Gigantic (German)

The German film “Gigantic,” directed and written by Sebastian Schipper and produced by Tom Tykwer (who directed “Run Lola Run”), has the sort of world-weary, melancholy bleakness we’ve come to expect from that country, while at the same time infusing energy and vigor into filmmaking as an art form.

It’s a magnificently depressing film, one that makes you long for something without knowing what, all fueled by three great performances from three talented young actors.

The action takes place over 24 hours in Hamburg. Three inseparable friends are about to be separated, as their leader, Floyd (Frank Giering), has decided he needs to leave town in order to find where he truly belongs. They have one last night to spend together, and they want it to be memorable.

This is where the film could easily have become an “American Graffiti”-style comedy — what sort of hijinks erupt when it’s your last night together? — and some of the events are indeed comical, though Schipper plays them more for their straight-faced psychological value than for laughs. The group runs afoul of a team of Elvis impersonating stunt-show drivers, for example, and then gets involved in a high-stakes game of Foosball (in a sequence that is surely the most brilliantly filmed Foosball game in movie history).

Giering’s Floyd is brooding and sad, saying little but speaking volumes with his expressive, yearning face. Florian Lukas plays perhaps the most interesting character, Richard, a wired-up, emotional, cocky wannabe rapper, wannabe everything who prefers to be called Ricco and fancies himself something of a lady-killer. His sensitivity — hidden beneath all that bravado — rivals Floyd’s in causing great heartache among the audience. Antoine Monot Jr. plays the smart and sensible Walter, a sort of bridge between the other two boys, who would be polar opposites if they weren’t ultimately just like each other.

The soundtrack features everything from techno to guitar-folk music, with one wistful, haunting theme recurring often enough to bring strong emotion whenever it does.

These characters are universal, and their situation — that of crossroads, goodbyes and high hopes — is one everyone can relate to, whether we like it or not. This is a pitifully touching film, uplifting for its intrinsic beauty even while evoking sadness for the characters.

A (; R, abundant profanity, vulgar language, sexual references, all subtitled.)