Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recent German Cinema

A spotlight on German Cinema featuring 5 very different films listed in order of preference:

Everyone Else (2009, director Maren Ade)

A fascinating look at how professional competition (architecture in the film's case) can put an already fragile relationship under more stress. The film has a slow start and at first it is not clear what the issues in the relationship are but gradually as we get to see more of the couple's behaviour, the problems become clearer and the film catches fire. Although it is not an open inferno but a slow burn which eventually leads to an implosion and not an explosion. It is credit to Maren Ade that the film does not resort to melodrama but instead lets the body language of the actors do most of the talking. The rawness and honesty of the couple’s relationship is unlike anything seen on film in the last decade.

Lulu & Jimi (2009, director Oskar Roehler)

A smartly developed film which perfectly combines a 1950's style forbidden racial love story with elements of Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet, The Tempest, Othello) and David Lynch (Wild at Heart). The visuals are striking and oscillate beautifully from a dreamy feel to a nightmarish vision. It is a real delight to watch this film and pick out all the cinematic influences that are integrated in the story while still enjoying the refreshing and unique work.

Peaceful Times (2008, director Neele Vollmar)
Original Title: Friedliche Zeiten

A delightful light hearted German film about a fragile marriage shown through the eyes of the couple's three children, with the story focussing more on the dynamic between the two sisters while their younger brother is kept on the fringes. The performances of the children is excellent and their characters lend a cute touch to the film and manage to brighten the atmosphere despite the serious topics of divorce, infidelity and East-West German suspicions/tensions. The film is set in the 60's and forms a nice pairing with Lulu and Jimi as both are German films heavy with American pop culture influence from the 50's and 60's.

note: The humour and setting of Peaceful Times along with the story's focus on children is reminiscent of last year's enjoyable Canadian film Mommy is at the hairdresser (original title Maman est chez le coiffeur, directed by Léa Pool).

November Child (2008, director Christian Schwochow)

An engaging multi-layered story that looks at the consequences that arise from a woman's decision to cross the East-West German border. An interesting angle explored by the film involves how a professor seeks to profit by writing a book about someone else's troubled past. In order to complete his book, the professor decides to align himself closely with his subject, while observing the subject's emotional reactions at the pieces of evidence and research that he gives out in small chunks. Also, the film features a wonderful performance from Anna Maria Mühe daughter of the late Ulrich Mühe (The Lives of Others).

Variety's review.

10 seconds (2008, director Nicolai Rohde)

The wonderful 1999 Mike Newell film Pushing Tin shed a light on the stressful job of an air traffic controller. For an air traffic controller, the planes may only appear as tiny dots on a screen but each of those dots means hundreds of lives and an incorrect decision could lead to horrific consequences. 10 Seconds bases its story on a real life tragedy that resulted from a mid-air collision; the event also had dire consequences for the air traffic controller on duty at the time of the collision.

The film's story features multiple characters who are all tied to the night of the collision -- the air traffic controller who is an emotional wreck after the incident, his wife who handles the stress in her own way, a policeman on duty at the crash site and a man who is haunted by the loss of his wife and child who were on the plane. The film has slick production values but unfortunately fails to properly bring all the different elements together with the right amount of emotional depth that is required.

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