Showing posts with label German Cinema. Show all posts
Showing posts with label German Cinema. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Notes on Kinder (Children) by Nina Wesemann, Germany: 2019, Berlin Filmfestival V.-Generationkplus


Kinder is the graduation film of young filmmaker Nina Wesemann who sudied at the film school in Munich (HFF München).

First of all the appearance of such a film on a big festival proves again the courage of this very special children-, and youth section.
I remember during the Q&A after the screening yesterday, a small kid asked “what is this film about”. That caused quite a laughter but in its innocence it was quite close to the centre of this remarkable piece of film. The more I think about this film, the more I respect it. It is far beyond a clever graduation film of a clever student but a challenging experiment with children and film. Kinder is not one of these projects which are just confirming already ensured theories of cinema but a wild, wise and sometimes innocent beauty. And sometimes the film has the brave spirit of the first film pioneers. With this documentary, I feel like having experienced a journey through the history of documentary cinema from the Brothers Lumière to everything what is possible today. The whole film is like a precious unpolished jewel and it offers both the enthusiasm of the film pioneers and the wisdom of more than 120 years of cinema.

The film revolves around three different groups of children, all from different parts of Berlin. They might not know about each other but the film connects them to a mosaic of a childhood in Berlin.
What strikes me most is the articulation of Nina Wesemann in her cinematic point of view. And again I have to stress the wonderful explanation of the German word “Einstellung” by Wim Wenders which goes far beyond its English equivalence “shot”. “Einstellung” includes as well an attitude for or about something.

A child on a play ground, totally absorbed by its play. If the beauty of this fleeting moment is caused just by a strong confidence of the filmmaker in that what happens in front of the camera or is it caused by her crucial “Einstellung”, her decision as a filmmaker?
Sometimes, as soon as the children get aware of the presence of filmmaker and camera, they begin to “perform”. That reminds me in some famous moment in Robert J. Flaherty´s Nanook of the North.
An equivalence in Wesemann´s film I see in the moment when a boy eats a very hot pepperoni where it is not always easy to distinguish what is his authentic physical reaction and what his “performance”.

Sometimes the cinematic point of view is from a grown up at children, sometimes I imagine Nina Wesemann using her camera like a time traveler looking for her own childhood. In other moments her point of view seems as absorbed by the events in front of the camera like a child playing in the sand.
The poetry of cinema - no matter if fiction or documentary - has to do with a fine sense for how and when to create and how and when to just let things happen.

Like photography film is an art created with the assistance of a mighty apparatus and cinematic poetry is sometimes a very fine adjustment between human and machine.
Sometimes cinema absorbs us and sometimes we have a slight idea of the presence of this machine.

Sometimes we see children who are filmed, sometimes we see the children we once were. These moments evoke in me the old photographs in my family albums from my childhood and I myself am absorbed in the things I see on the screen and the memories they evoke in me. Between these moments of absorption there is the slight awareness that this film is created, composed and structured. In Kinder, we see a lot of sequences shot from driving local trains, busses or trams. These sidewards movements flatten the image to its original two dimensions. Like in these many train scenes in the history of cinema it appears to me as an analogy of a film strip which moves through a projector. The poetry of cinema is often this movement between the illusion of depth and the awareness of the technique which enables this illusion.

These children play often question and answer-games. There is a moment when they articulate in a playful way questions about the origin of the universe and life. Some other children are visiting a historical museum in Berlin. All these fragmental seemingly accidental episodes sum up at the end to a film which articulate very wise questions about the world but also about film.

Kinder by Nina Wesemann is an exciting discovery from the more experimental side of this wonderful Berlinale-Generation which makes me hopeful for the future of this often endangered child of the late 19. Century called cinema.

Rüdiger Tomczak
14.February, 11.30, Cinemaxx 1
17. February,12.30, Filmtheater am Friedrichshain

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Memories of a paradisiac summer at the cinema - 303, by Hans Weingartner, Germany: 2018

(For the German Version, please click here )

These are things, that we discover when we walk through the world far from home: when we learn about other peoples live, we begin to see our own in another light.” (From the novel Go bridle the Storm, by Joan Aiken)


It was a strange intuition I followed when I saw the film the first time in one of the most beautiful film theatres in Berlin, The “International”. I have not expected that the film will mesmerize and move me like it did. And it occupies still my mind. I just had to watch it a second time.

The film is among so much else a Road Movie, those genre mixture which is not always easy to define. These films are often the journeys (the geographic and the mental ones) they show and tell about. First of all, they evoke in me memories of journeys I once made, like for example endless car rides with friends in France and Canada. At the same time those films have always to do with my love for cinema. Often there is a train, a bus, a car or like in 303 a camping bus which are metaphors for the devices cinema is made and finally projected with. Of course at the beginning there are at first the personal memories which are evoked in me. This happened at a time when both of the actors were not even born yet. The old camping vehicle is about 30 years old and it connects me with these young people who could have been my children.
This strange feeling of expectation before a long journey, the promises of freedom and countless opportunities came back to my mind and it made me during watching this film about 30 years younger. The film and it´s metaphors for the devices which made the film possible turned for me into a time machine – not only in that what the film presents in front of my eyes but also in that what it evokes in me.

There are a lot of dialogs in this film. Mr.Weingartner composed these dialog out of hours of video interviews he made with young people over years. This is well documented in several interviews with the director. The dialog are specified like a frame which never appear static. They do not occur artificial but like thought, felt and finally spoken by the actors. It is the same with the journey, which must have been planned and prepared as much as it is possible, unavoidable changes included. But here also, the effect is contrariwise. It seems that Mr. Weingartner has outlined some certain situations after that the film seems to move by itself:

  1. Jule is a biology student. She just failed an examen. She just learned also that she is pregnant for some weeks. She steps into the camping bus she inherited from her late brother and begins her long journey to Portugal to her boyfriend whom she will inform about her pregnancy.
  2. Jan is a student in political science and he finished his semester as well with some frustrations. Now he wants to go to Spain by bus or hitchhiking to get to know his biological father. After some unsuccessful tries to get means of transport he accidentally meets Jule on a resting place. She accepts him as a car passenger. But after a short while after a seemingly harmless conversation they argue separate for now from each other.
  3. The third narrative starting point (or if we want the third opening) takes place again at a resting place. He found already a place in a truck of a truck driver but has lost his mobile in Jule´s car. When he finds her camping bus, he knocks and just saves Jule in the last moment from being raped by an obtrusive stranger. From now on they continue to travel together. And exactly from this point on, the film seems to move by itself, without many twists and as reliable like the old camping bus. The story of Jule´s and Jan´s journey can now move like a quiet river.

303 reminds me sometimes in another great Road Movie from India, Aparna Sen´s Mr. And Mrs. Iyer. Both, Aparna Sen like Hans Weingartner cultivate a very playful and reflected use with traditions, rituals and conventions of Road Movies and develop very soon their own personal signature, which is by the way totally free of an anthology of quotations. Film history is never exploited in these films. It is like a very multi layered dialog of the films with the history of where they came from and the specific present it reflects and where it is finally made for and they deal about. That is the reason the films like Mr. And Mrs. Iyer and 303 appear despite their fictive narrations almost like living organisms. These film are accumulating their wisdom through experiences and not through an imposed cleverness. Like I mentioned – beside so much ideas and thoughts about the world covered by 303 – the film can be as well a subject for philosophizing about cinema.

The streets the camping bus is driving on is frequented untold times, the landscapes passing by are seen countless times. Almost each of us knows this special feeling during a long car ride. 303 achieves in some moments to to bring back this wonder which is stored in my memories. Landscapes places, cities, villages are concentrated to magical cinema moments and there are quite a few moments which turn me again into a wondering child. And quickly I reach a point where I follow the film with unconditional confidence.The film leaves me in this strange mood between being awake and dreaming. One is receptive for all the wonders the film is going to offer.

There are long conversations between Jule and Jan, (some of them very controversial) about the alienation caused by capitalism, the Human Condition from the dawn of men until today or about the mental and seemingly biological mechanisms of love. But sometimes they tell about themselves and fragment by fragment the mosaic of these young human lives is pieced together. The body language of these young people becomes more and more easy and relaxed. The spoken language and the nonverbal one is complementing each other. It is like eyes and ears are opening for the world, the world like it appears on the screen but which is also tangible beyond the borders of the film image. Some conversations are serious (and often shot in longer sequences), some of them are very playful and funny. But they are always authentic and there is not even a trace of an ironic distance. Just the aspect how the young actors Anton Spiekers and Mala Emdes characters are approaching each other belongs to the cinematic adventures of this film. And when the evening comes it is time for having dinner together and it is time again for telling each others stories from their lives. These moments have something native, they refer to the old need of people to tell stories about their experiences, about their lives. In 303 such moments almost appear as mythic moments which we know from the long history of cinema. Ordinary moments are often poetically compressed in this film. It seems they are turned already into memories of a lost paradise.

Sometimes the film interrupts these closeness between us and the film characters. These are small moments where the two protagonists are eluding themselves from us. Once we see them sitting on a bank from behind, another time again from behind when they stand on a rock and looking into the mountain landscape. They look at these landscapes like at an imaginary screen like I know from the films by Aparna Sen. In such moments they seem almost as anonymous like the other spectators sitting with us in a film theatre some rows in front of us. At the same time we have a strange feeling about their autonomous existence independent from us and the 145 minutes of the film. The charme and the freshness of 303 is obvious, But there are always moments which appear to me as poetic reflections about cinema.


A wonderful moment which seems to me very characteristic for the somnambulistic beauty of the film. It is the scene when Jule and Jan are visiting anywhere in Southern Europe a cave of the Cro-Magnon men in which prehistoric cave paintings are preserved. We remember that Jule often referred to the Cro-Magnon man in their discussions on the Human Condition. Now we gaze together with these young people the wonderful paintings. This is an incredible scene. Here the film presents what we experience together with the protagonists. They look with us at the origins of images, people made from their environment. The cave paintings become a screen into a screen. We see not only the young people contemplating this miracle, this moment becomes a pure miracle of cinema itself – and it will be unforgettable.

303 is also a film about a growing friendship between a man and a woman. There are, of course, moments of eroticism and amorousness but they remain options among others. These moments of amorousness and eroticism are fine scattered and sometimes they give only a slight idea of it. Another aspect which reminds me in Aparna Sen´s masterpiece. The exchange of glances between Mala Emde and Anton Spieker are very balanced. They never become objects neither of our gazes nor the gazes they give each other. It is often especially this “Boy meets Girl”-element which goes in films often and quickly out of balance. And sometimes Mala Emde´s performance reminds me in Konkona Sensharma´s one in Mr. And Mrs. Iyer. It is evident especially in these glances which are telling so much without words. And it is just another reason why I consider 303 as the most beautiful Road Movie since Aparna Sen´s film.

If the film were an hour longer, I would not have noticed it. And finally the only thing which is irritating me in this film is the simple fact that it has to end anytime. It is not necessary to reveal the end of the film. The only thing I can say, the film fulfills everything it promised in its first minutes. The whole film seems to mediate a peaceful coexistence between that what the film is about and that what it can evoke in us. Like I mentioned, 303 is a film about possibilities, possibilities in human relationships and possibilities to move and change oneself. And I can´t get rid of this strong feeling that the film shows very impressive what is still possible in cinema.

At all, this single pleasant memory of the summer 2018 will stay with me: the film 303 by the Austrian filmmaker Hans Weingartner.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Notes on a miracle called Aus einem Jahr der Nichtereignisse (From a Year of Non Events) by Ann-Carolin Renninger and René Frölke, Germany: 2017. Berlin Filmfestival VI.-Forum

An almost deserted farm in Northern Germany: An old man, Willi  lives here alone with his cat, some chicken and some geese. He has survived his wife and he intends to spend the rest of his life here in loneliness, a loneliness which will be interrupted occasionally by visitors. With the help of a walking frame he still walks on his property for feeding the animals or just contemplating the irresistible savaging of this men made landscape. He often talks with his cat, his only companion. The part of this film which could be considered as a portrait of this very old man is very discreet if not of an “Ozuesque” respect. Beside the human landscape Willi, the film includes a meditation about the landscape of the environment which marks the border of this man´s living space but also it´s tie to the whole world. The cat is always present. Even though there are very charming moments with this cat which will warm the hearts of every unconditional cat lover (we hear the cat´s purring ans snoring), the strong presence of this animal goes far beyond a certain cuteness. It rather reminds me in the presence of so many animals in the Japanese Haikus.

The attitude of the filmmaker is sometimes evident in the things they reveal in their film. There is a moment when Willi  takes the cat on his lap. He caresses the cat very softly and when the cat tries to get free he let it go at once.

The film is recorded in 16 millimeter and Super 8 material, some images are coloured, others in Black and White. Sometimes even the buzzing of a camera is audible. The presence of the device which records these images and sounds is a hint to the modesty of a film which does not want to be more than giving an image of a human life. Sometimes the film turns into darkness (caused by the end of a film reel) and the soundtrack continues. In other moments there are scenes without sound. If intended or not the the evidence of the ability and disability of the cinematic devices to reflect a human life enriches the film with a strange poetry.

There is the change of the seasons visible in a landscape already abandoned by men and which will be soon reconquered by nature and the house as the evidence of the presence of men. There are a lot of still lifes shot in the rooms of this farm house. Despite the absence of men, these images are revealing crystallized traces of them. They have lived here. The perceptible decay of things which have a meaning for a human life seems to be as mortal as life itself. The hints evoked by these images might be very subtle but they will remain in my memory. The calmness of a film (which we learnt 
from Japanese cinema) can be sometimes very evocative, often moving and not seldom even heartbreaking.

The presence of this old man and his animals and the awareness of these image making devices have a strange chemistry. The moments of “actions” with the old man and his cat or the fragmented stories he tells from his life are often alternated by absolute silence. How much really happened in this film on “Non Events”, I just begin to realize many hours after I attended the screening.

More than 20 years ago I once wrote on Ozu´s Bakushu (Early Summer) that “ the film (Bakushu) is like human memories compressed to 2 hours film. It is like memory itself depending on a body which has to die some day”. I was referring to the insufficient preservation of the original analog source of this film.
Since than I always see an affinity between the analog chemical process of film recording and the biochemical process of human memories depending on a living body. This idea came back to my mind after i saw Aus einem Jahr der Nichtereignisse.

The morning after I saw this wonderful film, the memory of it is still strong and present with a mixed feeling of happiness and a light indefinable melancholy. That is an unmistakable sign that I must have fallen in love with a film. There nothing more I can add for now. There is only one thing I am sure about: From a Year of Non Events by Ann-Carolin Renninger and René Frölke is the most beautiful film experience I made at this year´s festival.

Rüdiger Tomczak

16.02,Cinemaxx 4, 19.30
18.02, Delphi, 16.30

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Notes on Rudolf Thome – Überall Blumen (Rudolf Thome – Flowers Everywhere) by Serpil Turhan, Germany: 2016-Berlin Filmfestival VI.-Forum

For Shaan and Thérese

At the beginning and near the end we see prints of films by Rudolf Thome lying in piles of rusted canisters, moments which are not only just sad but depressing. Film prints in rusted canisters – two films I saw in recent years at the Forum come to my mind, the wilful destruction of the nearly complete film heritage of Cambodia by the Red Khmer in Davy Chou´s Le Sommeil d´Or (Golden Slumber, 2012) and prints of Indian films in a former film studio near Bombay ( now part of the Puna Film institute) in Prabhat Pheri (The Journey with Prabhat, 2014 ( by the film students Jessica Sadana and Sammarth Dixit. In this film, an important part of German film history decays literally almost  in front of my door.

The world premiere of Rudolf Thome – Überall Blumen, yesterday at the Delphi film theatre was quite memorable. There was laughter everywhere and it evoked in me a likely memorable screening of Truffaut´s Les Qautre-Cent Coups in 2014 at the Cinematheque in Paris. In Paris like yesterday in Berlin, the ages of the audience variesd between those who could have been companions of Thome´s or Truffaut´s early films, people in my age who discovered Thome in the 1980s, and very young  people who could be my children or Thome´s grandchildren. When I discovered one of my favorite films by Thome, Berlin Chamissoplatz, the filmmaker Serpil Turhan was still a baby.

Rudolf Thome – Überall Blumen is a bit like Ozu´s Bakushu, a seemingly bright and often funny film. The melancholy is subliminal. When the film becomes a memory the slight feeling for this melancholy one had during the screening becomes stronger.
The film is entirely shot at Thome´s converted farm in Brandenburg and one of the miracles of this film is the perceptible relationship between the portrait of Rudolf Thome and the environment. This never looks constructed but it is filmed with a somnambulistic lightness.

Serpil Turhan was involved in Rudolf Thomes work as a main actress in his “time travel-trilogy” which includes one of his masterpieces Rot und Blau (Red And Blue, 2003) and later as an assistant. But in this film, Turhan focuses mostly on every day rituals. Conversations about the different kinds of brushing the teeth in some of his films, Thome appears as a gardener, a lover of birds or as a father etc. Once we see him writing the screenplay for his film Writing a script, we know from his Moana-Blog (Link),  is for Thome a public affair which you can follow life in the nternet – from the handwritten notes until the finished script.This creative process is embedded in a nother every day ritual.

There is a balance between long interviews and a kind of still life shots of the natural environments of this converted farm and the landscape of the village, a balance between long conversations and moments of silence. The pond of his garden is cleaned and we see croaking frogs. The excitement of Thome when he has filmed red starts, the daily work on his blog but than as well conversations about the obligatory self staging of Thome, the director who is now filmed by one of his actresses. The order in this film is not based on Thome´s filmography and there is no real volitional hierarchy between the so-called banal and significant moments of his life like it is presented in the film´s  interviews.
Between Thome´s pleasure in gardening, bird watching, bicycling  and every day rituals – there are moments of losses: the coincidental birth of his youngest son and the death of the wonderful cinematographer Martin Schäfer, the abandoning of his Film. Later they are talking about the death of another son of Thome but also about the late Marquard Bohm, one of Thome´s favorite actors.

There is a barn where Thome collected several clapperboards from different films he made. The titles are still written on it. In another moment, Thome tells that he has still stored the costumes once designed for Hannelore Elsner who played in several of his films in the 2000s. He is frustrated that no archive is interested in these costumes. In these moments, Rudolf Thome – Überall Blumen has a bit of an elegy on a great filmmaker which is abandoned by film historians.
I can´t get these images of the film prints in rusted canisters out of my head, they present for me the drastic endangerment of what we call the film heritage. These are the drops of bitterness in this beautiful affectionate and strangely moving film portrait.

Among the films made by one filmmaker about another one, Rudolf Thome – Überall Blumen by Serpil Turhan belongs to me with  films like Kohi Jikou (Café Lumiere, 2004) Hou Hsiao Hsien´s homage to Yasujiro Ozu, or Ekti Nadir Naam (The Name Of a River), Anup Singh´s homage to Ritwik Ghatak to the most beautiful films in recent years dedicated from one filmmaker to another.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Feb 20, Arsenal 1                    19.00
Feb 21 Akademie der Künste 14.00

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Notes on Fernglück (Distant Fortune) by Shaheen Dill-Riaz, Bangladesh/Germany: 2015


Actually Fernglück is a film mostly financed by television.  it was a brilliant idea to make a little tour through some German film theatres before its premiere at the television channel 3Sat. And it was worth to see it on the big screen.
To begin with , Fernglück, the most recent film by Bangladeshi-German filmmaker Shaheen Dill-Riaz is his finest piece of film since his shameless underrated masterpiece  Shilpo Shahor Shapnalok (The Happiest People in the World, 2005).  
Even though Dill-Riaz spent the first half of his life in his native country Bangladesh and the second one in Germany (only interrupted through long travels to Bangladesh), he travels with us again to Bangladesh and there is not even a trace of smart alecky statements but pure cinema. As he follows some young German women and men who went to Bangladesh as voluntaries for developement aid, he does not give a statement about the encounter of different cultures, he explores them with his camera like he explored his new home Germany as a young man in the early 1990s. Even more important - he respects the idealism of the young people.He talks, listens to these young people and records their journey. In more than one way, it echoes his most personal film The Happiest People in the World where his own biography is confronted with the biography of some people in Dhaka (most of them close to him). Almost in the sense of André Bazin, in both of these films there is a confidence in film and its reflection of reality which does not need any ideological predetermination. Cinema seems here as a quest. Some questions are answered, others not.

I remember the night after the screening in Berlin which I attended with a friend. We talked the whole night about the film and its protagonists. In my memory they began soon after the film ended a life of their own. If something like that happens in a documentary film, that means for me always the evidence of having seen a great film.
If there are a trace of the philosophy of Shaheen Dill Riaz where I can put my finger on than it is one can understand himself better when one can understand the other.

the different reactions of these young Germany are captured equally. One young man will break up his stay in Bangladesh very early. Another young man who is first very motivated resigns after some months of demoralization. We see him searching in water samples from different water pumps in villages for the dangerous poison arsenic. All samples are negative and the young man doubts if the method of analyzing the water is properly at all.
Most of the young women seem to deal much better with the clash between their idealism and the local reality. One of these young woman gets friendly with a female teacher in a village but it is hard for her to accept her subordination as a woman to her family, as a second wife of a man. These confrontation of idealism and reality is often tragic. If these confrontations seem impossible to overcome, Fernglück unfolds as well moments of humor. There is this unforgettable tea house scene when one of the young woman talks with an old man about what is possible in Germany, how to love, marry or how to have relationships. The translator translates in his own way. At the same time we laugh about the predeterminations of the Bengalis and the Germans. But this laughter is not a laughter on the cost of these protagonists, it is a laughter we have with them together. Especially in these invincibly borders between two cultures, this laughter has a very special relieving character. 

During the film was made, a tragic accident happens. A textile factory collapses with more than 1000 dead persons, mostly women. Some of the young Germans visit survivors in the hospital. One of the survivors, a young woman who lost an arm and was buried for days under the ruins of the factory before she was rescued. To a German woman with jeans and a Kurta she explains that these kind of jeans were made in these factories. The young German tries to cover with the Kurta her jeans with a bashful smile. This is a wonderful, almost John Ford-like moment about the borders between different cultures without any judgement. The young survivor has a strange and disturbing sarcasm.

In Dhaka manifestations against war criminals who were responsible for the genocide of Pakistanis against Bengalis during the Liberation war in the 1970s. Some young people, among them a German are demonstrating against the death penalty which is claimed by most of the Bengali protester. Very subtle, Shaheen Dill-Riaz build in information about the history of Bangladesh which is hardly known in Germany.
As the situations for the young Germans becomes very risky they will be sent back to Germany. Unfinished business but the film itself is a very rich journey and some of these young people will stay connected with this country.
True, there are still questions which remain unanswered for us, for the young Germans but as well for the filmmaker himself. But Fernglück answers the question what cinema can be,:a quest how to define the own place in the universe while confronted with the Unknown. Even though we know the world outside of each frame is very keen and not always easy to understand, in each of the film´s frame I feel a kind of protection – for the protagonists and for myself. This beautiful, tender, sad and sometimes funny piece of cinema belongs to the big screen and finally – it is with Patricio Guzman´s masterpiece El Botón de Nacár the first great documentaries of this year.

Rüdiger Tomczak

the film is still available in the mediathek of 3Sat (only in German and only available in Germany Switzerland and Austria)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Notes on Alice in den Städten (Alice In The Cities) by Wim Wenders, Germany: 1973, Berlinale 2015 -I.- Homage Wim Wenders

for T and M

Alice In The Cities is still my favorite film by Wim Wenders. I remember having seen this film on a Sunday afternoon on Television, I think it was 1974. The film was quite young and the things revealed in it were at that time contemporary. As the film takes place most of its length in the region where I was born and grew up, it offered me both. First of all it was probably one if not the first film I saw which I identified as a film on my time, not to mention the locations in the second half. The fictive part of the film, its Road Movie aspect made me dream when I was a teen at that time.
It is a film where the real world and Cinema came together and with reality I mean the real places and things I was familiar with. At this time I did n´t know Ozu yet. Many years later I discovered Wenders films for myself via the detour Ozu.
When I think about Alice In The Cities more than 40 years later, I try to imagine how a Japanese who was a contemporary of Ozu has looked at the things and the places in the films of the great Japanese film director.
A lot of buildings you see in this film do not exist anymore. A coal miner settlement we see in one scene was close after this scene was filmed demolished.
I remember a scene in one of these ice-cafés which you could find in the region “Ruhrgebiet” in the 1960s and 1970s (Eisdielen) which were installed mostly by Italian immigrants.
When I saw this film on this boring Sunday afternoon, the reality the film evoked began just in front of my door. Today the film is like a history book which supports my personal memories in that time.
The film is like a monument which has to replace the buildings and all the things which were specific for the Western Germany of the 1970s and which are gone forever. I remember a very short excerpt from the Rolling Stones-song Angie which was exactly my favorite song in this very year. In these 40 years something happened with this film which could not have been the intention of a very young Wim Wenders in the year 1973. The amber which captured the things we see in the film was probably almost fluid and transparent in 1974 and this feeling I had for this “Now and Here” became a memory.
Nearly the first half of the film takes place in America which was for me in 1974 quite an abstract dream but for me hard to reach at this time. America was a landscape which existed at this time for me almost entirely through cinema.
One of the movements of this film is the failed journey of a German writer. When his America excursion fails he has to return to Germany. Before he can return to his sad every day life he will be involved with a young mother and her daughter. Back in Germany he has to care for a while for the girl, because the mother´s return from America is delayed. Bugged at the beginning by his father like duty for this child forced on him, his actually journey just begins.
I am not sure but I can´t imagine to have seen in 1974 this odyssey through a region very familiar to me as engrossed as I see it now. I am only sure about one thing the whole film as a resolution of Cinema and reality must have impressed me a lot – or at least I felt comfortable with it.

Like we know today the two homages to John Ford in this film were pure accidental: The excerpt of Young Mr. Lincoln in Rüdiger Vogler´s hotel television set and the big article in the newspaper on the death of John Ford “Versunkene Welt” (Sunken World).
Wenders once said that the death of John Ford just happened when he shot this scene. This shot became over the years much more weight for me, because in these 40 years John Ford became one of my favorite directors.

Together with Mr. And Mrs. Iyer by Aparna Sen and Arigato-San by Hiroshi Shimizu, Alice In The Cities is not just one of my most beloved Road Movie but a journey itself.
As I wrote once on Cambodian Cinema before the genocide or on a Korean Silent film screened two years ago in the Forum, sometimes one can sense the ghosts of the people who have seen and lived with these films. And when my generation gone and when it will be forgotten, this film will still give in 30 or more years an idea of how and where we have grown up in this very concrete piece of German geography.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Tue, Feb, 10, Cinemaxx 8, 22.00
Thurs, Feb 12, Zeughauskino, 19.00

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

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Notes on Finovo by Claudio Winter, Germany: 2013

We have learned that the moving images actually never moved and this movement is only evoked by the inaction of the human eye. Finovo by Claudio Winter is a photographic film like Redfern by Trang Nguyen (who is also the editor of this film). Like in Redfern, there are in Finovo very few moments with moved images. The movement we mostly do not see is here much more evoked through the soundtrack. Someone lights a cigarette. We see one image, a cigarette and a lighter but the movement of the hand which lights the cigarette is evoked through the sound of a lighter.
The images show among others a man who rented a house in front of a graveyard in Berlin Schöneberg for opening a flower shop and a small cafe which he calls Finovo a word combination of end and beginning. Two homosexuals are taking care of the graves of their late life partners. As the film seems to be like a fleeting visit to this very graveyard and its cafe, for brief but intense moments some individual human stories appear for a moment. Fragments of human lives like short flashes.
In one of the very few moving images we see a regional train passes by – like in a film by Yasujiro Ozu.

The things the persons in this film are telling about complement the fragmentary images. One of the phenomenons of Cinema is that it often can evoke more than it shows (or presents through the sound). The montage of this moments is poetic and analytical at the same time. It evokes hints to human stories which go far beyond – for example the limited length of this film. At the same time a film like Finovo presents the elements of which it is built.

I remember long time ago when I was still in a film club I read a text by film critic Peter Kremski on John Ford´s masterpiece The Searchers and one sentence is still in my mind: “For John Ford, a funeral is a reunion of those who are living.” The two men in Finovo who are remembering the close persons they have lost are untinged of any religious motivation. Their memories of the dear persons they have lost is part of their mourning and this mourning is a needful work for those who live.

How many directors have said that cinema deals often if not mostly with things which are gone. Martin Scorsese said that and in Patricio Guzman´s Nostalgia de la Luz (Nostalgia for the Light) an astronomer explains to the filmmaker that according to light speed everything we see is already past. That connects Guzman´s observation of women who are looking for the human remains of their relatives which were killed during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and the search of astronomers for far distant stars which probably have gone in the moment they can see them through their telescopes.

This 13 minutes long film does not show anything else than every day events, not more than some real people meeting at a very concrete place. And yet it might be a more inspiring occasion to reflect about life and cinema than a lot of wise books which are already written.

In this now very manifold network of more than 110 years cinema with all its currents and all what is written, reflected or theorized about it  - we who write on films are often seduced to a kind of dullness in thinking almost everything has being tried and performed. Films like Redfern by Trang Nguyen or Finovo by Claudio Winter are teaching us quite a lesson. Even though it is hard to put the finger on it but they have the flair of pioneering work through its own unique authenticity. To approach answers to the famous question “what is cinema?” both of these films remind me that is nothing you can learn from books or archived knowledge alone but that cinema is an eternal quest.
Both films belong to my most exciting discoveries I made last year.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Friday, February 15, 2013

Notes on Die Wiedergänger (The Revenants) by Andreas Bolm, Germany 2013-Berlinale 2013

Perspective German Cinema

What was that, this strange but crazy and beautiful creature of a film?
One day after the screening I try to remember this film like I often try to recall a dream of last night which occupies my mind but I remain unable to tell it in words.

There is a forest (I often dream of forests), an aging couple who live reclusively in a house and a young man walking through the forest on the search for shelter. There is a young man singing on his electric guitar strange songs accompanied by  a red haired woman on the drums. Elements like notes, sketches for a story. They are waiting to be edited together. When these traces of a narration disappear for moments and the camera stops or makes and endless long travelling, an over voice narrator tells fragment of a story with hints to a family drama and a  post-apocalyptic science fiction novel. TV news pronounce the ban of certain kinds of vegetables and gives also a hint to a nuclear disaster.
The audience is at first an editor and finally also the story teller.
As Andreas Bolm said, the film has to do with the place in Northern Germany where he comes from it is another hint, another offering to read the film, to edit it for yourself.
The forest is a very complex and sensitive ecological system. So is Cinema. I have a soft spot for the endangered species like Malick, Straub (yes, yes the must be mentioned in one breath) and a lot more from countries which have seldom access to this neoliberal dominated Filmfestival, unless they accept the new neo-colonialism of Dieter Kosslick´s World Cinema Fund. In Cinema these endangered species are something like the extremely endangered Royal Bengali Tiger in India. And the neoliberalism like manifested in the ideology of this festival with their talent campus (imposing an industrial production of talents) is the equivalent of the hint radioactivity as a danger for men and nature in this film. 
The young man on the guitar, played by Andreas Bolm himself sings defiant songs. And the film has something defiant as well.
But the young man who strays through the forest desperately looking for a place where he can live or survive is even a more beautiful image for the spirit of the film.
Those were the days when such films were shown at the International Forum as rare and unconsumed narrative or non-narrative cinematic forms, films which might not ne perfect, but films which does n´t fit in any categories. But they bring fresh wind. 
The young man can not move into a house ready for occupancy, he has to build something, has to work which is again an image for what you have to do to find a place in this film where you can "live".
And another beautiful aspect of Die Wiedergänger is, he does n´t answer the dogma of a neoliberal ideology  - which built already metastases in nearly all parts of our culture -  with another dogma.
It is not one of this boring "smart" films from my country (I have seen one at the Forum) but a very lovable one.
The film does not want more than getting a place for itself and that's probably the only thing Andreas Bolm is insisting on.
The question of the future of Cinema is more or less concentrated in the defense of its diversity. Die Wiedergänger reminds us in this diversity.

The forest in Andreas Bolm´s film allow both, people who are living in a house. They have found a place. But it allows also people who are looking for a place. Another beautiful image for the richness of Cinema. 

Rüdiger Tomczak