Friday, December 7. 2012
Friday, November 30. 2012
Continuing my 2012 German film look back -last week's part 1 below- in the form of an interview with myself:
Jutta Brendemühl: Best part of your job is…
Jutta Brendemühl: … a professor telling me he will use one of the films we presented in his seminars; a researcher calling to say he will write an academic paper about a film we showed 2 years ago; audiences requesting Q&As after the films; people other than film buffs coming to see films, among them the bankers and business students who attended our Culture+Economy series; loyal blog followers who write to tell me they appreciate the extra context (always happy to hear from readers and viewers!). Saying this I realize that the best part of the job is the interaction and exchange with our audiences. While going to international festivals and pre-viewing films is not a shabby part of the job either! I often pass on audience comments to the filmmakers or producers in Germany –they are eager to hear how their films are received internationally, when they don’t get to sit with the audience in Hamburg or Frankfurt; all of this feeds my thinking about the curation of our next programs.
With regard to next programs: What challenges are you facing in presenting contemporary German film in Toronto and Canada?
Beyond the “sales” challenges that all presenters of non-American foreign-language --i.e. subtitled-- arthouse films share, I want to get more students out of their dorm rooms and into an actual cinema. Without launching into a big cultural critique, there is a breath-takingly accelerated trend towards overwhelmingly individual or private (or fake “social”) media consumption that pushes audience development and the new catchword "right-sizing" to the forefront of presenters' concerns. I try to not look at these developments as good or bad but as just that: developments. At the end of the day, I think this withdrawal from the public and social sphere is often a protective reflex against the onslaught of entertainment and distraction options out there. And overall, I find Canadians tend to be a bit more "nuclear" in their social lives than say Europeans or Asians. I observe myself increasingly watching TV on my iPhone, films on my laptop and wanting a tablet solely for media use, and I wonder where this is going and what it means for presenters and programmers. While this withdrawal from the cinema/theatre/gallery/concert hall is a growing challenge, it has the effect of making you think about sharing programs in new ways - I am looking more at digital festival platforms in terms of new formats for film dissemination, for example.
Quickly back to the beginning -the perceived hurdle of subtitles and foreign language film: I just read about a Tel Aviv University study that found that identifying with more than one culture at the same time -such as when watching a foreign movies- makes you more creative by opening up multiple perspectives. Apparently, the same goes for language classes, spending time abroad, even eating other cuisines.
The perennial question: Do arts & culture move anything, change anything, have an impact in the real world?
The question of relevance is definitely something to check in about frequently. But to me the answer is always that culture IS the real world, by the way, perhaps the only real one. I had an astounding number of "real-life" impact experiences this year, mostly from our series on the financial crisis as a crisis of confidence and trust. That seemed to have resonated deeply with the audience, to the point where a young banker who attended really started to question his own position in the system. And after Crash Course I literally went home and immediately checked what documents I had signed with my bank! On the same film but regarding a different aspect of it, one viewer shook my hand afterwards and said thank you for showing a film that does not patronize older people. (More on the Young & Old in GOETHE FILMS spring 2013, btw).
Your personal highlight for German film @ Canada?
Having the lovely and engaging, very funny and irreverent and outspoken Margarethe von Trotta back at the Goethe-Institut for a Goethe Directors Talk. And Super 8 filmmakers Dagie Brundert in residency and Milena Gierke at Super 8 Fest early in the year. A really good year for women! Amid the Petzolds and Schmids and Tykwers and Grafs.
Best Film of the Year?
I will cheat and use a technically 2011 film that rightly won all major German 2012 awards: Andreas Dresen’s Stopped on Track, incidentally the last German film we showed here this year, at the EU Film Festival. Only a Dresen can deliver such a pitch-perfect film about life. It will stay with me for a long long time.
What movie will you see next?
Jack Reacher: Tom Cruise and Werner Herzog on one impossible mission. Just saw the trailer, I cannot wait. While in Germany, I will finally try to catch Fatih Akin’s (Cannes) eco doc Garbage in the Garden of Eden and Pierre Schoeller's lauded L'Exericse de L'Etat.
P.S. The photo is from Axel Ranisch's indie underground success Dicke Mädchen (see previous entry), which won the German Short Film Award and a dozen other prizes.
Next weak: A sneak peek at 2013.
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Jutta Brendemühl: Was 2012 a good vintage for German film?
Jutta Brendemühl: Stellar, I would say, one of the best in recent history. Frankly, I didn’t think so at the beginning of the year, but the year really took off, as the record two dozen German films at TIFF and the great German film selection at VIFF attest to.
What was the most interesting feedback you received for GOETHE FILMS, the Goethe-Institut’s film program in Toronto?
The often open endings in German arthouse film irk and fascinate North American audiences, in a good way I think. Viewers crave a certain realism and authenticity and connection to their lives. Because people they know do die of cancer; families do fall apart; financial markets do crash. But always, there’s hope or defiance or courage, if not redemption, in the films that we saw this year: a glimpse of people standing up to fate and taking their lives back, challenging authority, finding a way to shape their relationships with their parents and their kids. Personally, I never came away depressed –and I too hesitate to walk into a film where a child is killed or where a woman is raped-- but always walked out grateful that I had gotten to see these films and had to deal with complex and contradictory feelings afterwards. And apparently our audiences largely shared this experience because they kept coming back throughout our four series this year and our many festival engagements, from Images Festival in the spring to Planet in Focus in the fall, from Edmonton to Vancouver.
What where the audience hits among the 15+ German films you showed?
The City Below. And 24 Hours Berlin. Really, anything that has the word “Berlin” in it "works"! Berlin is still sexy (and still poor, as the mayor's famous slogan goes).
And the hits of the German film year overall?
Most people will answer Barbara. For me, it’s always the smaller, quirky films, films that open up new worlds, like This Ain’t California or Dicke Mädchen (Heavy Girls). Not all of them I get to show, unfortunately. But one 2012 German discovery I just watched I immediately booked for GOETHE FILMS in May 2013, so watch this space.
What surprised you about the German cinema scene?
One surprise for me was that a French comedy, Intouchables, was the box office hit in Germany this year - with a staggering 2 million viewers ahead of #2 (Ice Age 4). There clearly is a sense of Europe out there that is still going strong, where the diverse European national cultures look to each other. Not so impressive: the other 9 in the top 10 films that Germans saw in the theatres had only one non-Hollywood film, and the only German film: Turkish for Beginners, an entertaining multicultural TV series revamped for the big screen.
To be continued next week! In the meantime, catch some of our programs such as our Goethe Directors Talks with Wenders, von Trotta and Wiese on our Youtube channel.
P.S. The photo shows Nina Hoss at the Berlinale 2012. We might see her in L.A. in February with Barbara, and I bet in Canada next year with a new German film, set in Western Canada.
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Thursday, November 29. 2012
29th Sundance Film Festival (17 – 27 January, 2013)
A great success for a German film: HOUSTON by Bastian Günther will have its world premiere in the World Dramatic Competition of the Sundance Film Festival. The festival announced this at its first press conference. The invitation for the film produced by LICHTBLICK MEDIA with Ulrich Tukur (THE LIVES OF OTHERS; JOHN RABE; THE WHITE RIBBON) in the lead marks the first time in four years that a German director appears once again in the festival's feature film competition.
The German co-productions CIRCLES by Srdan Golubovic (DE/RS/FR/SI/HR, Neue Mediopolis Filmproduktion) and THE FUTURE by Alicia Scherson (CL/DE/IT/ES, Pandora Filmproduktions GmbH) can also be seen as world premieres in the World Dramatic Competition. The North American premiere of the co-production THE MACHINE WHICH MAKES EVERYTHING DISAPPEAR by Tinatin Gurchiani (GE/DE, Alethea + TTFilm) will be in the World Documentary Competition.
The Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, Utah, and is regarded as the most important North American festival in the independent sector, organised by the Sundance Institute which was founded by Robert Redford in 1981. The festival is especially held in high regard as a launchpad by up-and-coming directors in the independent film sector.
The last German entry in the World Dramatic Competition was Oskar Röhler's LULU UND JIMI (DE/FR, X Filme Creative Pool) in 2008. In 2007, THE WAVE (DIE WELLE) by Dennis Gansel (Ratpack Filmproduktion, Constantin Film Produktion) and ABSURDISTAN by Veit Helmer (Veit Helmer Filmproduktion) were invited.The films in the other festival sections will be announced by 4th December.
(German Films press release 29 November 2012)
Tuesday, November 20. 2012
April 24–28, 2013 in Munich
Submission deadline: December 15, 2012
Online entries for the International Competition now open at www.kinoderkunst.de.
KINO DER KUNST, a new and worldwide unique combination of film festival and art exhibition, will hold its first edition from April 24 to 28, 2013. Movie theatres and museums all over Munich will present an International Competition, retrospectives, special focuses, talks and multi-channel installations. KINO DER KUNST investigates the relationship between visual art and cinema, the programmatic focus being the current approach of filming artists to fiction and narration.
We invite visual artists from all over the world to submit their recent works to the International Competition. All entries must reveal an innovative approach to the various narrative forms of cinema on a high technical level. They must have been produced after January 1, 2011. An international jury featuring, among others, New York artist Cindy Sherman, artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien from London and Jean de Loisy, director of Palais de Tokyo in Paris, will award two main prizes totalling 20,000 USD.
Single-channel works of any length or format, made by visual artists, are accepted. All films are to be submitted online, and exclusively online. After entering your data (address, film title, credits, director’s biography, synopsis, technical details) you receive a registration number which you need to send, along with a DVD, to the indicated Munich address of KINO DER KUNST.
KINO DER KUNST is partnered with the Bavarian State Ministry of Sciences, Research and the Arts, the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Allianz Cultural Foundation, BMW and the Goetz Collection, in collaboration with the University of Television and Film Munich, the Academy of Fine Arts, Pinakothek der Moderne / Schaustelle, Museum Brandhorst and ARRI.
KINO DER KUNST represented by EIKON Süd GmbH
Birkerstrasse 22, D-80636 München, T +49 (0) 89 130 14 30 10
email@example.com / www.kinoderkunst.de
Artistic director: Heinz Peter Schwerfel; Managing director: Dr. Ernst Ludwig Ganzert
Wednesday, November 7. 2012
Jutta Brendemühl: I often notice cultural affinities between Germany and India: strong romantic traditions, Brechtian techniques, stark drama... How did this early 20th century connection between Mumbai and Berlin's vibrant UfA Studios come about?
Meenakshi Shedde: There are rich, fascinating cinematic links between the German and Indian cinemas over a century. In "Indian Expressionism", I explore the Indian fantasies of German cinema as with UFA's The Indian Tomb/The Tiger of Eschnapur directed by Joe May of 1921, as well as Fritz Lang's The Tiger of Eschnapur/The Indian Tomb of 1959. I explore active Indo-German coproductions including Light of Asia, directed by German director Franz Osten, produced by Himansu Rai of Indian Players, a coproduction between Great Eastern Films of India and Emelka Films of Munich in 1925. I also examine the influence of German cinema, particularly German Expressionism, on Indian cinema, through films like Kamal Amrohi's Mahal in Hindi, an atmospheric noir reincarnation love story shot by German cinematographer Josef Wirsching.
In the 1920s German cinema saw itself as a major competitior to Hollywood, with the UFA Studios at the heart of this. Their strategy was to look for stories with epic themes and spectacle, that's how the Oriental fantasies set in India came about. Joe May's film was one of the biggest successes of UFA's silent films of the Weimar era. Later with Light of Asia, the Germans were able to do what Hollywood couldn't or wouldn't: have active creative and financial collaborations with India, whereas most Hollywood studios rarely ventured out of their backlots when creating visions of faraway lands.
Himansu Rai, who produced Light of Asia, went to Germany to study sound technology when they were shooting The Blue Angel. He was very influenced by German cinema, its meticulously lit mise-en-scene, expressionistic performances, and he absorbed it into the style of his Bombay Talkies, a big studio he set up in Bombay in 1934. Franz Osten and his technical crew became part of Rai's Bombay Talkies, and Osten directed 14 films in Hindi that were very popular.
I am fascinated by that fact that in the silent era of the 1920s, Indo-German international coproductions had a genuinely wide international audience throughout Europe, including Germany, UK, East Europe, even Japan, whereas today‘s Indian films are rarely theatrically released overseas beyond the “NRI” non-resident Indian market ((editor’s note: Indian citizens abroad)). So they had achieved more globally in the 1920s than we have in 2012. That's why I'm looking backwards to look forwards--to seek pointers to the future.
JB: One of the highlights in your program is Sternberg's raunchy 1930 Blue Angel with the about-to-become-superstar Marlene Dietrich and Oscar winner Emil Jannings-- and the 70s Indianized dance remake. Tell us a bit about that duality.
MS: I wouldnt call Sternberg's The Blue Angel raunchy at all--raunchy by German standards perhaps, but it's pretty "pheeka" (mild) by Indian standards--like teabag tea rather than masala chai! V. Shantaram, a magnificent director, social reformer in film and technical pioneer --he won the Berlin Film Festival's Silver Bear for Two Eyes Twelve Hands around 1958-- had gone to Germany to print India's first colour film Sairandhri in 1933. He had made lumbering religious mythological films till then, but after his German visit, both his style and content changed significantly. He remade Sternberg's The Blue Angel many decades later as Pinjra (Cage), in 1972, a Marathi tamasha dance version of the original. It is much raunchier I would say than The Blue Angel, and the lavani dances are rather sensuous and erotic. But although Shantaram retained the core story of The Blue Angel, he significantly Indianised it, and the cross-cultural resonances make for a fascinating study. The Blue Angel was a bourgeois horror story with an upright professor whose life is progressively debased after he falls in love with a nightclub singer. But in Pinjra, Shantaram consistently valourises the prostitute through religion and literature. He has an erotic ensemble song and dance in a river, with the lyrics referring to Lord Krishna flirting with girls and stealing their clothes while they bathe --so he brings religion to validate the prostitute's viewpoint.
The film is an extremely melodramatic version of Sternberg's version, and very long. I was absolutely delighted that not only did the film have a good audience at TIFF Bell Lightbox, but they stayed back to ask questions and share their admiring views on the film--I was very touched that Shantaram would touch a chord in Canada, decades after he made the film. That clearly establishes that he is a greatly overlooked world class director.
JB: I remember seeing Lang's Tiger of Eschnapur on German TV as a child and it has left a strong visual impression on me to this day. At the time I didn't know that the film was made entirely with Western actors. What attracted the German filmmakers and cinematographers to the Indian aesthetic? Was it merely the now politically incorrect fantasies of exoticism and imperialism of the time, or was there an honest interest in and fascination with Indian aesthetics or traditions somewhere? Franz Osten directed over a dozen Hindi films, as you mentioned.
MS: For Lang, the Tiger of Eschnapur/The Indian Tomb was a kind of last hurrah. Although best known for his German films, including Metropolis, M and others, he had a 20-odd year career in Hollywood after escaping the Nazis. He returned to Germany and this was the second last film he made before he died. He got a big buget and Western cast to shoot the film on location in India. But he had been itching to make this film for nearly 40 years. In 1921, Lang had been assigned to collaborate with Thea von Harbou on her screenplay, and had hoped to direct the epic himself. However, the studios were not confident about his directing abilities given his track record at the time, and Joe May directed the film instead. But the plot stewed in Lang's head, and he finally made it. You see the masterly craftsmanship and mise-en-scene of the film, but I also see it as a full on Gollywood film--a German Bollywood masala film, way back in 1959! It is an explosive cocktail of romance, adventure, action, erotica, exotica, and is hugely entertaining! It is also bloody racist. I don't think Lang meant it to be so, but as an Indian I find it also pretty appalling. Indians are shown to be lusty, vengeful, unreliable skunks, and badly in need of Westerners to save us---from ourselves! There is an outrageous scene with Debra Paget doing a near-naked erotic dance with a snake in a temple, on the orders of "Hindou" priests, meant to test if the common dancer the maharaja wants to marry is Queen-material. The heroine prays to the sculpture of a goddess with enormous boobs and calls her Shiva (a male Indian God), and approvingly calls her a "good goddess" for granting boons. It's like if someone was to call Jesus Christ a "good woman".
Appalling, given that other Western directors were looking at India with more empathy than just a postcard scenery for their fantasies, and Indian directors had accomplished much globally. In 1951 Jean Renoir made The River in India that was much more realistic about India. In 1959 Roberto Rossellini made India: Matri Bhumi in India. 1958 Mehboob Khan's Mother India won an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film, and V. Shantaram won the Silver Bear in Berlin. So it's hard to understand why Lang didn't move beyond the Orientalist exotica of the 1920s. It set the template for later adventure fantasies like the Indiana Jones series, though.
JB: And today? Are there any traces left of this mutual love affair, is there any exchange and cross-pollination going on?
MS: Today the world is looking to India, and particulary her big market with her 1 billion population. The story has sort of come full circle, as the Berlin-Brandenburg Film Commission invested in an Indo-German co-production of Don 2 with Shah Rukh Khan, which showed at the Berlin Film Festival, it is a sign of renewed, but more respectful relationship with India, a little more as equals than saviours.
Jutta Brendemühl: ...Don 2, which was partly shot in Berlin with Shah Rukh, to the delight of his many fans there, among other things with the megastar suspended from the Park Inn Hotel on Alexanderplatz, which the staff wouldn't stop telling me about...
JB: Which film is the sleeper hit of the series?
MS: Fritz Lang's The Tiger of Eschnapur/The Indian Tomb is wildly entertaining, but Kamal Amrohi's Mahal (Palace in Hindi), a gorgeously shot atmospheric reincarnation love story shot by Josef Wirsching for Bombay Talkies, is a marvellous film.
JB: What is your next engagement with Germany and German film?
MS: I've been India Consultant for the Berlin Film Festival for nearly 15 years now. It is a privilege to work with such professionals with such a genuine interest and empathy for Indian cinema: for nearly 15 years their Indian programmer Dorothee Wenner has been coming to India every year to seek out the best films. Indian filmmakers have got a great platform at the Berlinale, for features, documentaries and shorts.
Meenakshi Shedde is an independent film curator, critic, director and journalist as well as India Consultant to the Berlin and Dubai Film Festivals. Winner of the National Award for Best Film Critic, she has been on numerous international juries on almost every continent, including the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Jury at Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Oberhausen Film Festivals, as well as the NETPAC Asian Jury of the Berlin Film Festival and Up-and-Coming International Film Festival Hannover, Germany. She has directed the short film Looking for Amitabh and line-produced five documentaries for Arte/independent directors worldwide shot in India, including Uli Gaulke’s German documentary Comrades in Dreams (Leinwandfieber, Arte). Meenakshi studied German at the Goethe-Institut Mannheim.
P.S. Just announced: India will be the guest country at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, coincidíng with Indian cinema's 100th anniversary celebration.
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
The film is remarkable and different in a myriad of ways: The protagonist's tumor actually becomes a character; the impressive child actors master really challenging scenes-- the small son helplessly asking his dying father: "Dad, can I have your iPhone when you're dead?". Are we allowed to laugh? Dresen would certainly say so...
The filmmaker & his audience
If you are hesitating to see it --I put watching it off for months--, consider this. In an interview with Die Welt newspaper, Dresen was challenged whether he wasn't worried about losing his audience. "I cannot count that out. But I wouldn't want to change my films on account of that. Of course I want to reach my viewers. But this time, I just cannot build bridges, make the film more mellow. I cannot lie. The story we tell is a tough one, one about fate and saying goodbye. None of us loves facing these things. And here we have this family that fights their fate, just like we all would try. They lose in the very end. But they lose that fight with a dignity that hopefully instills in the viewer a respect, even admiration." The journalist continues: "The viewer fights as well." Dresen: "Absolutely. The viewer has to make it through this fight. But I think, when have walked that path, you might come out the other end with a different attitude to life."
The same is true for Dresen, who was deeply impacted by his (non-autobiographical) film. "I am now trying to experience beautiful moments more intensely. Because I don't know whether I am at half time or beyond. One can resist this urge for speed that we are constantly barraged with these days," he told Spiegel magazine last year. "If I learned one thing from this film, it is this: To allow crying and pain is not a bad thing." (Welt)
Improvisation & Authenticity
Stopped on Track didn’t have a script in the classic sense (a bit of a trend in German film recently, see our last screening of Wangard's Crash Course and others). The dialogues were completely improvised by the actors. Dresen researched for a few months, interviewed supporters of the hospice movement as well as doctors and the bereaved: "We recorded each interview, compiling a database which we discussed with the actors and the team. That’s how we created the characters and developed a schedule of scenes, outlining the situations in the film. That was the basis for the work on the set, when we developed the actual scenes while shooting."
All medical staff in the film are real, not actors. The doctor at the beginning, who gives the couple the diagnosis that there is no hope of recovery, is a medical doctor. These doctors and nurses added their own experiences into the story. "For the actors, as well as for me, that was a big challenge and a big help," says the director. In the Welt interview he talked about one of them: "The woman who 'cares' for our dying Frank is indeed a palliative medical professional. Petra cares for 50 people in Berlin at any given time. Once, after an especially exhausting night of filming, she received a call that one of her patients had just died. She told us she had to go and see his family right away. I often thought of her as an angel."
“Dresen’s best film so far.” Die Welt
“Dresen has created a film that hurts deeply, but at the same time feels good too. It is the best and the most touching German film of the year.” Deutsche Welle
“Over and over the audience is carried away by the incredible performance of the actors, the stunning images and the profound truth of the film.” N-TV
“An emotional power as we haven't seen it on the big screen in a long time … portraying the prisoner of an incurable disease, Milan Peschel proves to be one of the most intense and most courageous performers of his generation.” Spiegel Online
“The film does not gloss over the matter; neither does it try to make things look any worse than they are. Everyone, sooner or later, has to deal with the subject of life and death.” Newslichter
“An honest, heartbreaking film. Dresen managed to make a film about death which draws attention to the joy of being alive”. ZDF Aspekte
Personally, I am grateful I saw the film and will see it again November 15, 8.30pm, at our Royal Cinema screening.
Admission is free on a first come, first served basis. Tickets go fast (every German screening over the past years has 'sold out') and distribution will begin one hour before the screening!
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Tuesday, November 6. 2012
The year was 1985. No fall of the Wall in sight, thus the reference to Schroeter as a "West German" filmmaker. Arguably, he still is one of "the key German filmmakers of the past decades" as the standing ovations he received at his touching last Berlinale appearance before his death prove.
I felt like a forensic accountant going through 50 years of our Goethe-Institut files to come across these documents, just as we were getting ready for this (I will admit it: also slightly daunting) new retrospective starting at TIFF tomorrow. What catches the eye first when looking at the programs, 24 years apart: Both were/are programmed by James Quandt, now Senior Programmer at TIFF Cinematheque. A must-read if you do want to understand the contradictory and controversial particles that make Schroeter's world: James' brilliant, all-encompassing Artforum essay on Schroeter's oeuvre, also abridged in the current TIFF 180⁰ Guide.
Of course the 2012 retro includes many films Schroeter produced after ‘88 -- but also a number of the early films that were left out back then and which you can catch up on now: Salome (1971), Neurasia (1969), Der Bomberpilot (1970), Winter Journey (1980), Flocons d’or (1976), Argila (1969), The Laughing Star (1983) are all in the line-up at the Lightbox. The only film missing that was in the first Toronto retro and not the current one: The sharp-edged 1982 Lovers Council (or The Council of Love), starring his muse Magdalena Montezuma. (I will ask James about his choice when I see him.)
1988, by the way, was not the first time the Goethe-Institut introduced Canadian audiences to the celebrated-but-often-overlooked New German Cinema master. As we are looking at old images, see the joint Ontario Film Centre & Goethe press release for the Toronto screening of Willow Springs in 1980 below.
Fast forward 32 years and ....
The TIFF, in association with the Munich Film Museum and the Goethe-Institut, presents Magnificent Obsession, the most comprehensive retrospective ever assembled in Canada of the German film, theatre, and opera director Werner Schroeter (1945–2010).
Starting with the The (magnificent & lush) Rose King.
WE HAVE 2 PAIRS OF TICKETS TO GIVE AWAY, 1 pair for Malina (Friday Nov 9) and 1 pair for Palermo or Wolfsburg (Monday Nov 12). To enter, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at the TIFF Bell Lightbox!
P.S. If you have to miss or want to re-view any of his mesmerizing pieces in this series: We have Eika Katappa, The Death of Maria Malibran and Palermo or Wolfsburg in our Goethe-Institut Film Archive and Library.
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
"Crash Course relates to the impact the banking crisis has on everyday people. Equally realistic and humorous, the film shows how people who have lived their lives practically non-politically begin to question their blind faith in the system´s justice after losing their own safety. And it is due to the marvellous acting by Monika Lennartz that one fully believes her character´s development. Resistance rarely has been so middle-class and yet so likable."
Young filmmaker Anika Wangard explains how her first feature film, made at German hothouse film academy DFFB, came about:
"Crash Course can be seen as an outcome of what has shaken us the last couple of years: a boundless globalisation and a heartless turbo-capitalism. In researching for the film, I spoke to several protesters who make demands on their losses in public every week to this day. The crash after the Lehman bankruptcy has taken away from them not only their savings but also their future and their dreams.
My interviewees told me about how difficult and stressful it was to overcome the feelings of guilt and shame and get organised and never having the law on your side. I wanted the film to be emotional, earnest and cheerful at the same time.
An important factor in talking about Crash Course is its rapid genesis. It took only seven months between the first draft and the principle shooting. It was a conceptional decision to involve the actors in the development of the script. Through discussions, improvisations and rehearsals, we could work on the characters, their relationships and their developments."
We have 2 pairs of tickets to give away to our screening on November 7. To enter, please email us at email@example.com. (Only the winners will be notified.) Good luck!
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Friday, November 2. 2012
“Crossing lines is why cinema was invented,” Gravity actor Jürgen Vogel once said on Arte TV. Vogel is one of my favourite actors, for many reasons, not least his authenticity and rough charm. Which he proved again at the last Berlinale in Mercy, and also surrounded by fans as he was trying to have breakfast at Canadian-run hipster café Barcomi’s in Berlin-Mitte the day after his festival premiere. He gave the performance of a lifetime in the much talked about 2006 drama The Free Will, for which he deservedly won a Silver Bear for his "exceptional artistic merit as an actor."
In a chat with Planet Interview when Gravity –-the second feature in our series Culture+Economy, Nov 6-- came out, Vogel spoke to the rapport he felt with young director Maximilian Erlenwein: “I never had the feeling that I was actually working with someone at the very beginning of his career; Maximilian just filled the room with so much enthusiasm -- as you get when somebody is doing something for the very first time in their life. "
Gravity mashes up thriller, comedy, drama, love story, social satire and character study. What could end up a muddle unfolds smartly and engagingly, also due to Vogel, who remarked that “I like it when people aim high and want to make it to the top. When the pace picks up, and the audience is still laughing.”
Erlenwein was awarded the Max Ophüls Prize for this debut, with the jury comparing his work to the Coen brothers (other critics have referenced Tarantino). Amid all the fast-paced action, what drives the film's suspense is both protagonists' yearning for a more intense, meaningful life: “With great talent, stylistic sense and a taste of laconic humour, the director mixes the pleasures of a gangster film with motives of the film d'auteur. Gravity always keeps the balance between light and heavy themes, genre content and existential drama. Again and again the audience is surprised – Gravity proves that high filmic expectations and enjoyment can go hand in hand.” (Artechock)
We have 2 pairs of tickets to give away to this screening. To enter, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Only the winners will be notified. Good luck! (& check back here Monday to win tickets to our series finale, Crash Course!)
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Wednesday, October 31. 2012
We're lucky here in Toronto. I would have travelled to New York or Chicago or Boston or Washington to see the seminal Werner Schroeter retrospective "Magnificent Obsession" --the title captures a lot of Schroeter's spirit-- but won't have to: TIFF Cinematheque together with the Goethe-Institut and Filmmuseum München are showing over a dozen of the New German Cinema master's lush and provocative works November 8-December 9, 2012.
I took the occasion to interview German film historian Stefan Drößler, who is the head of the Munich Film Museum and the man with whom the idea for a Schroeter retro began:
Jutta Brendemühl: Stefan Drößler, you were instrumental in curating this very comprehensive show. Briefly describe how the idea for a Werner Schroeter retro formed and how the international partners came together.
Stefan Drößler: In 1999, I met Werner Schroeter for the first time. We talked about the difficulties to show his films because of legal problems or missing negatives. At this time, nobody was able to do a complete retrospective. It needed several years of research, rights clearances, looking for funding and meticulous restoration work until all the films became available. Fortunately the Goethe-Institutes are committed and industrious, and so the Schroeter films are traveling around the world. We started in December 2010 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
JB: Werner Schroeter died 2 years ago, you started the curation as he was terminally ill. Is it too soon for a look back?
SD: I regret very much that Werner died before all of his films were restored. A few months before he died he came to Munich and viewed the first digital restorations. It was a very moving moment when he saw his early films again, which he hadn't seen for decades. Schroeter had a lot of reservations against digital technology but he changed his mind when he realized that now for the first time it was possible to save all the visual beauty of his 8mm and 16mm originals. The digital copies are much superior to the duplication prints, but they keep the film character. He would have loved to attend the retrospectives. In my opinion, it is not too soon but rather too late.
JB: How would you describe the appeal and importance of Werner Schroeter today, especially to North American filmmakers and audiences?
SD: Werner Schroeter is one of the key figures of the New German Cinema. But he is also one of the least known because he refused to follow narrative conventions. Most of his films were financed by German television and didn't get theatrical distribution. Schroeter's work is very unique and highly groundbreaking, its influence on filmmakers like Syberberg, Ottinger, Fassbinder, Herzog and Achternbusch is obvious. Schroeter's films are visual and acoustic experiences which are very difficult to describe, timeless pieces of art which don't age. In September there was a big Schroeter conference at the Goethe-Institut Boston and Boston University. It showed the complexity of Schroeter's work with all the references to literature, music, philosophy, theater, opera, history, media, avantgarde, performing and fine arts. It was not the first Schroeter conference, and I am convinced that there will be many more in the future.
JB: If you could watch only one Schroeter film from this retro again, which one would it be and why? And which work of his would you have loved to add?
SD: Many critics claim PALERMO ODER WOLFSBURG or DER ROSENKÖNIG or MALINA. I prefer his early films which are more radical, playful, experimental. The beautiful double projection ARGILA, DER BOMBERPILOT with his superstars Magdalena Montezuma, Carla Aulaula and Mascha Rabben, the improvised American melodrama WILLOW SPRINGS, the beautiful episode movie FLOCONS D'OR and the Italian chronicle NEL REGNO DI NAPOLI are my favorites. And I love Werner's documentaries, very personal essays about artists, politics and society. The program at the Toronto Cinematheque includes most of Werner's films; I miss only his early 8mm films, which show so well how he discovered film and explored the medium.
Luckily, we won't have to choose one film. Go see the entire retro and immerse yourself in the strange and beautiful world of Werner Schroeter. If you need an intro, start with his cinematographer's documentray Mondo Lux, which premiered at the Berlinale two years ago (at TIFF November 11).
More here next week on the retrospective's programming...
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Monday, October 29. 2012
In case you do not trust the programmer to invite you to Christoph Hochhäusler's The City Below tomorrow night, take the word of the international critics, who raved about the film when it showed at Cannes two years ago (or take the film still as a teaser):
"The last Tango in Frankfurt … financial thriller, love affair, the portrait of a city: Hochhäusler offers all of these topics and merges the narratives skillfully. Rarely has Frankfurt, a city between megalomania and neglect, been captured so incisively. The real art, however, is the staging of a love affair in this rather cool story that evokes The last Tango of Paris. The City Below subtly develops a strong pull that intensifies until the very last scene." (Die Zeit online)
"A film that hurts, an extraordinary and impressing piece, beautifully staged. It is like listening to a symphony of the great city in which the protagonists get completely lost." (Cahiers du Cinéma)
"The power of the film does not only come from the narration of this passionate but devastating love affair. Hochhäusler creates his scenario between power and reality. It is this setting and the precise description of the situations and spaces that prompt references to Hitchcock’s later works." (Le Monde)
"The tension is palpable: It is the tension of a boundlessly rich world on the brink of total disaster." (Télèrama)
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Wednesday, October 24. 2012
We've talked a lot about the financial universe reflected in The City Below and the other films in our series Culture+Economy. But at the end of the day, all three features and the short we're showing you are about human interaction and surprising relationships. As one critic remarked: “The City Below merges banking crisis and romantic drama into a brilliant atmospheric masterpiece."
Hochhäusler describes how power affects love in his story: "The film is inspired by the biblical story of David and Bathsheba in its basic outline, but with a capitalist aspect. Someone uses his power for his love and at the same time destroys his love with it. This is what I found interesting: How power affects the longing for what we call love. Power transcends (or corrupts) ideology, beliefs, bonds. Power is all about action. Not unlike children destroying sand castles."
The cinematic and human drama is created in the longing for the opposite: "Roland is part of corporate aristocracy, and he married into old money for a reason. His whole life is dedicated to the game and its rules. He loves deals and deals love him. Svenja’s game is life. She could not care less for the game of big finance. There is this famous phrase by artist Maurizio Nannucci: 'You can imagine the opposite.' For me, it means that the opposite follows us, like a shadow, like a nihilistic desire to break up with the comfort we have surrounded us with. We want to get real, to wake up. It’s a confrontational thing. We have the hope to be awakened by someone, an opposite force. This is perhaps the heart of the film. It’s really about losing touch with reality, and about the counter reaction, attaining reality in love, in the body."
That this contradictory relationship works so brilliantly on screen is not just due to Hochhäusler's precise direction and DOP Bernhard Keller's luminous capture of a passionate affair, but mainly the intense chemistry and power play between the two disparate protagonists as portrayed by two fine actors.
Robert Hunger-Bühler is the quintessential (theatre) character actor and perfect as the in-control financier. After attending Schauspielakademie Zürich and studying Theatre and Philosophy in Vienna, he has been working as an actor and director at Volksbühne Berlin, Brecht's Berliner Ensemble and the Burgtheater Wien to name a few. He has collaborated with Germany's master stage directors from Frank Castorf to Claus Peymann, Peter Zadek to Christoph Marthaler. In Peter Stein’s legendary production of “Faust”, Hunger-Bühler played the role of Mephisto.
Nicolette Krebitz, born in Berlin in 1972, has been in front of the camera since the age of ten. She is well-known from film, TV and theatre (and had her own band). By the age of 25, she had received her second Adolf Grimme Award, a Golden Record, the Bavarian Film Award and her second Golden Camera. Apart from her work as an actress, Krebitz has produced and directed her own films. Her short THE UNFINISHED was part of the compilation GERMANY 09 that premiered at the Berlinale.
The film stills (above and below) give you an idea of what kind of emotional tour de force you --and Roland and Svenja-- are in for.
Tuesday, October 30 6:30 pm
The City Below (Unter dir die Stadt), dir. C. Hochhäusler, D 2010, 35mm
Cannes 2010 Un Certain Regard, Toronto premiere
with English subtitles
at TIFF Bell Lightbox, King & John Street
Tickets $10 per night — day-of sales at the TIFF Box Office
Open to audiences 18+
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Starting our new GOETHE FILMS series next Tuesday with the celebrated filmThe City Below, I wanted to set the mood with director Christoph Hochhäusler's insights into the key themes he is tackling with his Cannes entry -- and we are pursuing with this 3-part series on the equically topical as complex interplay of Culture+Economy:
ON THE BANKING WORLD During our screenplay research, we read books on the banking world – and this was long before the crisis. Then we met and interviewed middle and executive bankers, all the way up to the CEO. The biggest surprise was to see how irrationally this “cutting edge of capitalism” functions, how unpredictable it is also for those who are allegedly steering it. The crisis finally seemed almost logical… in terms of a correction of an unreliable narrative, a world of numbers that simply couldn’t care less for reality.
ON FIERCE COMPETITIVENESS At one point, a board member says that Oliver’s CV is "AAA+". That’s what it’s all about: everything is rated and evaluated… Because everyone is working against everyone else, also within their own companies, departments can be systematically provided with one-sided reports, and the result is an unreliable narrative. These are the so-called “meeting report wars”. Competition as a narrative system does not promote the truth, but rather many stories with happy endings. If you project this distortion onto the overall market, and given that accountants and rating agencies fail as correctives because they are hopelessly dependent on the firms they are supposed to evaluate, one can imagine very well how the crisis emerged.
FRANKFURT, where the story is set, also plays a role in the film: money, art, drugs… Frankfurt is Germany’s banking centre, and as a banking location the number two in Europe. And it’s a “global city”, a place just big enough that anything could happen there. Like our story. What I like about this town is contrast. It’s both very small and very international, it tries so hard to be an American city. In many ways, what makes it modern is that it is a fantasy, a simulation. The banking world in the film is basically living and working in glass cases. Transparency always sounds so promising, but in effect, it often only means control. In a glass building, you can no longer hide a short well-deserved office nap. And this control is what triggers the longing for a greedy, dirty life. A major theme in our production design was “reflection”. Glass creates an illusionary effect – because the world seems close, but it is out of reach, out of touch.
ON ART & CULTURE There is a lot of money in Frankfurt – which is why there are a lot of fine art museums and galleries. Culture seems to be not the antidote, but the cover for big business there. The banks want to show off their wealth. At Deutsche Bank, the heavyweight player of German banking, every floor has its distinct art program – the higher you go, the more expensive the art works. You can tell by the artist in your office the level you have reached, career-wise. In Roland’s office in the film, we see works by German artist Günther Förg – the market prices for these paintings equal our production budget. We were able to borrow them thanks to the artist. And all the works of art seen in the film are originals.
THE CRISIS WILL EVENTUALLY ARRIVE ON THE STREETSOne of the reasons investment bankers think of themselves so highly (and so lowly of others) lies in the fact that competition is so fierce that battlefield analogies are somewhat justified. They are warriors, or, to be more precise, merceneries, fully aware of the fact that their actions can kill bonds, companies, countries. What is disturbing are the increasing repercussions on everyday life. A phrase that played a role for the film’s ending was: The crisis will eventually arrive on the streets. This is both a threat and a hope. What is happening does matter, and things have consequences that no one can permanently escape.
Our guest speaker Prof. Dirk Matten of York U's Schulich School of Business will expand on the above ideas and more in his introduction to the film.
We have 2 pairs of tickets to give away to this screening. To enter, please email us at email@example.com. Only the winners will be notified. See you at the movies!
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
“God willing, I will do it.” At a press conference in Berlin this week, German director Werner Herzog surprisingly announced that he will bring to the screen late star producer Bernd Eichinger’s (see photo) unfinished project “Vernon God Little”, based on the debut novel by Australian author DBC Pierre, the 2003 Booker prize winner. The 70-year-old Herzog reflected: “I am working harder than ever before, and without cinema I wouldn’t want to be in the world as much as I do.” Asked about his oeuvre --he was at the Deutsche Kinemathek to celebrate their Herzog collection, which includes an online archive of 600 photos from 42 of his films-- he commented: "The past is unimportant. I am only plowing forward."
Critics call his latest plan a radical undertaking: the filming of a lunatic book that merges massacre, reality-TV and the death penalty (Herzog's main theme over the past few years and documentaries). Set in small town Texas, the story revolves around fifteen-year-old Vernon, a troubled teenager whose friend Jesus commits suicide after having killed sixteen schoolmates. After being pinned as an accomplice and fearing the death penalty, Vernon flees to Mexico. Katja Eichinger, the director’s widow, (see photo) will be on Herzog's production team. Rumoured script writer: British author-director Andrew Birkin.
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto