Die Feuerzangebowle

Last week, I had a weird time at the movies. There really is no other way to qualify it. The University shows films every Monday night in a campus auditorium for a small entry fee. A friend of mine from German class invited me to go with her. I had heard about this movie, Die Feuerzangenbowle, since it is a cult German film that is shown around Christmas time. It seemed like a good opportunity to finally check out the student film program…but we really had no idea what we were in for.

First of all – and I have no idea if this happens every time that they show a movie, or just around Christmas time, or just before this movie – but there were a few group drinking games. For the university students. In the state-funded auditorium. I realize that this is completely legal and fine in Germany, but keep in mind that I’m American, so this was a lot to take in. To punctuate this experience, someone won a bottle of champagne and opened it just before the movie started, and I got hit by the cork. Take that, America and your drinking rules! After they finished playing “chug the Glühwein,” “find the champagne bottle” and “take out the unsuspecting American with a turbo-powered cork,” the movie started.

Die Feuerzangenbowle: as Christmasy as a Tannenbaum.

Die Feuerzangenbowle: as Christmasy as a Tannenbaum.

Despite the fact that we couldn’t understand most of the words, (a fact I’ll attribute to a 1944-quality sound mix and not my poor German, ahem) it was still an enjoyable movie. I kind of want to try it again mit Untertiteln. And without all of the audience participation. The other thing that we didn’t know is that it’s sort of a tamer Rocky Horror Picture Show (German link) – for example, the audience lights up sparklers when the characters do. There are other moments that they may or may not have been participating in, but the one that sticks in my mind is when I realized that we were sitting in an auditorium with hundreds of buzzed German students who were lighting things on fire. In the great spirit of “you just have to know,” I have no idea where the sparklers even came from.

If you have not seen this movie, but would like to see something a bit more modern with a similar-ish storyline in English, try Billy Madison. Fewer Nazi overtones, more Chris Farley.

8 responses to “Die Feuerzangebowle

  1. That made me laugh. I think I would have been über uncomfortable in that situation! Good on you for trying new things, and for taking one for the team. And all those other Americanisms.

  2. I used to watch Die Feuerzangenbowle every year in my student residence, with Feuerzangenbowle. Nobody ever lit any sparklers though!! Last year we were invited to someone’s house to watch it (none of us live in the student residence any more) and because someone was there who speaks very little German, they put the subtitles on. It’s the first time EVER that I’ve understood everything (and I finally figured out the reason he went to the school at all!).

    • That’s hilarious! I thought that he was trying to imagine what it would have been like if he went to school, which makes a little more sense in some ways – with the way the plot actually is, we have to believe that no one noticed that he’s pretending to be a teenager. He does a good job of it, either way!

      • It’s becasue his friends find out he was home schooled and they’re all “Noooo, you’ve missed out on such an amazing experience!! You have to go to go back and try it out!!”. I always thought they had bet him he wouldn’t be able to fool people into thinking he belonged there, but I was wrong. Haha.

  3. Oh dear, what a blast from the past! I watched Die Feuerzangenbowle just before Christmas 2004, with German friends of my Master’s in Belgium. I too remember understanding very little of it – and there definitely were drinking games involved!

  4. Pingback: Bleigiessen | Wie sagt man…?·

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