Sometimes, as Oliver Kahn says in the first few minutes of the FC Bayern – Behind the Legend documentary, the god of football is a “sadist”. The FC Bayern CEO contemplates the team’s loss in the Champions League final, and the corresponding images are included in the documentary about Kahn’s words. 1-2 in extra time against Manchester United in 1999. The penalty shootout defeat against Chelsea in the 2012 Dham final. Moments that burn in the memory of every football fan. But sometimes the god of soccer documentaries is also sadistic.
The football documentary god seems content with its smooth, graphic closeness, and then can’t get enough of it. This was already the case in documentaries about Manchester City (“All or Nothing”) or Borussia Dortmund (“Inside Borussia Dortmund”), and is now repeated in this film about the heroes of German records; All three series were produced for Amazon Prime.
Directors Simon Verhoeven and Nepomuk Fischer are sometimes drunk in their long-term observation of the Munich team about how close they are to Bayern Munich. The camera then follows defender David Alaba on his way through the club grounds, showing Oliver Kahn hitting the goal post, and filming goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s throat during the Corona test. Or escort a priest and others from the management level to markedly arranged offices, where they are then allowed to speak in well-ordered sentences that are immediately forgotten in the face of subsequent recordings.
This closeness isn’t bad at first, even if it comes at an obvious price: it doesn’t get seriously awkward. But that seems to have been the deal, to be able to shoot in places no other fan or journalist can reach: in the boardroom situation meeting, in tactical training before the Champions League game, over and over again even after the final. Whistle in the locker room or at halftime. In addition, many players greeted the camera team at home, Robert Lewandowski even in the evening when he was voted world footballer. But this proximity alone says nothing. So it gets distracting sometimes.
Once things get exciting, the directors go on
Verhoeven and Fischer accompanied the club on an unusual stage. On the one hand, they are present in the most successful months in the club’s history, in the victory of the Champions League in Lisbon in 2020, and in the success of the Club World Cup in the spring of 2021 in Doha. On the other hand, they follow Bayern Munich in unusually turbulent times, when coach Hansi Flick and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic ultimately lack the common basis for further work. The two directors come surprisingly close to success and conflict, but once things get exciting, they move on.
Then they follow the players on their way to the cold room. Or the heroes talk for minutes about well-known things, about the tears of Joshua Kimmich, who was already insanely ambitious at a young age, about the fact that constantly talking Thomas Muller can be incredibly funny, but also incredibly annoying. Or that the club was only able to celebrate all the success because it was reorganized in the 1970s by Uli Hoeness (have you heard of that before?). The narration often moves a lot between themes, which leads to confusion. And so the chain robs of its power.
Verhoeven and Fischer also capture many of these moments, which tell the big story on a small scale. Hansi Flick wrestles with words and composure in the locker room as he announces to the players that he’s going to stop (and Salihamidzic, the tie loosely tied around his neck, pulls a frown). Or when Kimmich, Lewandowski, and Leroy Sané talk about why it’s so hard after a win (Lewandowski sometimes calls for more “choice, pick”). Uli Hoeness looks at this dialogue on his tablet and says, “Beautiful sight.” Very simple and very devoid of pity and luxury. However, the viewer suddenly approaches the club and its champions.
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A football match is said to last 90 minutes. A good football documentary doesn’t necessarily need more.
“FC Bayern – Behind the Legend”, Amazon Prime Video, six episodes.