Chicago Film Festival 2018: Wolkenbruch’s Wondrous Journey into the Arms of a Shiksa

Joel Basman and Lena Kalisch in Wolkenbruch’s Wondrous Journey into the Arms of a Shiksa (Wolkenbruchs wunderliche Reise in die Arme einer Schickse) aka The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch.

Wolkenbruch’s Wondrous Journey into the Arms of a Shiksa, now known as The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch, may play into some comedic tropes that we’ve seen before but the humor is delightful.

This film has a classic Woody Allen vibe going for it–only this film features Yiddish, German, and Hebrew.  While I don’t want to say that Judith Wolkenbruch (Inge Maux) is the stereotypical Jewish mother, she comes very close.  She wants her son, Mordechai “Motti” Wolkenbruch (Joel Basman) to marry a Jewish bride.  They come from an Orthodox family so naturally, they set him up on shidduchim.  Did I mention that his mom accosts him in the shower?

While Motti’s mother continues to set him up, he’s falling for fellow student Laura (Noémie Schmidt).  When he pictures bringing her home to his mom, there’s a nice gag involving kosher dishes.  Predictable but so very funny in execution!  It’s because of his falling for Laura that he and Michal Suskind (Lena Kalisch) pretend to grow closer. As Motti and Laura grow closer, he starts to change his appearance.  New glasses and a trimmed beard means stabbing his mother in the heart!  The agony!

Sent to Tel Aviv to stay with his not-so-religious cousins, his mother’s plan eventually backfires.  Motti meets the cute Jael (Meytal Gal Suisa).  They get to know each other–well, you’ll just have to watch the film.  When Motti does return to his home in Zurich, he’s got to face the music no matter the consequences.

While the film breaks the fourth wall to explain things, Wolkenbruch’s plays better for Jewish audiences than non-Jewish ones.  The Jewish humor in this film is so strong but again, the humor in the script could compete with that of the classic Woody Allen comedy.  Joel Basman brings a lot of heart to his performance.

EDIT:  Wolkenbruch’s got released on Netflix towards the end of October 2019.  On top of that, the film has been as the official Swiss selection for Best International Feature for the upcoming Oscar season.  While the film is heavy in Jewish humor and tropes, many of these are not playing well for American Jewish audiences.  The jokes that work for some audiences might not work for another audience.  I watched the film in October 2018 and haven’t revisited the film.  Perhaps it’s time to do so and see if my thoughts have changed?

DIRECTOR:  Michael Steiner
CAST:  Joel Basman, Noémie Schmidt, Udo Samel, Sunnyi Melles, and Inge Maux

Wolkenbruch’s Wondrous Journey into the Arms of a Shiksa (Wolkenbruchs wunderliche Reise in die Arme einer Schickse) holds its international premiere during the 2018 Chicago International Film Festival. Netflix released the film under the name of The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch on October 25, 2019.


Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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