In L’ÉTAT ET MOI, Max Linz invents a composer named Hans List, who fought on the barricades of the Paris Commune in 1871 and now wakes up to a new life in the present, moving through Berlin-Mitte sans papiers. His composition “Les Misérables” is being rehearsed at the State Opera, which he appears in incognito as an extra. Sophie Rois plays two roles in the film, that of List and that of his nemesis, judge Praetorius-Camusot. Completing the ensemble are an awkward legal intern, a Berlin-dialect-speaking museum guard (the inimitable Kerstin Grassmann), and two authoritarian personalities.
Linz works with puns on names and wordplay. He enjoys slapstick as well as breaks in style and mistaken identities, with a penchant for chains of unlikely coincidence and pulling out all the stops, employing the cruder comedic registers too. But beneath all the screen-filling nonsense, things get serious: how are class issues and cultural production connected? What is to be made of soft power cultural diplomacy? And to what tradition do the police and the judiciary belong in Germany? The film deals with all this and more. As Sophie Rois sings tenderly: “I may have failed, but red won’t be derailed.” (Cristina Nord)