A successful movie engages more Germans on the Camino de Santiago

I´m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago has become one of this year´s most anticipated German films and the second highest grossing movie in Germany in October 2016 .

The movie is based on the hugely successful book of the same name by Hape Kerkeling,  a comedian, actor and singer whose film and television career spans more than two decades and who stands as one of Germany’s most beloved TV entertainers.


“I’m Off Then” traces Kerkeling’s existential crisis following a sudden hearing loss and a gall bladder operation, which led him to take a long break in 2001 and find physical and spiritual rehabilitation on a pilgrimage Spain’s famed path to Santiago de Compostela.

The book went on to sell more than 5 million copies, making it the bestselling German nonfiction book in the past 70 years, and it has been published around the globe. . And according statistics German pilgrims have already increased along the Camino by 20% since the book was published.


In the movie adaptation, Devid Striesow plays Kerkeling and the resemblance is uncanny. The journey it dramatizes is a spiritual and at-times physically arduous experience that is always wittily observed.

During the trek, Kerkeling recalls his Catholic upbringing and his strict ‘granny’. He lost his mother early when she committed suicide – which he never publicly mentioned before his autobiography was published in 2014. This childhood tragedy may well be the reason why he never felt comfortable with just whooping it up. Nowadays, you will not get his typical humor without some added reflection.

In the book, Kerkeling remembers a fellow pilgrim called Anne asking him if he knew former football star Lothar Matthäus, as a test of his celebrity status. Many people who ran into him on the Camino started acting awkwardly in his presence. He is perhaps now relieved that he will never have to stand such a test again – but at the same time, he remains present on the pages of his book, and in the body of the actor who portrays him on the screen.


The grave of St. James in Santiago de Compostela has been a pilgrimage site for over 1,000 years. When times were quiet, only a dozen people would make the effort. At other times, it would be a couple of thousand. But the quiet years are over. More than 260,000 people followed the Way of St. James last year. Five million copies of the book “I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago” by German TV celebrity Hape Kerkeling have been sold in Germany, and its impact has been huge: Since its publication, Germans have made up a large share of foreigners making the pilgrimage. Last year, according to church statistics, 18873 (7,19%) of them turned up in Santiago, a new record. This year is also becoming outstanding, 3.671 (15,08%) German pilgrims in June 2016.


“This pilgrimage was the craziest, and at the same time most sensible, thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Kerkeling says.

Guten Weg, amigos!

Photo 1 http://entertainment.lufthansa.com/en/magazine/archive/416-hape- kerkeling

Photo 2 http://entertainment.lufthansa.com/en/magazine/archive/416-hape- kerkeling

Photo 3 https://www.runwaygirlnetwork.com