What to Do in Case of Fire (Was tun, wenn's brennt?) (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

What to Do in Case of Fire (Was tun, wenn's brennt?) (2001)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

What to Do in Case of Fire (Was tun, wenn's brennt?) Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

What to Do in Case of Fire is a stylish German comedy from director Gregor Schnitzler. A 20-year-old bomb goes off in an abandoned mansion in present day Berlin, and all the evidence implicates a a group of anarchists that planted the explosives in the late 1980s . By this time, however, most of the original group have become hip urban professionals who don't want to be associated with revolutionary activity. With the police hot on their trail, they reunite for the first time in 12 years to plot a scheme to avoid jail. Starring Til Schweiger, Martin Feifel, and Sebastian Blomberg.more
Rating: R (for some drug use and language)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Art House & International, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Stefan Dahnert, Anne Wild
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 12, 2002
Columbia Pictures


Hubert Mulzer
as Police Chief
This Maag
as Schimtz
Johanna von Halem
as Agency Assistant
Sandra Nedeleff
as Real Estate Agent
Tim-Owe Georgi
as Undersecretary of St...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for What to Do in Case of Fire (Was tun, wenn's brennt?)

Critic Reviews for What to Do in Case of Fire (Was tun, wenn's brennt?)

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (13)

You might not buy the ideas. But you'll definitely want the T-shirt.

Full Review… | September 27, 2002
Boston Globe
Top Critic

In his U.S. debut, Mr. Schnitzler proves himself a deft pace master and stylist.

Full Review… | September 12, 2002
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

[Schweiger is] talented and terribly charismatic, qualities essential to both movie stars and social anarchists.

Full Review… | September 12, 2002
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic

Thoughtful, even stinging at times, and lots of fun.

Full Review… | August 20, 2002
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

An enthralling, entertaining feature.

Full Review… | August 16, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

It's all entertaining enough, but don't look for any hefty anti-establishment message in what is essentially a whip-crack of a buddy movie that ends with a whimper.

July 28, 2002
New York Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for What to Do in Case of Fire (Was tun, wenn's brennt?)

I enjoyed this movie. The fact alone that a major studio in Germany would back a movie about old friends (who were anarchist squatters no less) who reunite after an old forgotten bomb goes off, in order to cover up their misdeeds and attempt to "get away with it" is amazing! The story, music, and characters are all fast-paced. Very enjoyable.

Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer


[font=Century Gothic]"What to Do In Case of Fire" begins in 1987 when a group of six anarchists plant a bomb in Berlin. The bomb goes unexploded until 2000 when it goes off, injuring two. The police crack down on all of the leftists in Berlin(but none of the fascists?) and raid the squat where two of the group, Tim and Hatte, still reside. They confiscate an awful lot of evidence, including incriminating film of them making and planting said bomb.(The film was made to show their intended progeny what such badasses they were in their youth.) At which point, Poland is starting to look pretty good...but Tim and Hatte decide to recruit their former comrades in a daring plan to liberate the film from police headquarters before the cops have a chance to view it...[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]"What to Do In Case of Fire" gets off to a fun, engaging start but then ends up being just another bit of feel good manipulation. The movie is a shallow take on radical activists, rarely mentioning politics at all and not even bringing up what the group was hoping to achieve. And leftists may mellow once they leave the movement, but they usually either still try to help people or work within the system to change it. The activism does not entirely leave their systems.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]Note: Not all anarchists plant bombs. Some of us are pacifists. And there are some anarchists who are even nice and cute.[/font]

Walter M.

Super Reviewer


Honestly, the title of this film is not "What to Do in Case of Fire" which is more a statement, but something more like "What do you do when things are burning?" I realize this is semantic, but it annoys me that they changed it from a question, and it's slightly awkward in the sense it's used in the film, though only a bit.

I knew nothing of this film when I bought it, learned only the title when adding it (database-wise) to my collection and read nothing more before I started to watch it. It's pleasant to me to wander in with no preconceptions whatsoever--and to find myself watching intentional mimicry of homemade film of anarchist German kids in West Berlin, holding their own in a strange silent-movie way against the masses of police arrayed against them in full riot gear. They're all wearing mohawks, dreadlocks and spiked hair, often coloured, leather, chains and so on--full on punk getups, throwing pies, urinating on authority and otherwise vandalizing things. They explain how to build a bomb, give their rules for how to do it and how to live this anarchistic life, "shit[ting] on the imperialist pigs." Tim (Til Schweiger), Hotte (Martin Feifel), Maik (Sebastian Blomberg), Nele (Nadja Uhl), "Terror" (Matthias Matschke) and Flo (Doris Schretzmayer) are these punks, and set up a bomb in a housing project that has remained abandoned until the present day, where we find a protest being complemented by Tim's vandalism of police vans, with Hotte now wheel-chairbound and cheering him on. The two of them still squat in their old digs in Kreuzberg, and Tim occasionally steals out for petty theft and other jabs at the capitalists, like leaving a mall open to looting. When the bomb they set 12 years earlier goes off, Tim and Hotte are forced to round up the now easily incriminated--by virtue of the 8mm films they made at the time--Gruppe 36 (the old gang) who have by and large all "sold out" and gotten "real jobs."

The rest of the film is about the conflict between the radical activism--and perceived immaturity thereof--that Tim and Hotte still practice, and the miniscule offenses their former colleagues now stage against the same enemies, which amount to little. It's absolutely a comedy--and a very stylishly filmed one--but that does sort of deal with ideas of authority, rebellion, control and freedom, in a very light and vague way. It never endorses violence--even when bombs are embraced by all, they are intended to destroy property alone--and does portray Tim and Hotte as living outside the real world and not dealing with it. Thankfully it manages to avoid portraying them as naive idiots--my own usual immature impression of radical leftists, even as a relative lefty myself--so that we can still see them as intelligent and well-meaning and, most importantly, sympathetic. While Tim is not good at dealing with the changes wrought in his relationship with Flo, he is not an outright child either, so we don't lose our connection to him when he hits that particular obstacle.

This is a very fun movie, with a pretty clever central base of how these characters will deal with having such an extreme past, one they can no longer pretend didn't matter or was an irrelevant act of youthful exuberance. The characters themselves are all very fun, with the approach to Hotte's newfound disability quite tastefully addressed, especially when he finally shows the pain of it that he hides from everyone most of the time. I am absolutely thrilled to have picked this up, and will likely show it to other people in the future.

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