a complex culture in film

the 2008 festival of german films

Head Under Water

Head Under Water

AS THE GERMAN FILM INDUSTRY GROWS AND PROSPERS, THE GOETHE INSTITUT’S ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF GERMAN FILM ALLOWS CINEFILES TO KEEP TRACK OF THEMES (NOT A FEW OF THEM RECURRENT), TRENDS AND THE DEVELOPING VISIONS OF KEY FILMMAKERS. THE FESTIVAL REPORTS THAT “IN 1997 GERMANY PRODUCED 61 FEATURE FILMS, 14 OF WHICH WERE CO-PRODUCTIONS. TEN YEARS ON AND THE COUNTRY’S CINEMATIC OUTPUT HAS DOUBLED, WITH 122 FILMS BEING SHOT IN 2007, INCLUDING 46 CO-PRODUCTIONS.” THERE ARE 22 NEW FILMS IN THE 2008 FESTIVAL.

Director and novelist Doris Dörrie, who has been making confronting films since 1983, is represented by two works. In the acclaimed Hanami (2008), a man with a terminal illness suffers the sudden death of his wife and journeys to Tokyo where the cherry blossom festival provides final solace. In her 2002 feature Naked, Dorrie has two married couples play a game in which, blindfolded, they see if they can each pick their partner’s naked body: the consquences are unexpected.

Miguel Alexandre’s Border of Despair furthers the ongoing analysis of East German life under the Stasi as witnessed in last year’s controversial The Lives of Others, focusing here on a mother and her children attempting to flee to Romania. The World War II fate of Germany’s Jewish population is returned to in the Academy Award winning The Counterfeiters [director Stefan Ruzowitzky], in which Jewish prisoners are forced into currency counterfeiting. In The Edge of Heaven, German-Turkish writer-director Fatih Akin uses a pair of mature parent-child relationships to explore deeply rooted cross-cultural tensions in which prostitution and lesbianism clash with conservative norms.

Kafka High is the setting for Andreas Kleinert’s Head Under Water, something more than a black comedy about murder in a village school. Also on the teenage front, in Volker Einrauch’s The Other Boy, domineering parents and a school bully trigger unexpected behaviour from an introverted child—the result apparently divides audiences—just what you want in a good festival. Dennis Gansel’s The Wave is based on a true story from the US in 1981, transfered here to contemporary Germany, in which a school teacher created ‘a learning experience’ in fascism. It went terribly wrong, suggesting the ease with which the ideology can manifest itself.

The advance word on these films is good, promising a stimulating festival. Festival guests include leading German actor Jürgen Vogel, who appears in six of the festival’s films, emerging director Martin Gypkens (Nothing But Ghosts, one of the festival films), and leading German film writer and reviewer, Anke Zindler. RT

2008 Audi Festival of German Film, April 16-26, www.goethe.de/australia

RealTime issue #84 April-May 2008 pg. 26

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1 April 2008