In this stoic yet fluid drama, renowned actor Otto Kullberg’s love of drinking and eccentric behaviour stalls the production of his latest film. When the producer decides that the best way to proceed is to make two versions of the film – one starring Otto and another using a replacement – the feature is thrown into turmoil. Set on location (both the film and film-within-the-film) on the Baltic sea, it mirrors the tides with its slow and deliberate pace and steady erosion of relationships. With elements of Wenders, it is a character-driven affair that explores the complex relationships that take place on the film set. Anyone who has worked in film (professional or otherwise) will recognise the power-struggles and drama that result.
The two stars Otto and Bettina describe the film-within-the-film’s cast as “a big family”. A dangerous statement, as sex is the currency by which relationships are negotiated and the hierarchy of cast and crew are established. From the shy assistant director’s crush on the camera operator to Bettina’s affair with Otto (despite being married to the director, Telleck), no-one is immune to the need for acceptance in this incestuous family affair. Bettina and Otto establish themselves atop the hierarchy as Otto’s replacement Arno flounders at the bottom, making passes at every actress on set, desperately clinging onto that bottom rung as he shamelessly attempts to gain a foothold… and a contract.
Otto is not immune to paranoia, though, and tensions arise between Otto and Arno as they play the same poorly-drawn character in Telleck’s mediocre film. The funniest moments arise from this rivalry, from their alpha male attempts to out-act one another to Otto’s eventual taking Arno under his wing and getting him rip-roaring drunk.
Despite the tensions, Whisky & Vodka is full of heart. When the relationships thrive, they shine with a realistic warmth. Despite his playboy tendencies and unpredictable behaviour, there is a certain wisdom about Otto that warms you to him. This is particularly true during the wrap party, when he makes a speech about the ways in which the studio has mistreated him. Try as you might, it is impossible not to forgive Otto his misgivings.
With excellent pacing, great characters, and hilarious moments, Whisky & Vodka is a fantastic way to get through any sober evening.