The Opening and Closing Nights:
On Thursday 23 November director Michael Hoffman and actress Charlotte Roche attend the Gala Screening of Eden (Germany 2005, 98mins) (awards: Tiscali Audience Award and Lion’s Award – Rotterdam 2006), Hoffman’s deliciously seductive drama which won the Audience award at this year’s Rotterdam Film Festival. Gregor, corpulent and awkward, is a gifted chef whose culinary creations have an aphrodisiac effect on his patrons. When Eden tastes a mouthful of the birthday cake Gregor has baked for her daughter Leonie, she becomes hooked, and finds it impossible to stay away from his kitchen. A close yet platonic relationship develops between Gregor and Eden which transforms both their lives – but is Gregor’s cooking just an excuse for something more?
At the Closing Night Gala festival favourite Andreas Dresen introduces his enchanting comedy Summer In Berlin (Germany 2005, 107mins) (awards: Silver Shell Best Screenplay – San Sebastien 2005, Silver Hugo for Best Actress – Chicago 2005, Bavaria Film Award 2005 (Direction)) about two close friends Katrin and Nike who regularly share life’s ups-and-downs over a bottle of wine on Nike’s balcony. Their friendship seems unshakeable until Katrin is nearly knocked down by Ronald, an itinerant truck driver who seems to possess that ‘something’ which Nike finds irresistible. This Festival’s audiences have been charmed by Dresen’s work in previous years (Willenbrock, Grill Point, Vote for Henryk!) and this new film, with its human warmth, sincerity and delightful humour, is yet another crowd-pleaser.
The New Features:
Director Christian Wagner attends the screening his film Warchild (Germany 2006, 103mins) (awards: Bavarian Film Award 2006 (Special Jury Prize), Best Screenplay Montreal 2006) the Festival’s Centre Piece film. Warchild is the compelling and moving story of Senada (Labina Mitevska Welcome to Sarajevo) whose child Aida went missing nine years ago during the Bosnian War. Senada has never lost hope that her child is alive somewhere, and she finally gets the lead she’s been waiting for when she comes across an old magazine with a picture of children boarding a Red Cross bus during the war. Her search takes her from Sarajevo to Germany where she tracks down her daughter, who’s been adopted. But Aida is now called Kristina, speaks German and is firmly rooted in her new life. Senada faces an impossible decision – to insist her daughter returns with her to Bosnia or to leave her in her happy, stable home in Germany.
Angeline Maccarone’s stunning Hounded (Germany 2006, 85mins) (awards: Golden Leopard Filmmakers of the Present – Locarno 2006) is shot in black and white, is sparsely scripted by Susanne Billig, and packs a strong punch. Fifty-year-old Elsa is in an open relationship with her husband, and works as a probation officer. Sixteen-year-old Jan is on probation, immature and lonely. He starts to stalk Elsa around town, buying her a blouse, tempting her to physically connect with him, and she gradually caves in. The two embark on a sado-masochistic affair, and despite their obvious differences, they share a tormented passion and a genuine affection, twisted though it is.
The twisted relationships in Matthias Luthardt’s Pingpong (Germany 2006, 89mins) centre around the controlling personality of Anna, who drives her gifted teenage son to alcohol and sexually exploits her husband’s nephew, who’s turned up out-of-blue, very vulnerable after his father committed suicide. Anna only seems to genuinely care about her dog, and therein lies her weakness.
In this year’s Family Matinee, Grave Decisions (dir Marcus H. Rosenmueller, Germany 2006, 106mins), the logic of 11 year-old Sebastian drives this dark comedy to an unnatural conclusion. You’re never too young to be a murderer, thinks Sebastian, who’s convinced that he killed his mother at the age of 0. Terrified at the idea of spending years in purgatory he decides to try and make amends by finding his father a new wife. But when Sebastian’s dad falls in love with his Primary School teacher who’s already married, Sebastian figures that he’s got away with murder once, so why not twice.
Matthias Glasner’s graphic The Free Will (Germany 2005, 163mins) (awards: Silver Bear, Berlin 2006, Best Actor, Tribeca 2006) delves into the dark and complex world of Theo, a convicted rapist released from prison and readjusting to civilian life. The path he follows is rarely straight, and when he makes an attempt at a romantic relationship, The Free Will expands into a compelling, multi-layered exploration of uncharted psychological territory.
Hans Steinbichler’s Winter Journey is a melancholic story of a man in crisis shot through with pitch black humour. Sixty-five year old Franz Brenninger is a cantankerous racist who’s about to go bankrupt. Desperate to raise funds he accepts a deal apparently worth $750,000 for the use of his bank account. When the money fails to materialise Franz sets off to Kenya, where he ends alone facing his demons.
This year the Festival screens three feature length documentaries as part of German Dox, the festival’s popular showcase for documentary film. Doris Metz’ Ghost Fathers (Germany 2005, 93mins) revisits the Guillaume affair which forced the German chancellor Willy Brandt to resign in 1974, when it came to light that Guenter Guillaume, Brandt’s adviser, was an East German secret agent. Seen through the eyes of Brandt’s and Guillaume’s sons, Metz’ film shows that despite their differences these two young men have similar goals – to gain an understanding of their elusive and now dead fathers. Last to Know (dirs. Marc Bauder and Doerte Franke, Germany 2005, 72mins) looks at three families, out of 250,000 political prisoners, who have had to adjust to being “enemies of the state” in the GDR regime to “redeemed” by the Federal Republic.
Over a period of several months director Veit Helmer sets out to discover who decides who get which role in Behind the Couch (Germany 2005, 70mins) and witnesses the ruthless selection procedure for those lucky few who get an audition.
Rebels Without a Cause – The Critical Cinema of East Germany presented by Goethe-Institut, London
A selection of important works by East German filmmakers, who working within the state owned DEFA studios (1946-1992) not only created highly original and masterfully crafted films but also dared to test the limits of censorship.
At the Curzon Soho, Berlin filmmaker Andreas Dresen will introduce director Gerhard Klein’s teen cult classic BERLIN Schoenhauser Corner (East Germany 1957, 81mins). Scripted by Wolfgang Kohlhasse this 1950s neorealist-styled film is a perceptive social portrayal of a city where the political and economic divisions effect the entire population. Although the film was a box office hit it was treated with suspicion by the GDR cultural officials who reproached Klein and Kohlhasse for emphasising “negative problematic images of our (East German) life”. BERLIN Schoenhauser Corner is ranked by film critics among Germany’s 100 most important films.
Rebels Without a Cause – The Critical Cinema of East Germany continues at the Goethe-Institut from Monday 27 November to Friday 1 December with a selection of films that are largely unknown outside Germany. The feature films presented by Goethe-Institut are a selection from a comprehensive retrospective organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Goethe-Institut New York, in collaboration with the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts. The programme includes: The Gleiwitz Case (director Gerhard Klein, East Germany 1961, 69mins) which is considered one of the most modern and experimental films in DEFA’s history; Carbide and Sorrel (director Frank Beyer, East Germany 1963, 80mins), a free-spirited, if not anarchic, comedy; a cult favourite of today, The Legend of Paul and Paula (director Heiner Carow, East Germany 1972, 106mins), featuring the music of the East German cult rock band The Puhdys.
Further information at www.goethe.de/london.
Next Generation 2005 is a programme of 10 short films by German film students ranging from live action to animation, selected from the crop of graduating German Film students this year.
From 1 December 2006, selected titles from the 9th Festival of German Films additionally screen at the Irish Film Institute Dublin, with the support of Goethe-Institut Dublin.