There is no such thing as a normal family. Families are weird, messy and at times extremely irritating, so it’s often best to remember that for better or worse, we are related and to try and keep the number of casualties low. This is echoed in Tim Ellrich’s Die Badewanne (The Bathroom), who insists that blood is thicker than water, even when adulthood has left little of what ties us together and plenty of what drives us apart. This 13-minute Austrian comedy hits home with its relatable characters and down-to-earth humour, and warms the heart with a great deal of charm and intelligent direction.
Die Badewanne is the story of three brothers who dive into their childhood in order to recreate an old family photo – a unique present for their mum. Though well intentioned, the process runs less than smoothly, when the siblings open up about their true feelings of one other and old grudges resurface. Shot in a single take, Die Badewanne is deceptively simple. With no music, in-camera effects or fancy editing in sight, the result is a refreshingly stripped back film, which feels authentic and affecting in equal measures.
Ellrich was inspired by his friends who were taking part in the huge social media trend which saw adults recreating their childhood photos – “I was fascinated by those aspects and the hidden message they were telling me: “Look, what a happy family I have – it’s still like in the good old days.” Society dictates us to get along with our family. Maybe families hardly ever change and maybe, more and more we become strangers to each other. The film tries to show this process of getting close again and how the small bathtub works as a short therapy session for them to find a connection between them: their humour.” – the director explains.
Once Ellrich had the concept down, all he had to do was turn it into a film. However, sticking to a tiny budget, whilst making sure everything went to plan for the single take, proved much tougher than initially anticipated. The biggest logistical issue was the size of the bathroom. The team ended up building it themselves inside a studio, so that it both looked exactly as the director and set designers wanted it to, and was big enough for everyone to fit in. The actors also had to blow dry themselves and their underwear thoroughly at the start of every single take, because of all the splashing in the bath. All in all, it seems like it was a pretty challenging shoot and though the audience may never fully appreciate the lengths the crew had gone to, it was all worth it in the end.
When we asked Ellrich what he was looking to achieve with Die Badewanne he said he wanted to “bring families together and make people call their siblings after watching it. And last but not least, we wanted to make people laugh about three grown up men in a bathtub.”
Well, I can honestly say that the film did everything it set out to do. I was in stitches watching the three brothers, acting like the children they were trying to capture, their petty digs all too familiar. It also made me think about my own relationship with my sister and how humour has helped us through the toughest times in our lives.
Ellrich is currently busy working on a 25-minute live-action mystery/comedy about electro-sensitive people, an experimental YouTube short with a computer a game, and a feature length documentary about a Vietnamese couple living in a virtual bubble in Germany. Stay tuned for more info.