Contemplating New German Film
New German Cinema is full of wonderful surprises. New stars receive standing ovations in all major festivals and enjoy special international attention. If you feel like joining a discovery trip here comes my personal list of recommendations:
My Italian friends especially and all soccer fans will love this one: Sönke Wortmann’s Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen captures their moment of glory as champions during the most important event in 2006, the Soccer World Cup in Germany. Four million Germans have enjoyed this most successful documentary already. The movie captures the joyful atmosphere, the amazing momentum this cup created. Germany is still sailing on this feel good wave. The whole country seemed to be in a constant happy party mood for weeks. Since then, consumer confidence rose to a 15 year high. Is it not surprising what a grand party with friends and guests from all over the world can do?
The Lives of Others by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has reached Canadian theatres in January 2007. The film has mesmerized critics as well as audiences at its North American premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2006, just before its Oscar nomination. The Lives of Others revolves around an East German secret service officer who becomes engrossed in a playwright and his girlfriend, both of whom he is spying on. This film is about how East Germany’s "state security" system destroyed the lives of ordinary people in the name of a better society. It is a drama about a ruthless system of control and surveillance and ensuing personal tragedies of a totalitarian state.
The State Security Service (Stasi) drama The Lives of the Others won the European Film Award; main actor Ulrich Mühe raked in the European Actor Award 2006 and director Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck was named this year’s best European Screenwriter.
For his films about madness and courage, adventure and failure, death and time, as well as nature’s overwhelming indifference Werner Herzog received a "Lifetime Achievement Award" at Toronto’s HotDocs Festival 2006.Grizzly Man (2004) with its extraordinary soundtrack it is among the most beautiful and unusual documentaries ever made.
The story is as simple as big. A well-meaning animal lover and filmmaker named Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend get eaten by the very bears in a National Reserve in Alaska he tried to protect for many years. Of course you don’t get to see that. What you realize instead is what kind of effect long Northern summers of complete solitude and the idea that we could somehow blur the line between nature and humans can have on someone. Herzog, however, presents Treadwell through his own original footage, still from a distance, but always full of respect and admiration for his film material, the sheer beauty of the landscape, and of wild animals in their natural habitat. On a deeper level this film is, like all Herzog’s works, all about his notion of "ecstatic truth".
Finally in 2007, Rescue Dawn, Herzog’s newest feature film, will retell the story of Dieter Dengler, a pilot captured in the jungle of Laos during the Vietnam War. After weeks of wandering, hopelessness, and half eaten snakes he is finally rescued by an American chopper.
German-Turkish director Fatih Akin’s tempestuous love story Head On ("Gegen die Wand") won the prestigious Golden Bear, the top prize at the 2004 Berlinale followed by other festival prizes and five German Lolas. The film explores the world of second-generation Turkish immigrants in Germany. It’sabout a young, rebellious Turkish woman trying to break free, it’s about culture clashes, generational misunderstandings, and the unexpected consequences of passionate love. Consequently, this film is raw, explosive, a blast of extremes with bold sex scenes. A deep, dark and absolutely amazing film! Simply the best love story of the past years.
The story follows Cahit, a miserable, drunken aging rocker, and breathtaking Sibel (former porn actress Sibel Kekilli), a woman so oppressed by her traditional Turkish family that she turns suicidal just to get away from it. To break free Sibel and Cahit enter into a marriage of convenience, which of course becomes inconvenient when they start to fall for each other.
In Crossing the Bridge, Akin explores Istanbul’s contemporary music scene. He travels with German musician Alexander Hacke, a longtime member of German avant-garde band Einstürzende Neubauten. They start searching for the sound of the streets. Together they unlock some of Istanbul’s cultural secrets: the native rhythm coursing through the veins of Istanbul’s diverse cultures and traditions. Fatih Akin allows Istanbul’s music and musicians to reveal the city’s fascinating, captivating and contradictory character. Istanbul comes vibrantly alive through its music in this documentary. It is a belated love letter to a metropolis which also reflects his own mixed-cultural make-up -- poised between East and West, with influences from both Europe and Asia.
Thus German cinema has entered a celebratory phase. The world has greeted this renaissance with heightened attention and praise. Festival invitations, Oscar nominations, international roles and awards, rights sales and audience numbers all indicate the success. The domestic market share is great, the success abroad even greater.
Brilliant filmmakers like Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta, Faßbinder, Wim Wenders have changed the story of Post-WW II German filmmaking. Years later, Tom Tykwer’s Run, Lola Run, Heaven, The Princess and the Warrior, or Wolfgang Becker’s blockbuster hit Good bye, Lenin! have put New German films on the spot again.Tykwer’s latest film Perfume – The Story of a Murderer (2006) is an adaptation of the bestseller by the German author Patrick Süskind. With the films mentioned above as well as with Hans-Christian Schmids Requiem, Marc Rothemunds Sophie Scholl – The final Days, Christian Petzolds (Wolfsburg, Die innere Sicherheit, Gespenster) and Hannes Stöhrs One day in Europe.
German films have reached a newly revived aesthetic level. In these new German films you will find sublime poetic visions and magical moments. They challenge viewers to think and see.
Dr. Arpad A. Sölter,
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