Friday, February 14, 2014

Le beau danger, by René Frölke, Germany: 2014-Forum, Berlin Filmfestival 2014-VIII.

It is a portrait of the Romanian writer Norman Manea. All what you learn about him, his biography, especially his deportation to a concentration camp with his family in early childhood, and his work, you learn in fragments. All what you read in the synopsis of the catalog, you experience the film like the reporter in Citizen Kane who makes researches about Charles Foster Kane´s life. The often discussed subject how to bring life and work of an artist together is not really answered, but the film offers intelligent and inspiring reflections.

In a big part of the film you have to read. The written words black on white, sometimes for some minutes you do not see anything else. You do exactly the same the filmmaker had to do preparing his film. In a way you are not a spectator of a finished film but a participant or at least a witness of a creative process. If the film is finished it has to be edited again in our own memory. One may be a bit confused just after the screening. But do not worry - the film will work in your head, or better – it really begins to affect you after the screening.There are things in life for what we have images and no words and things we have words but not images. There are long written texts in this film which evoke images and there are fragmental visual scenes which form in our mind words. There is the work of Norman Manea which is first of all the written (not spoken and not illustrated) word. One of the most impressing moments is as simple but also as sophisticated like moments from a film by Ozu. Norman Manea at the graves of his family in Romania and the Ukraine. There is the knowledge that we approach fragment by fragment , the idea of a whole human life traumatized by concentration camp and exile. But there is also often the inconceivability of a complex human fate. The moment we see Norman Manea at the graves, he seems to be very alone with his personal loss.
Like Yasujiro Ozu said: “We can talk endlessly about banalities. If it gets serious we fall silent.”

During the screening I had a strange Déjà-vu. After every moment in which you do not see anything else than written text (excerpts from stories by Norman Manea), some people left the theatre. I was reminded in this screening of Hou Hsiao Hsien´s Hsimeng Rensheng (The Pauppetmaster) 1993 at the World film festival in Montreal. Hou´s film was also a bio pic combined with staged scenes from the life of a famous puppet player and the documentary element of interviews with the real and very old puppeteer Lie Tien Luk. Some sequences were several minutes long and mostly filmed in static shots. During every shot which lasts longer than 1 minute, some people left the theater.
Patience is not always a burden. It is sometimes a long way you have to go but it is seldom unrewarded.

I remember, just a few day ago, a colleague whom I respect a lot recommended me this film and he even called it "beautiful." Well, I am not completely sure about that - to be frank - but I am very impressed by this very unique  courage of the filmmaker which is evident in each moment of this film. I do not mean the distance as the attitude of René Frölke. It is the other way around:  Nearness or distance is here an attitude we have to choose for ourselves and we are free to do it.And if we don´t do, it is our problem.
I can´t say I am already finished with this film, neither can I say I have "understand" the whole film. - but I am still working on it. But though I have the strong idea there is some greatness in this film and this greatness lays side by side with modesty.

Rüdiger Tomczak

February 15, Zoo Palast 2, 22.00
February 16, Arsenal 1      12.30

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