André Jung as Charel Kuddel and Luc Feit as Inspector Schrobiltgen in “Superjhemp Retörns”.
Photo: Samsa film/Ricardo Vaz Palma
The long-awaited first ever Superjhemp film lands on the big screen on 24 October.
It is rare for Delano to review a film that is not in English, nor has English-language subtitles. But we are prepared to make an exception for “Superjhemp Retörns”, Felix Koch’s new live-action take on the national icon.
For anyone unfamiliar with the comic book series written by Lucien Czuga and drawn by the late Roger Leiner, Superjhemp is the epitome of the Luxembourg superhero. A middle ranking civil servant called Charel Kuddel in his everyday life, Superjhemp gets his superpowers by eating Kachkéis, the local cheese spread delicacy.
Between 1988 and 2014 Czuga and Leiner created one Superjhemp book a year. Highly satirical, the content and characters were based on local and international current affairs--the first adventure was called “De Superjhemp géint de Bommeléer” (Superjhemp versus the Bommeleeër) while a 2003 book was titled “D'Aaxt vum Béisen” (The Axis of Evil).
Like the books, the film is set in the fictional country of Luxusbuerg. Broadcaster RTHELL is doing a “where are they now” series and is wondering what happened to Superjhemp, last seen close to collapse after rescuing people from a fire in the cathedral.
Meanwhile, Luxusbuerg is preparing for the coronation of the young Klein Herzog (the little duke) after his father was killed in a skiing accident. But a terror plot using electricity to create a black hole threatens not only the coronation but the country. As the authorities, led by “avant premier” Brettelle, try to find Superjhemp, civil servant Charel Kuddel is having problems with his family--wife Félicie Fleck (a former reporter who had a crush on Superjhemp) and his son Metti.
Watch the trailer:
Though not adapted directly from any of the books, the plot is comfortably familiar and holds few surprises for anyone accustomed to the superhero genre. But it is in the gentle and singularly local satire, the perfect casting and the spot-on acting that the film scores highly. Targets include the civil service, the incompetence of the police, the cut-throat media business and the very fabric of Luxembourg life. Luxembourg companies get in on some blatant product-placement, but only on the terms of the creators of the film--so as well as RTHELL, Luxair becomes Juxair (“jux” is a “joke”), Rosport is Räpsert (“burp”) and moving company Streff becomes Stress, for example.
André Jung plays Kuddel with his usual brilliance, lending the middle-aged civil servant the requisite ennui as he frustratedly plods through life. Desirée Nosbusch and rising star Etienne Halsdorf are the perfect foils as wife and son who have their own secrets. And Luc Feit and Fabienne Holwege are the very personification of Superjhemp’s two most familiar sidekicks, the accident-prone Inspector Schrobiltgen and Kuddel’s amorous secretary Joffer Lamesch. Credit also goes to Jules Werner as the “avant premier” and Jean-Paul Maes as the Kuddel’s mysterious technology-obsessed neighbour Erni Tendo.
Koch, directing his first feature, has done a great job in managing to capture the essence of Superjhemp, but creating a very distinct family entertainment. It veers a little too far towards sentimentality at times, and there will not be a dry eye in the house when the credits honour Superjhemp co-creator Roger Leiner, who died two years ago. But if you understand Luxembourgish or can read French subtitles, and you want to understand the Luxembourg national psyche, then go see “Superjhemp Retörns”.