A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Do they have salt mines in Germany? Or is Schultze's job simply a symbol of a lifetime of thankless toil? Day after day he ventures down into the salt mine, until with a shock he and three friends are forced to retire. There is a little party at the beer hall, his co-workers singing a lugubrious song of farewell, and Schultze is a retired man. Not married, he passes his days in the sad enjoyment of unwanted freedom. Sometimes he contemplates his retirement present, a lamp made from a large block of crystallized salt with a bulb inside. If it ever falls into other hands, will its new owners think to lick it?
Schultze (Horst Krause) is a bulky, stolid, unlovely man who wipes the dust from his garden gnomes, spends as much time as possible napping on his sofa, visits his mother in a nursing home, plays the accordion at a polka club, and plays chess at a club where the level of play is not too high; one should not reach retirement age as a chess player still arguing over applications of the "touch-move" rule. He gets around town on his bicycle, dealing with the delays caused by a rail crossing guard who is distracted by the study of alchemy.
One night Schultze's world changes forever. On the radio he hears zydeco music from Louisiana. (I was reminded of "Genghis Blues," the 1999 film where a blind musician in San Francisco, Paul Pena, hears Tuva throat-singing over the radio, teaches it to himself, and travels to the Republic of Tuva for the annual competition.) Schultze becomes a man possessed. He takes up his accordion, begins to pump through a tired song he has played a thousand times, and then gradually increases the tempo and turns up the heat until he is playing, well, zydeco polka.
That is not an impossible musical genre. David Golia, a friend of mine from San Francisco, leads a polka band that explores what he sees as the underlying connection between the polka, rock, and Mexican and Brazilian music. It's not all about beer barrels.