Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Werner Herzog directed a supermarket ad? Questions arise: Would the ghost of Klaus Kinski be perusing the dairy aisle, or the butcher counter? Alas, reality is far crueler than fiction, and everybody's favorite director turned nature-hater has yet to fulfill our deepest desire.
That being said, Germany's largest supermarket chain—Edeka—has delivered unto us the next best thing. Its recently released Christmas commercial has way more in common with a German art-house film than with any typical supermarket ad. After all, if they aren't aiming to mimic Herzog's brand of existentialism, how in the hell else could they possibly rationalize having their commercial feature an elderly grandfather who fakes his own death in the hopes of bringing together the family for a traditional holiday romp?
We're not particularly sure, and maybe Edeka isn't too certain, either. The commercial, which is titled "Weihnachtsclip" (Christmas clip), was posted only four days ago and already has almost 21 million views on YouTube. It has also amassed a legion of tweets under the hashtag #heimkommen, which means "homecoming."
The unexpectedly dark-as-fuck commercial begins with an elderly man returning to his home from a walk with his dog, only to find a voice message left by his daughter informing him that she and her family won't be able to make it home for Christmas this year. She then promises to be there for next year's Christmas—even though the old dude barely looks as though he'll make it to next Christmas—and we watch as the man longingly looks out his window at a loving family across the street.
As if all that melodrama weren't enough, it's montage time! Before our eyes flicker images of poor Grandpa eating Christmas dinner alone for what seems to be three years, judging by his changing clothing. Things go from sad to worse. But this is when shit turns surreal, because our granddad—or opa, in German—decides to act out every disgruntled grandparent's fantasy and actually fakes his own death. We watch as the man's relatives are delivered the horrific news of his supposed death, and begin to process their misfortune.
A funeral follows. Weeping relatives dressed all in black convene. Children look cute but bereft.
That is, until the rug is spectacularly pulled from underneath all of their mourning feet by the jolly old grandpapa! Once the family all gathers in the grandfather's house after burying his prank-loving corpse, guess who nonchalantly pops his wizened head out of the kitchen. Wacky opa! "How else could I have brought you all together?" he asks.
Grandpa's family appears to take this utterly morbid prank quite well. Revelry around a Christmas table ensues as the family is reunited. Laughing and tons of merriment follow, thanks to this grandpa and his oh-so-quirky sense of humor. All is forgiven in less than the blink of an eye.
Needless to say, the German internet has imploded with strong reactions, but people seem to be divided: Is this the most moving, touching, and sentimental commercial ever to grace the German airwaves? Or is it the most manipulative piece of garbage dreamed up by an ad agency in search of holiday euros?
Either way, the commercial is getting Edeka plenty of attention. Maybe Whole Foods needs to take a page from their book and embrace its inner nihilist. After all, nothing says "Happy Holidays" quite like some Spanking the Monkey-level black comedy.