The Red Baron Nikolai Muellerschoen

The Red Baron Nikolai Muellerschoen
Along with a couple of on-screen factoids about legends associated with the titular WWI aerial combat specialist, the DVD includes a standard "Making of" where the actors and director discuss their roles, themes and preparation. Since only Lena Headey and Joseph Fiennes speak fluent English, many of their insights and observations are limited to their broadest terms, not having the vocabulary or subtlety of non-verbal cues to communicate exactly what it is they mean, coming off as enthusiastic rubes. The same thing can be said for The Red Baron. It has some very keen sapience about perception, gender roles and boyish idealism, but presents it in a clunky, expositional manner, not having the language to fully tell the tale of Baron Manfred von Richthofen (Matthias Schweighofer) and his dog fighting prowess, as exploited by government yes men. This is common in European co-productions where the creative team comes from various countries with different modes of artistic expression and current nationalistic identities. A limited common ground ultimately reduces nuance in the end product, leaving the film an exercise in mechanics and clichés. Fortunately, the technical team had no issue in communication, designing gorgeously rendered background cityscapes and dazzling dogfight sequences, but beyond this there is little of merit. It's a shame, as the core tale of a naive boy using the war as just another schoolyard skylark, unwittingly being used for propaganda purposes, has some definite heft. Even the love story, wherein Kate (Headey) offers feminine perspective to an understandably solipsistic man, should have some humanistic significance, but comes off as clumsy and awkward due to the limited chemistry and progression only for the sake of plot convenience. Still, given the epic scope and historical context, Muellershoen's effort delivers the appropriate thrills. It's just a shame that they come more so from our external knowledge than what is presented on screen. (VSC)