The fantasy disappears and the experience begins: so says the character in the film as she touches for the first time – an elephant in India. The dialogue immediately asks the audience which would be considered more important, fantasy or pleasure?
The film begins with the title: “The First Year”, where the feet touch the ground. The couple, Gwen and Patrick, the subjects of the film are on their way, singing to Bulgaria in what appears to be a cab. It is revealed late that the subjects are hitchhiking around the world, first leaving Germany towards Bulgaria and soon in in Kazakhstan. Armed with a tent, noodles and tomato sauce, they make their way through third world countries like Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China These are vast lands that often has no vegetation. This journey is interesting to the viewer as one seldom sees the deserted landscapes of these lands. But they are beautiful. With every hitchhike, the couple are told different stories and they learn lessons. It is a freedom that requires a lot of energy.
The camera follows the couple on their journey around the world. One can tell that there is a third person involved as well – the cameraman. A few scenes are re-enactments, as are quite obvious like the one where a car is stuck and later the car shown unstuck, being driven off. But at one point, the unseen cameraman is heard asking the couple he could help push the car.
The voiceover occasionally jumps to the future. Gwen and Patrick will have a baby one year from then in Mexico. Four years, one of the hosts will become a guest at the couple’s place in Germany. The doc attempts to inform audiences of the surprises life. Not every person would embark on a journey as gruelling as this one. It requires a different kind of person – one that will put their riches and things of the world and enjoy freedom.
The film contains a very positive attitude and free-spirit. The voiceover is provided by both Patrick and Gwen. They often praise (never condemning) the different people (Iran and Pakistan) and their hospitality despite their stringent rules and laws. Iran has the death penalty for homosexuality and bans drinking yet the Iranians are the most inviting.
One of the film’s big surprises is the beauty of Pakistan. The film informs that the country has been given a bad deal because of a few extremists. Pakistan is the couple’s favourite country and the magnificent landscape of the country reveals the reason.
In the same way as this world journey might not be for everyone, neither would this doc. This doc is mostly in German and runs at a lengthy 120 minutes, many segments of which contain lots of travelogue. A lot of time is spent revealing the different peoples, their culture and their ways living. But for those who wish to embark on the journey of viewing this film which occasionally soars to ecstatic heights, the reward is well worth it.
Ultimately, the film shows that people, no matter where they come from, are good. Recommended viewing for President Trump!