GCM2017 – All Films

 

FRITZ LANG

17th November at 8:30

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One of the giants of German cinema, Fritz Lang, was a visionary director whose silent films (Metropolis, 1927 etc.), and many subsequent sound films, including M, which is featured in this film, highlight the rich history of German filmmaking. Gordian Maugg, who directed and co-wrote (with Alexander Hauesser) this 2016 narrative, focuses on Lang’s filming of the 1930 film M and his fascination with a real serial killer at the time, Kuerth (Samuel Finzi). The film uses both actual historic information and some fanciful speculation to portray Lang as both a brilliant director, but also fraught with some personal and psychological issues. Heino Ferch is superb as the complex Lang, while the rest of the cast, including Johanna Gastdorf as his wife Thea von Harbou, bring out the dramatic elements of the story. Shot in monochrome, and in 4:3 ratio, the film glistens, especially with the seamless integration of clips from Lang’s films, and other archival footage of Germany in the 1920s. A film that will certainly provoke a great deal of discussion.

DER MÜDE TOD/DESTINY

25th November at 8 pm

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Fritz Lang’s neglected 1921 masterpiece was recently restored by various existing prints around the world, rebuilt by the Munich Film Museum, and then screened successfully at the Berlinale 2016. Literally meaning The Tired Death, the film serves as a striking morality tale about the disappearance of a man and the desperate measures his fiancée takes to save him from death. Death, played by Bernhard Goetzke, leads the man’s fiancée (Lil Dagover) through three exotic located stories in order for her to discover how she can save her lover from the inevitable fate. The stories: Chinese, Persian and Venetian set, are elaborately staged stories with tragedy as their main message. The film is in both monochrome and some tinted scenes, with a Gothic tone, shot at the Babelsberg studios. Both Hitchcock and Bunuel have commented that this film inspired them, and Douglas Fairbanks bought the rights to the film; not to remake it but use the special effects for his film The Thief of Baghdad (1924). This is a rare opportunity to see a rediscovered Lang classic.

EIN DEUTSCHES LEBEN/A GERMAN LIFE

17th November at 6:30 and 21st November at 6 pm

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How would you react if you are caught up in difficult historic or social circumstances; how would you live your life? That is a key question raised by this superb Austrian documentary about 104-year-old (at the time of filming in 2015) Brunhilde Pomsel, who faces the camera and talks candidly about her life in Nazi Germany. Shot in monochrome, and interspersed with some incredible propaganda films and other clips of the period, Pomsel discusses her life as a young girl with a Jewish girlfriend, working for a Jewish radio network producer, her joining the Nazi Party because everyone else was doing it, and in particular, working as secretary to Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels. Her moral compass is called into question, as she states she was not aware of the Concentration Camps, or the fate of her Jewish friends and former employer. She does mention that Sophie Scholl (the White Rose) wasted her life by protesting against Hitler. However, who are we to judge, considering the oblivious nature of her story, and her imprisonment by the Russians to deNazify her. Indeed, the film by Christian Kroenes, Olaf S. Mueller, Roland Schrotthofer and Florian Weigensamer refuses to judge her, allowing audiences to make up their own mind. Interesting to compare her story with Leni Riefenstahl’s similarly reputed denial of supporting Nazism. A compelling film raising many issues.

LOMO: THE LANGUAGE OF MANY OTHERS

22nd November at 8:30 and 25th November at 5 pm

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Winner of the Best Screenplay award for new German Cinema this year at the Munich Film Festival, this film immediately struck me as a cool and relevant insight into young people and the potential damage using social media can create. Karl (rising star Jonas Dassler) is about to graduate from high school. His parents Michael (Peter Jordan, a building contractor) and Krista (Marie-Lou Sellem, a piano teacher) want the best for him, while his twin sister, Anna (Eva Nuremberg) has her own concerns. Meanwhile, Karl has a relationship with a rebellious classmate, Doro (Lucie Hollman). She films their sexual encounter on his phone, which he inadvertently loads onto his blog. Karl, generally breezing his way through life, becomes subject to a social campaign regarding this video, and his followers who encourage him to send it further. The damage this creates spins his, and his family’s, life out of control. How can this be resolved? First-time director and co-writer (with Thomas Gerhold) Julia Langhof has fashioned a salutary tale without the usual fervent melodrama and indeed imbues her direction with a strong visual and tonal style. Issues of power, control and individuality all play a part in this cleverly constructed drama.

BERLIN FALLING

18th November at 8 pm and 24th November at 8:30

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When I spoke with Ken Duken, the co-writer (with Christoph Mille)/director and lead actor of this film at its premiere at the Munich Film Festival, he said he wanted to make a film with terrorist themes unlike other German films of late. He also had no idea that when planning the film, the truck incident at a Berlin market would occur, adding prescience to this startling and nightmarish film. Frank (Duken) has lost direction in his life after serving in Afghanistan and is about to travel to Berlin Hauptbahnhof/Central Station to meet his estranged wife and young daughter. Along the way, he kindly picks up a hitchhiker, Andreas (Tom Wlaschiwa), whose initially benign presence turns into something potentially devastating as Frank discovers Andreas has a bomb in his duffle bag. The journey becomes an incredibly complex series of cat and mouse events, where ultimately many people may die. The riveting dialogue, which introduces notions of culture and nationalism, are well played out between the two in this psychological suspense drama that has surprising revelations along the way, as well as a powerful resolution.

MARINA, MABUSE & MORITURI

18th November at 2 pm and 23rd November at 6 pm

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East German cinema after World War 2 has been well documented and features in a number of documentaries. However, West German cinema has been somewhat ignored, so this new documentary by Kathrin Anderson, is a welcome addition to our understanding of how post-war German entertainment cinema evolved. Artur Brauner, a Polish-Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, decided to establish CCC studios in West Germany after the war in order to provide enjoyable films to a public mourning the devastating war events. Since 1945, Brauner’s studio has produced over 200 films, with his daughter Alice, now looking after the company. Brauner is still available and the film was produced to showcase 70 years of films produced in his studios. Interviews with actors and filmmakers, including Klaus Maria Brandauer, Mario Adorf and Armin-Mueller Stahl illustrate the range of films and genres CCC studios produced. Many clips are shown including: Morituri (1948), Hotel Adlon (1955), Maedchen In Uniform (1958), Tiger of Bengal (1959), Marina (1960), 1,000 Eyes of Dr.Mabuse (1960), Good Soldier Schweik (1960), The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970), Europa Europa (1990), The Last Train (2006), Wunderkinder (2011). This remarkably comprehensive insight into German cinema is a must for film buffs and lovers of German cinema. There will be a panel discussion after each screening comparing East and West German cinema after World War 2.

DIE HAENDE MEINE MUTTER/HANDS OF A MOTHER

19th November at 5 pm and 23rd November at 8:30

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Markus (Andreas Doehler) is an engineer whose life seems comfortable. Together with his wife Monika (Jessica Schwarz) they attend a family gathering, where it slowly dawns on him that he was abused as a child. He seeks therapeutic assistance from a therapist (Ursula Werner) and others, but the memories become too powerful for him. Eventually, he confronts his mother Renate (Katrin Pollitt). This film is a haunting drama about repressed memories, child abuse, and the notion that an abusive perpetrator may not be male, which is the usual assumption. Doehler received the Best Actor award at the 2016 Munich Film Festival new German Cinema awards, and he is remarkable in this complex role. The writer/director Florian Eichinger has fashioned a story that delves deeply into family secrets, and the issue of remembering past events when least expected. There are no easy answers in this compelling film, but certainly, a great deal to ponder in the minefield of abuse.

DIE WELT DER WUNDERLICHS/THE WUNDERLICH FAMILY

18th November at 5 pm and 24th November at 6 pm

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Audiences will remember the amusing religious based comedy of 2004, Alles Auf Zucker/Go for Zucker, written and directed by Dani Levy, a notable German Jewish filmmaker. He has now completed his latest film which premiered to much acclaim at the Munich FF in 2016. A German/Swiss co-production, the film centres on Mimi (Katharina Schuettler), an ex-singer whose dysfunctional family causes her lots of grief. There is her gambling addicted father Walter (Peter Simonischek), her ADD afflicted son Felix (Ernst Wilhelm Rodriguez), her flighty sister Manuela (Christiane Paul) and her bitter alcoholic mother Liliane (Hannelore Elsner). When Mimi is given the opportunity to resurrect her singing career by appearing on a The Voice style talent show in Zurich, she jumps at the chance, no matter the impact on her family. Levy is very adept at screwball comedy, and this film is a delight from start to finish. Her encounters with chaotic ex-partner Johnny (Martin Feifel) and songwriter Nico (Steffen Groth) lead to a race against time to appear on television. There are echoes of Little Miss Sunshine (2006), as the film hurtles toward an amusing climax. A very enjoyable comedy about family relationships and living your dreams, which will have very wide appeal.

AXOLOTL OVERKILL

20th November at 8:30 and 25th November at 2 pm

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Based on a popular novel (Axolotl Overkill), the author Helen Hegemann has adapted her novel and directed this film version of her teenage orientated story. Mifti (Jasna Fritzi Bauer) is a 16-year-old girl who is recovering from the death of her mother. She lives with some half siblings and a drug-affected woman while visiting her rich father from time to time. We learn that Mifti is on medication to control her bi-polar psychological situation, so she experiences the world in a combination of reality and fantasy, through sexual encounters and confrontational dialogue. The Mexican axolotl in the title provides an intriguing visual metaphor for the notion of shedding your skin and regenerating no matter the external circumstances. Hegemann directs the film in a stylish and challenging manner, making the audience work to understand Mifti and where she is travelling in her life. The Berlin nightclub scene is a critical component in the story, as is the encounter with a penguin! The non-linear screenplay provides us with a filmmaking approach that immediately identifies this film as a pulsating piece of art. As a debut film, Hegemann’s direction is assured, and the film’s popularity in Germany was incredible to witness. The film played at MIFF, so it is great that we can screen this provocative film.

KUNDSCHAFTER DES FRIEDENS/SCOUT OF PEACE

19th November at 2 pm and 22nd November at 6 pm

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This delightful spy spoof was extremely popular when released in Germany, and served as a reminder to contemporary audiences about the way spy agencies in East and West Germany operated after World War 2. Set in 2015, Jochen (Henry Huebchen) is a former GDR spy who is called back into active service to rescue the kidnapped president of the (fictional) country of Katschekistan. He recruits two former Stasi agents: Jaecki (Michael Gwisdek) and Harry (Winfried Glatzeder, of The Legend of Paul and Paula 1973, an ironically amusing piece of casting) to assist him in his mission. They also involve a young female agent Paula (Antje Traue) to assist with their endeavours. The instigator of this mission is Franz (veteran actor Juergen Prochnow, of Das Boot 1981) who is part of the BND (Federal Intelligence Police, established in 1956). Fans of James Bond and Austin Powers films (talk about extremes of spying!) will revel in this witty and somewhat political tongue-in-cheek film directed and co-written (with Oliver Ziegenbalg) by noted filmmaker Robert Thalheim (Am Ende Kommen Touristen/And Along Came Tourists 2007). Thalheim uses 70s retro style spy film genre approaches to great effect, including the use of split screen and a jaunty music score. A very entertaining piece of cinema.

WILLKOMMEN BEI DEN HARTMANNS/WELCOME TO GERMANY

20th November at 6 pm and 21st November at 8:30

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A hugely popular film in Germany, this gently directed comedy about a middle-class family in Munich taking in an African refugee, says a great deal about contemporary attitudes to immigrants in Germany. Written and directed by Simon Verhoeven, the film features Anjelika, the open-minded mother of the family (Senta Berger), her husband doctor Richard (Heiner Lauterbach), her daughter Sofie (Palina Rojinski) and her son Philipp also a doctor (Florian David Fitz). After some discussion about doing the right thing to help refugees, they eventually take in one from Nigeria, named Diallo (Eric Kabongo). This leads to a wide range of hostilities both within the family and especially externally, as protests and spying occur to undermine Diallo’s place in the house (and of course in Germany). In the mix in terms of dialogue on this refugee’s place in the family and in the country, are two other doctors, Sascha (Uwe Ochsenknecht) and Tarek (Elyas M’Barek, of the F*ck Ju Goethe/Suck Me Shakespeer films). The film builds up quite a head of steam as competing loyalties, beliefs and attitudes emerge, reflecting the current political issues in Europa and Germany on the status of refugees and the terrorism issues hovering in the background. What will happen to Diallo? A very enjoyable film with some cogent messages for all of us.

All films with English subtitles, introduction and space for discussion after the screening.