Part of the contemporary German cinema segment of the festival, AFTER WORK is an observational documentary about the growing trend of leisurely, stress relieving activities that German people do. It’s not typical in a sense that it cuts to different people of different ages, and switches between all these people without explanation or particular narrative flow.
We see and focus on several different groups. These are: an elderly exercise/yoga group, a girl band trying to achieve recognition, a meditation group, an expressionistic interpretive dance class of teenagers, people of all ages in an indoor sports arena, and a very odd outdoor group that does all manner of strange things to ‘feel better’. The fly on the wall style is an interesting way to execute a subject of this manner. We feel as though we get fleeting and voyeuristic glimpses into all of these people’s lives, and we learn what it is that people do to relax, and forget about the stresses of life. Director Janina Herhoffer certainly manages to display a way of contemporary German living through this documentary.
Certain parts of it are incredibly peculiar, especially the meditation group and the outdoor group. The hippy nature of the meditation group is clear to see, but the outdoor group stands around patting themselves all over, making bizarre noises, and having maniacally forced laughter. But who are we to judge if this is what helps these people feel better in themselves, and helps them express themselves in a controlled environment. Overall, this is what the whole documentary is about. Being able to express yourself, let out your emotions, or calm them down, within a closed group and confined area. It’s only 71 minutes in length, but the film feel so much longer due to the lack of structure and too much focus on certain groups over others. Still, AFTER WORK is an interesting look into German leisure activities and why people choose to do them.