Tag Archives: Slapstick

Dinner for One

As I’d got an apartment, registered my address, got a tax number, left the church, learned passable German, taken out health insurance, bought a bicycle… (takes breath)

…slept in a German bed, been to a German sauna, separated the rubbish, beaten the LIDL lady, seen the football, eaten the sausage, drunk the Glühwein and experienced the poo shelf, the next step in becoming German was obvious. It was time to watch “Dinner for One”, in keeping with the age-old German New Year’s Eve tradition.

Image taken from businessinsider.com
Image taken from businessinsider.com

Naturally, I was rather excited about this. What was this movie that had (allegedly) kept Germans enthralled and entertained for decades? It was time to find out. On New Year’s Eve (or Silvester, as it’s known here), I poured myself a nice, big glass of red wine and texted my friend.

Me: What time and channel is “Dinner for One” on? (OK, so I hadn’t done much research.)

Manfredas: Um, I think it was on at around nineteen hundred pm o’clock but I have no idea what channel.

Me: Shite. It’s ten now. Oh well. YouTube it is…

I had never heard of “Dinner for One” before moving to Germany, so I’ll assume you’re unfamiliar with it too. You can find information on how it came into existence here but the story is basically that of upper-class Englishwoman, Miss Sophie, and her servant, James. It’s Miss Sophie’s 90th birthday but the problem is that she has outlived all of her friends. Luckily, being 90 years old, she’s also a bit daft so James sets about moving around the table impersonating each of her (probably long-dead) friends in turn so she thinks they’re still with her on her big day. Sounds kind of sweet, right?

WRONG.

What follows is the most god-awful slapstick horror show you could ever imagine. Two minutes in saw me hitting the pause button and refilling my glass. Clearly I’d need more wine to get through this. I was only sorry I didn’t have anything stronger to hand.

Where’s the strong stuff when you need it?

As James impersonates the four other “guests”, he toasts Miss Sophie as each character at the beginning of every course – complete with German heel-click for Admiral von Schneider. Naturally, he gets steaming drunk as the night progresses.

The second time he tripped over the tiger’s head rug, I wanted to claw my own eyes out. The third time they slurred/chirped…

James: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?

Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James!

I wanted to glass my own ear drums.

By the time it got to the disgusting, lascivious wink in the last scene, I was wishing for my own tiger rug. Not because I’d developed a sudden taste for animal print, but because I would have deliberately tripped over it, cracked my head open on the counter top and ended it all.

The only saving grace of “Dinner for One” is that it’s just over 10 minutes long – any longer than that and I wouldn’t be here to write this post. If you’re wondering why it’s taken me until the 13th to write a New Year’s Eve post, I had to build up the fortitude to bring myself to watch it a second time. It actually got worse…

I mean, good God, what were the lovely Germans THINKING!?

Once I got back to Berlin, I asked all of my German students and friends if they had watched it.

NEIN.

Not one of them had. Not one. OK, so it might not be a representative sample of the entire German population, but not even ONE?

So, I’ve formulated a theory about this supposed German love for “Dinner for One”. Wait for it…

They don’t actually love it at all.

They tell foreigners that they love it. They convince said foreigners to watch it and then sit back and laugh uproariously when we fall for it. That’s what’s funny about “Dinner for One” to German people. Am I wrong?

If you’re feeling brave, you can watch the entire monstrosity here:

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.