative acoustic achievements of mankind (Mozart, Chuck Berry, “Seiiiiiitenbacher”), but also a compressed version of world history as a film.
So she tells Dr. Friedle, while the initially quite open-minded aliens let their tentacles wander over the data carrier. The scientist patronizingly concedes that they are most likely intelligent beings if they “hold” this recording “or in tentacles, hooves, fins.” Of course, this latent arrogance will still backfire, even if in 2050 Prof. Dr. dr Greta Thunberg (Jeanette Hain) first announces the rescue of the planet.
It sounds moralistic, and it is, but it’s funny because Human History – Slightly Abridged fearlessly just has a lot of fun smashing and rearranging. For example, when the cultivated Neanderthals are buried by a rock in front of the club-wielding homo sapiens and “the dumber, much more aggressive variant survived”, as Dr. Friedle notes with regret.
Or when the captain of a supposedly unsinkable ship takes himself far too seriously as a paternalistic intern sponsor to adapt his attitude to the current circumstances – iceberg: “You have to learn that yourself now,” he says and hands the helm over to the intern . boom Until Horst and Jürgen finally ask themselves while they are tinkering with the ISS whether the propane gas bottle from the last order was really properly secured. Or why are the ruins of the Brandenburg Gate flying through space? Apocalypse well and good, but “I’m out”.
The sting of the film is less aimed at individual groups or people than at the ways of thinking and speaking that flourish today in start-ups, craft businesses, vaccination skeptics and circles of friends, and thrives on the skillful play with expectation and surprise. From “Sketch History” we also know Max Giermann’s double parody, with which he blinds characters like Julius Caesar to monstrous Kinski variants: this time he is a Kinski Jesus. To have been tied to a cross with silk scarves in a kind of wellness experience trip of gentle city dwellers “until your wrists twirl really hard”, as a colleague says, does not correspond to his stature.
In the delusional will to stage his artist ego, Kinski demands that Jesus be nailed to the cross. A self-promoter who has fallen out of time and is from the era of a despotic artistic director and director culture, who is currently tackling the silk scarf, while his colleague condescendingly rejects the offered soft drink with the flat hierarchical words: “Thank you, everything’s fine with me”.
With the overwhelming abundance of ideas and cast coups, it is always surprising how economically and precisely the joke potential is dealt with. It would have been easy to place the U-boat passage with Hannes Jaenicke in any “closing everything” context, after all, it drips menacingly into the engine room. At some point things will pick up again, temporarily.
In terms of human history, it is not that long ago that German entertainment professionals officially banned the Hanswurst with his crude jokes from the stage: Instead of the colorful bowl and all sorts of things that can be used to translate satire, only the play that conformed to the rules was to be used to edify and instruct the bourgeoisie be accepted, the flexible and fun exchanged for the sedentary, institutionalized, serious.
As is still the case with film awards today: Comedy is the sleazy child. But it could all be very different. In any case, the history of mankind obviously does not proceed linearly. In the final song, the entire cast gathers to say “Bye bye, the party’s over”. If only we had known sooner that it was one. Or could have been.