Entries tagged with “German cinema”.


An untimely death cut short in 1982, at the age of 37, the life and cinematographic career of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. We can only wonder at how much he succeeded to achieve in such a short time and we can only speculate on how his cinema work and the thematic of his films could have looked like in the years of and after the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany. The films that he left are still amazing cinematographic achievements and some of the sharpest and critical visions of the recent past of Germany. He bluntly explored fascism and corrupt politics, family relations, sex and sexual orientation, race and morality. ‘Lola‘ which was made the year before his death is a cynical and sarcastic look at what he perceived as the corrupt foundations of the Federal Republic of Germany.

 

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082671

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082671

 

In this film Fassbinder frontally attacks the sacred cow myth of the German post-war renewal. The story is set in a small German town about one decade after the end of WWII. The war seems to be a memory that most people try to bury, the city rides on a development wave, ruins disappear and make place for modern buildings, life improves. Building contractors and the ‘new politicians’ who support them are the persons of the day. And yet, many things did not change that much.  ’Lola‘ has two sources of inspiration, the 1930s masterpiece  The Blue Angel directed by Josef von Sternberg with Marlene Dietrich in the lead role, and Gogol’s ‘The Government Inspector’ (or ‘Der Revisor’ as it is known in German). The first connects the story in the film with the past of the pre-war Germany, its moral and political corruption that nurtured the conditions of the rise of Nazism. The second broadens the vision to the more universal theme of the powerful stranger coming to a closed community, questioning its foundations, shaking its twisted rules and trying to change the unfair ways of doing things.

 

(video source TobisFilmclub)

 

The two principal heroes, the singer-prostitute Lola (Barbara Sukowa) and the building inspector Von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) seem also directly inspired by the lead characters in the two works, it is their bringing together and the un-probable relationship that develops between them that dominates in an original manner the script. Lola is forced as many other widows of the time (and heroines of the films of Fassbinder ) to descend into prostitution to sustain her family (daughter and mother), however she is not only a victim, but rather a complex and manipulative character who tries to use her beauty to achieve social recognition. Von Bohm becomes a character of equal weight in the film, his honesty and integrity being put at test by the social environment and his falling in love with the wrong woman. The acting of both Barbara Sukowa and Armin Mueller-Stahl is superb and remains the best part of this film. Also beautiful and expressive is the camera work, just watch the games of colors and the lightning of the characters. Some other parts of the film did not survive that well the 37 years since the film was made. Mario Adorf ‘s interpretation of the local tycoon seems to gross and grotesque for the tastes of today. The motivations of the characters and their changes in mood are not that clear. The important aspect however is that the rage of Fassbinder is here, as visible as ever, and the critical flame that he lit with his works, never avoiding or running away from a good controversy, are still a model for German cinema.

Refugees stories. Running away from persecution, hiding from the dangers of deportation, waiting for the visas that can save lives, boarding the ship that navigates to the promised shore of salvation – here are themes that resonate deeply for me, maybe also because of personal and family stories that took place no farther than one generation before us. Transit adapted by Christian Petzold from a novel by Anna Seghers set during the second world war and directed by him takes an original approach for this set of subjects. It’s not a flawless film, but it impressed me in a very special manner.

 

source https://www.avoir-alire.com/transit-la-critique-du-film

source https://www.avoir-alire.com/transit-la-critique-du-film

 

The approach taken by script writer and director Christian Petzold is very original. The characters and narrative parts are taken from a novel by German writer Anna Seghers, a combination of stories about Jewish and German refugees running the spreading German occupation during the second world war in which fear, love and mistaken identities combine in a quite smart and interesting mix. The setting is however today’s or maybe tomorrow’s Paris and Marseille, with police cars and vans with sirens permanently howling and black-suited and helmeted armed policemen chasing the ‘illegals’ in the streets. There are some exceptions for this environment, as at some moments we seem to be in an atemporal French bistro or see the landscape of the old port of Marseille before the contemporary touristic change of face. The language used by the heroes is also a  hybrid in which literary dialogs in German mix with references to the football clubs in the 21st century Champions League. The superposition is almost didactic, but it somehow works, as the story of the love triangle (or maybe a pyramid in this case) folds on the background of the lives of the universal refugees. Some speak German, some Arabic or African languages, all are running away from the eternal police of oppression.

 

(video source Piffl Medien)

 

As many love stories in time of war the intrigue here is built of intense feelings doubled by fear, shades, hidden identities. It develops slowly but the excellent acting of Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer bring on screen a whole world of passion and ambiguities, of despair and impossible dreams. The secondary thread that connects the fate of the German refugees with the one of the ‘local’ migrants is also described in a discrete manner, avoiding the traps of melodrama. The only major flaw is the use of off-screen voice, probably reading text from the original novel that inspired the film. It is probably intended to remind us the reference work and the period when its story takes place. I find that voice over seldom works well in movies and this is not the case here. Transit tells a very important story and its production incorporates good acting and many bright ideas. It would have been better if director Christian Petzold trusted more his viewers and made some of the details of execution more discrete and less explicit.

 

What would you do or rather what would you not do to protect your kid if faced with the situation that she or he has done something very wrong? When do mistakes that everybody makes at the teen ages turn into something very different and very abhorrent? Is the line of demarcation between sanity and insanity, between being a normative person and a monster that clear? These are some of the questions one keeps asking while watching ‘We Monsters‘ (‘Wir Monsters’ in German) directed and co-written by . I knew nothing about this film maker, according to IMDB this is only his second full feature film, and it’s quite good.

 

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4074652/

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4074652/

 

It’s a thriller, and a good one, so I will avoid telling too much about the story. Two separated parents come together to help their daughter in a critical moment of her life. There are enough surprises and changes of perspective to keep the interest of viewers alert from start to end. There is also a quite serious collection of subterranean themes like responsibility, borders of parental love, teenage revolt and communication between generations. All these come together in a more than satisfactory manner.

 

(video source TIFF Trailers)

 

The film is supported by solid acting by the whole team of actors, but especially by in the role of the father and as the teenage daughter. A slightly higher dose of cinematographic effects would have turned this film into a horror movie, but film director  seems to have chosen to star within the limits of a realistic psychological thriller. I found it good as it is. The horror version can be left for the American remake.

 

 

Sometimes, in the middle of the desert, one encounters a green, luxurious, exuberant oasis, full of life and beauty. This is exactly my feeling after having viewed ‘Victoria‘ in this summer cinematographic season which seems drier and duller and dummer than any other that I remember. After so many brainless action movies, and huge stars playing flat roles in boring comedies, here comes a film which is a wonderful combination of action and human feelings, of wonderful acting and cinematographic excellencies. Some of the reviews that I have read use the word ‘masterpiece’. This is far from being an exaggeration.

 

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4226388

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4226388

 

Victoria‘, co-written and director by who is better known as an actor, takes places in real-time, late at night and early in the morning, in Berlin, the German capital, in 2015. The feeling of reality is brightly transmitted to viewers by making the film with one shot, more than two hours of cinema filmed with hand-held camera, all the time close to the heroes of the film. Their lives change forever during these 140 minutes. It visibly took a huge effort to prepare the whole filming which takes us in different places, streets, shops, night clubs, building and roofs in Berlin. The result is spectacular.

 

 (video source Madman Films)

 

The heroes are a young Spanish girl, ex-musician, living in the cosmopolitan capital of Germany without speaking German who meets a group of fringe youth from East Berlin. As the action develops the characters will know each other, will fall in love, will get into trouble, and their destinies will change. Acting is also superb, with the Spanish actress in the lead role, and the German actors and Far from being just a gimmick, the technical achievement of this film is fully justified and fits well the story and the action. Berlin at the hours of deep night and uncertain dawn looks more interesting than I have ever seen it since ‘Der Himmel über Berlin‘. This is German cinema at its best.

Cinema about cinema and its more and less famous heroes is one of the most popular themes, and the results are very mixed, from superb classics to dull failures that do not succeed to get close to the sparkling and shining personalities in the history of cinema that they deal with. To take just one example, Alfred Hitchcock was recently the hero of at least two movies that centered on his personality and the making of some of his famous films. One was good, the other average, but our image about the master of thriller was enriched by seeing these films. In the history of the German cinema (but not only) Fritz Lang is a huge personality. Director succeeded to make an interesting film about him, not a perfect one, but with many ideas and a combination of techniques that makes it worth watching and discussing. Most of his films are about the pre-Nazi and Nazi period in the history of Germany and he seems to be one of the film directors who approach directly and with no nostalgia those times.

 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5520618

source https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5520618

 

Despite its ‘generic’ title ‘Fritz Lang’ deals with a specific episode in the life and career of the famous film maker. Same as the hero in ‘s ‘The Artist‘, Fritz Lang, a film director who had built his name and fame in the mute film industry, was faced around 1930 with the disruptive emergence of sound in cinema. His preparation for the first spoken film which will be named ‘M‘ included taking inspiration from a real serial killer crime case. In the process his research turned into obsession and his way of life became influenced by the dark subjects that he was investigating. ‘s approach to Lang’s personality is not very sympathetic, to the point that it makes the viewer suspect at some point of the story that Lang himself may have been involved in the crimes.

 

(video source Belle-Epoque-Films)

 

The other very interesting aspect of ‘Fritz Lang’ (the movie) is the smart editing which combines scenes with actors, newsreels of the period, and scenes from ‘M‘. Fiction from the film and about the life of the film director merge together with documented history in flawless manner. Black and white filming also works perfectly. I liked the acting performances of as Lang and as the serial killer, they match the atmosphere of the period and the style of Lang’s movie. For most of the duration of the story the first chases the second and helps in his catching. When they get together in a dialog taking place in jail (a dialog which probably never happened in reality), they find a troubling number of similarities in their destinies. In a different twist of destiny the great director could have been a criminal. Or maybe he was one? This question remains open.

 

 

 

I am a passionate of Switzerland, one of my preferred countries for vacation, a place that won its name for the beauty of its nature, but also for the calm and order that seem to reign in its cities and villages, as well as in the relations between its people. Seldom has the beauty of Switzerland and of its mountains seemed to me so disturbing, so uneasy, as in ‘Tiere’ the film directed by which I have seen a couple of weeks ago at the Haifa International Film Festival. The title was translated in English as ‘Animals’, but should it rather be ‘Beasts’? Better German speakers will tell me, It seems that the director and authors of script learned one of the basic rules of fantastic and horror art, theorized and applied in its writings by the Romanian historian and writer Mircea Eliade: fantastic and horror can be even more efficient when exceptional events and strange phenomenons start in a ‘normal’ and friendly surrounding. The movie directed by  turns a land of vacation that is very familiar to many of us into a land of uncertainty and uneasiness.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6510634

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6510634

 

What we are presented in the film is a collection of inter-related parallel stories. At first time they are quite banal – a mid-class German couple leaves for a few months in the Swiss mountains, they do not seem to be the happiest couple in the world, but is not infidelity nowadays quite banal also? They leave a caretaker in place in their apartment, she seems to have her small misdemeanors as well. The neighbor upstairs falls to her death, was it an accident or a crime, dit it really happen? Yet, all is more complicated than it seems, we soon slide from Woody Allen into Hitchcock territory, because same as the characters in the story we never know what is true and what is cheat, and the style of filming is so designed that we are never sure what is reality, what is dream, or maybe comma delirium. The director plays with the cinema genres as he does with the perspectives of the story telling. At some moments in time ‘Tiere’ looks like characters comedy, at other it is mixing elements of social drama and romantic stories, add to this the fantastic touch that envelops everything as the fog sometimes envelops the landscape of the mountains.

 

(video source Filmcoopi Zürich)

 

I liked much of what I have seen. The film benefits of efficient acting with , , and playing more than three roles, or -if you want – more than three incarnations of their characters. Cinematography is superb. I liked less the ending which commits the sin to try to explain too much. Overall however, ’Tiere‘ is a film to see, not only by fans of the horror films genre.

I seldom give maximal rating to a movie. So far on, IMDB where I record my impressions about the films that I see, I have given 10 rating to only 34 films, and this list includes classical films and those that have impressed me a lot for decades. My appreciation includes a combination of what I perceive to be the artistic level of the film, its message and its ability to create emotion. Yesterday I was happy to add a movie to this list: the German film VOR DER MORGENRÖTE (which means’ Before tomorrow ‘or maybe’ Before dawn tomorrow ‘) that received the English title’ Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe ‘. In fact, I have the impression that it has not been distributed yet in the US or England, and perhaps that explains the lack of echoes so far in relation to this film, exceptional in my opinion.
source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3397160/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3397160/

If you search the Internet ‘Stefan and Lotte Zweig’ you arrive pretty quickly at the photo where the two of them lie dead, hand in hand, in their bed, in February 1942, in Petropolis, Brazil, after having committed suicide. This photo appears reconstituted for a second or two in the epilogue of the film. The prologue and the four episodes follow the path that Stefan Zweig, one of the great writers of Germany and the world, traveled between 1936 and 1942, and each of the episodes describes part of the premises of the fatal act. Having been raised and having lived in a world of words and ideas, of respect for people and culture, of the dialogue as the only acceptable solution to conflicts resolution, Stefan Zweig saw his world destroyed by the Nazi brutality and ignorance. His attempt to resist by words, using the weapons of the pacifist intellectual, was doomed to failure. We can imagine him in that winter between 1941 and 1942, desperate about the progress and temporary victories of the forces of darkness, reproaching to himself his lack of courage and ambiguous personal positions in the face of evil, the fact that he was unable or unwilling to help those in deadly danger, sharing the complex of the survivors, and lacking the resilience and power to continue to live to see the victory of Good.
The director of the film is Maria Schrader whom I met as actor in one of the main roles, the Stasi spy manipulator in the excellent ‘Deutschland 83′ series. She manages to build on screen the personality and especially the human dimension of Stefan Zweig, with his dilemmas and weaknesses, helped by Tomas Lemarquis‘s master acting. I found excellent the description of Zweig’s attitude towards his two countries: Germany, in whose language and culture he never ceased to live, and which he could not condemn even when the Nazis became rulers, and Brazil, which sheltered him and which he idealized and flattered in one of its last books, perhaps too much, maybe a little because of opportunism or maybe only as recognition for saving his life.
Cinematography is not based on words alone. The prologue and the epilogue are two outstanding pieces of cinema. In the prologue we see Zweig taking part in a banquet given in his honor in Brazil in 1936, in which he speaks in praise of Brazil as a country of the future and exults its multiculturalism and the equality of all citizens of all colors. But all participants at the reception, and even servants, without exception, are white! The epilogue is a masterpiece, shot in a single frame, with multiple planes made with a mirror. After policemen, neighbors, friends understand the tragedy, investigate, say goodbye, someone says a Jewish prayer. Then in the deserted room, enters the maid, a black woman, and she says Pater Nostrum. And she leaves, obscuring the frame. Cut.
A movie of 10/10.

Hannah Arendt ignited controversies during her life, and many of these controversies continued after her death. Margarethe von Trotta‘s filmed biography catches some of them (like the fascination that turned into a love story between the bright Jewish student and the much elder philosopher Heidegger, a Nazi sympathizer) and focuses on one specifically – Arendt’s coverage of the Eichmann trial and her relationship with fellow Jews, the Jewish state and eventually to her own Jewishness. A precipice separated Hanna Arendt’s views from the one of the Jewish Israelis. Where the survivors in Israel were seeing a process of justice in the name of the millions murdered with no justice of mercy, the American refugee was seeing a public revenge that was not judging the deeds of Eichmann but the wrongs of the system to which he belonged. Let me say that as an Israeli I have little sympathy for her lack of sympathy towards Israel, yet I believe that on the ideas plan Hannah Arendt (the film) makes a convincing case for the humanistic views of Hannah Arendt the philosopher. Unfortunately this does not turn into a good movie.

 

source www.movie-magazin.de

source www.movie-magazin.de

 

The story in the film starts with the kidnapping of Eichmann in Argentina by the agents of Mossad. The next scene introduces the American philosopher of Jewish origin and German culture learning the news and commenting them with her husband in their apartment with a view in New York. She had written a book (maybe even the ultimate book) about the roots of evil, so she must travel to Israel and watch the trial of Eichmann in order to understand and see the instantiation of evil with her own eyes. Arrived in Israel she comes to the realization that the source of the crimes of Eichmann is not in ideology and not in some malady, but in the blind allegiance to rules, and in the refusal to measure the orders he received and his own deeds on a human or moral scale. This brings her in conflict with the greatest majority of her Jewish and Israeli friends, as the gap between the perceptions is immediately obvious. Despite having lived through similar ordeals, her conclusions are different and among all she misses the tribal instinct that brings together people of the same ethnic origin. She loves people and friends, not nations and countries, not even her own.

 

(video source The Match Factory)

 

The problem with Hannah Arendt (the film) is that it is plainly and completely uninteresting film-making. It seldom exceeds the borders of respectful but boring biographical movies. There is only one memorable scene in the film, the one where the philosopher talks to her students and the staff of the university – Barbara Sukowa is passionate and convincing, succeeding to bring on her side not only the audience in the film, but also the viewers in the cinema hall. The rest is full with banal and rhetoric verbiage, a lot of stereotypes, and non-significant domestic intrigue. I wonder if Hannah Arendt, the rebellious philosopher and nonconformist character would have liked this film. I doubt it.