Happy New Year! You know I really love German cinema. My obsession really peaked over the Christmas holidays when I packed 4 classics in (I've legally downloaded number 5). Herewith Review 1 of 2 featuring the famous Berlin films, Das Leben der Anderen (2006) and Goodbye Lenin (2003)
Das Leben der Anderen (2006)
This film was given to me as a birthday present and is the most poetic cinematically of the German films I’ve seen to date. Watching it encouraged a conversation as to the definition of ‘Arthouse Cinema’ – the conclusions: ‘Arthouse’ often has negative connotations of plotlessness but beauty in the form & cinematography.
DLDA, however, had plenty of plot. It is the story of a young writer/ director in Berlin in the 1980’s and the man who spies on him for the government, their interrelationship and how it changes them both. Both characters go through a gentle but eventually radical development shaped by their circumstances and experiences. I was impressed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's handling of such a recent political issue, avoiding overdramatisation or too bold a line between 'goody' and 'bady'. The story made me think about identity, the role of art in subversion, love and the strength of an individual. Cinematically Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, was quite radical in his casting decisions; choosing Ulrich Mühe to play a Stasi informant when he himself had been monitored in the 1980’s. Life since 1980 has obviously moved on in Berlin, the producers commented that finding a place to film in Berlin, without cars was really difficult.
The brilliance of DLDA was recognised by several awarding bodies, and not kooky ones either! The film made €814,337 in its opening weekend in Germany alone. It secured 7 Lolas (German film awards), was nominated for a Golden Globe and won an Oscar in 2006. Plus did I mention it is beautifully shot.
The English subtitles are plenty good enough.
Good Bye Lenin! (2003)
When I mentioned I was surveying German cinema one comment was recurrent, ‘Watch Good Bye Lenin!’. So I did. I ordered it online and dutifully waited for the disk. It’s a comedy about a young guy, Alex, whose mother is very sensitive to shocks (it seems to send her into a coma) and very devoted to socialism. When Alex gets into political trouble his Mum goes into a coma, whilst she's out of the picture the Berlin wall and all that she stands for falls. When she recovers Alex tries to recreate socialist East Berlin in her bedroom, believing it will save her from death, with hilarious consequences.
Compared to the intricate beauty of DLDA, Good Bye Lenin! is a heavy-footed romp of hilarity. It did make me laugh and I enjoyed the developing romance between the male lead and his mother’s nurse. I thought adding actual footage from the collapse of the wall was also a nice touch and it did bring home what a world changing year 1990 must have been. My ears also pricked up when I heard an identical music sample to that from French film Amelie (turns out the soundtracks share a composer).
Other than that it left me fairly unmoved. Sorry. Luckily for those who do love it I’ve been outvoted; it won 8 Lolas, a César and a Goya, and was even nominated for a BAFTA. Maybe I just let my funny bone at home…
So in conclusion, 2 deservedly good films, for 2 different moods, set in 2 different decades. Take your pick! I'll be back with a review of Miracle of Bern and Barefoot next time!