Dir.: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; Cast: Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Saskia Rosendahl, Oliver Masucci; Italy/Germany 2018, 188 min.
After The Life of Others Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck makes another ambitious but deeply unfilmic foray that tackles three decades of his country’s history from Nazi Germany of the late 1930s right through to the GDR, and finally the FRG. The focus is an anti-hero and his sympathetic counterpart.
In Dresden 1937 the young Elisabeth May takes her young nephew Kurt Barnert to see an exibition of ‘Entartete Kunst’, showing paintings by Picasso, Kandinsky and others forbidden in the Third Reich. The guide tells Kurt that he could do better than said works of art. But Elisabeth, a free spirit, tells the boy “never to look away” from beauty. Soon she is playing the piano naked. Her desperate family send her to Prof. Seeband (Koch), who is in charge of the local Euthanasia programme, thence to a special hospital where she is gassed with other citizens who are not “worth being kept alive”.
Seeband is later captured by the Russians but helps to deliver the baby of a high-ranking officer who offers him a career in the GDR. The story then flips forward to see Kurt (Schilling), now in his twenties, falling in love with Ellie Barnert (who very much resembles Elisabeth), the two men begin an uneasy relationship. And when Ellie gets pregnant, her father carries out an abortion, making sure his daughter can no longer produce and have the Barnert family poison his own bloodline: Kurt’s father had committed suicide.
Ellie and Kurt, both fed up with social realism at university, flee to West Berlin, and later settle in Dusseldorf where Kurt studies with a Beus-look-alike, professor von Verten (Masucci). Here Kurt finds his artistic calling, and also the true identity of his father-in-law, who had also settled very sucessfully in the FRG.
Von Donnersmarck is spot on in picturing life in Nazi Germany and the GDR, but his vision of the FRG, where the majority of ex-Nazis made a career, as far too easygoing. After all, cultural institutions such as the Art Academy in Dusseldorf, were unique places of artistic refuge. Where the film really falls down though is in the bland description of life. Considering Kurt is a painter, the cinematography is unimpressive and stale, calling to mind the “Alfred Weidemann” films of the late 50s and set inthe FRG, where UFA veterans where still shooting in the style of the 1930s. Furthermore the acting is patchy, Beer the standout in a sea of rather hammy male performances. Despite a narrative spanning nearly thirty years nothing seems to change, the action is caught in a permanent time-warp where even Kurt’s final liberation feels unconvincing and artificial.Never Look Away is an uninventive saga that drags laboriously feeling even longer than its 3+ hours, AS
ON RELEASE AT ARTHOUSE CINEMAS | PREMIERED AT VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2018
Dir.: Volker Schlöndorff, Margaretha von Trotta; Cast: Angela Winkler, Mario Adorf, Jürgen Prochnow, Dieter Laser, Heinz Bennett, Hannelore Hoger, Rolf Becker; Federal Republic of Germany 1975, 106’.
Based on a novel by Nobel-Prize winner Heinrich Böll, Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) and Margaretha von Trotta (Paura & Amore) offer a searing critique of Germany in the mid 1970s. The film is set during the reign of the vicious but politically naïve and often ridiculous Baader-Meinhoff gang. They were a handful of ‘fighters’ who gave the government and mass media the excuse to hunt down anybody who was critical of the security forces manned by many ex-Nazis at that time. The press campaign was led by former SA man Axel Springer and his numerous newspapers (Bild Zeitung among them), employing the same staff who created caricatures for the Nazi press.
Carnival time in Cologne: Katharina Blum (Winkler) joins the merry dance and picks up Ludwig Götten (Prochnow). They spend the night together in Katharina’s flat, but she is woken up in the morning by armed special units breaking down her door. They are looking for Ludwig, who is supposed to be a deserter, anarchist and bank robber. But Ludwig has vanished and Katharina is mercilessly interrogated by police detective Beizmenne (Adorf) and later Distriict Attorney Hach (Becker). Katharina prefers to be locked in than being in the presence of these men. But things get worse for her: Tötges (Laser) a journalist for a national newspaper, ”researches” Katharina’s private life and puts together a story (more lies than facts) about her being the bride of an anarchist. He even interviews her mother, hours before her death in a hospital. Katharina gets no help from her friends: the laywer Dr. Blorna (Bennett) and his wife, the architect Trude (Hoger), or her former lover Bornas, who is afraid that his good reputation might suffer. Released from prison, Katharina is visited by Tötges, who tells her “you are a well-known personality now, you can make a lot of money. But we have to stay on the ball, we have to give the readers more and more”.
The crisis in the Federal Republic ended, somehow symbolically, in October 1977,when the Baader-Meinhoff gang kidnapped and killed Hanns-Martin Schleyer, the leader of the CBI in West Germany, who had been a high-ranking officer in the SS, and served a three-year prison sentence after WWII. By now, the Baader- Meinhof was declared a ‘criminal organisation’, the same as the SS had been declared by the Allies. When the Baader-Meinhoff trial started in 1977, the house of Heinrich Böll was surrounded by special units, not surprisingly, since one newspaper had declared “the Bölls are more dangerous than the Baader Meinhofffs”.
True to the page, Blum is “a busy conformist, who tries to do her best to advance”. She is essentially a good person who is caught in the crossfire. The directors also work out that the mass hysteria was mainly directed against the liberal sympathizers (“Sympathisanten”), and that the Baader-Meinhoff gang was used – like the Red Brigades in Italy who kidnapped and killed Aldo Moro, was ready to include the Communists in government – by old and new Fascists to cement their political comeback in both countries.
The ensemble acting is brilliant, and DoP Jost Vacano (who later made a career in Hollywood with features like Total Recall) creates stunning images of a country at war with a democracy forced on them by the Allies. AS
THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL: Four films by MARGARETHE VON TROTTA – beautifully restored and released by STUDIOCANAL as part of a NATIONWIDE tour from 12 November 2018 until January 2019
Dir.: Astrid Schult; Cast: Carolyn Genzkow, Michel Degen, Elisabeth Degen; Deutschland 2017, 75′
Winter Hunt is an earnest attempt to address the crimes of the Holocaust. Unfortunately the drama is hampered by the inexperience of its crew and cast. Trying to come to terms with the guilt of the Nation’s involvement has one again proved too much for these German filmmakers. They try to keep it real, but are simply not up to the task: and come across as worthy artisans of their craft, when mastery is required.
The film starts off in thriller territory. A young woman called Lena (Genzkow) is investigating the case of Nazi war criminal and KZ guard Anselm Rossberg (M. Degen), who now lives in a remote wooded location with his daughter Maria (E. Degen), after his recent trial. On the pretext of a faked car accident, Lena forces her way into his property where a verbal exchange of lies and counter-arguments sees the old man plead his innocence. She is soon overpowered by the father and daughter, confessing to be his granddaughter, and opening the way for a rather far- fetched fatal resolve.
Schult tries too hard to ‘make something happen’, but has nothing new to bring to the Holocaust story – her implausible narrative is shot through with plotholes. The pervasive haunted-house atmosphere gives Winter Hunt the impression of one of those Sherlock Holmes dramas of the 1940s. DoP Katherina Bühler tries in vain to give this parlour piece an atmospheric shot in the arm, but the acting can’t save this worthy endeavour: clumsily raised voices are the rule, and flaying limbs and dramatic hand gestures fail to convince us of their anguish. Sadly, this is a rather amateur affair. AS
UK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL | 8 NOVEMBER – 27 DECEMBER 2018
Dir.: Rüdiger Suchsland, Documentary, Germany 2017, 105 min.
Rüdiger Suchsland follows his brilliant From Caligari to Hitler with a chronicle of cinema during the Nazi regime, 1933-1945. The Nazis may not have achieved their thousand year reign, but they produced roughly this number of feature films. Hitler’s Hollywood is narrated by the softly sinister voice Udo Kier, with quotes from from Hannah Arendt and Susan Sontag, Suchsland searches the souls and minds of ordinary German citizens who went the cinema in record numbers, the like of which would never be seen again.
Of these features, roughly 500 were comedies, over three hundred belonged to the popular genre of “Revue” films, the rest was made up by detective and adventure films. There were no Horror movies (enough in real life), and just one SF movie: GOLD by Karl Hartl, a shameless Metropolis rip-off, with its star Brigitte Helm now able to talk. The huge majority of features were produced by the UFA, founded in 1917; its owner, Von Hugenberg, had helped Hitler to achieve power. In 1937 the company was nationalised, and in 1942 monopolised every film production. There were no auteurs in Nazi cinema (they had mostly emigrated like Fritz Lang), the stars had much more power, given to them by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Reach’s Propaganda Minister, who was THE auteur: controlling everything from script, auditioning to censorship.
Not that Goebbels had to change that much: On the last day of January 1933, after being installed as Chancellor, Hitler visited the Berlin premiere of Gustav Ucicky’s MORGENROT. This U-boat feature showed what was in store for Germany: the love of death. The commander declares “that Germans might not be good at living, but are pretty well prepared to die in style”. More about this later. MORGENROT was one of about 40 hard-core propaganda films. But the Nazi ideology was very much present in all productions. Jews were the most popular target of these agitation films (DER EWIGE JUDE, JUD SUSS, DIE ROTHSCHILDS). The British did featured in OHM KRUGER, but the majority of these outings were either glorifications of dead Nazi heroes, or of their fictional characters. There was HANS WESTMAR, HITLER JUNGE QUEX, SA MANN BRANDT as well as war features. These largely fell into two categories: the ‘victory’ celebrations depicted in SIEG IM WESTEN, STUKAS, U-BOOTE WESTWARTS or the ‘Durchhaltefilme’ (perseverance films) which came towards the end of the Second World War. One of the most prominent of these was Veit Harlan’s 1945 action drama KOLBERG. This was one of the most expensive German productions to date, a mammoth undertaking that saw 100, 000 soldiers taking part in the bellicose spectacle. There was even a Pro-Euthanasia feature ICH KLAGE AN, directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner.It came as no accident that Goebbels chose Harlan to helm this extravaganza. “Fascist ideology was part part of his whole work” – and he was by far the most talented filmmaker of the Nazi period – and the most prolific – with twenty films in just ten years. Harlan cast his wife Kristina Söderbaum to star in nearly all his films: she usually committed suicide by drowning, as in THE GOLDEN CITY DIEGOLDENE STADT (1942), and THE GREAT SACRIFICE (1944)). And it goes without saying that both continued their careers well past 1945 in West Germany. Ferdinand Marian, the most gifted actor of the period, who played the wicked Jew in Jud Süss, was killed while drunk driving in August 1946 – some days before a tribunal would decide his professional fate.
Kristina Söderbaum was Swedish along with several of her compatriots such as Zarah Leander (LA HABANERA) and Ingrid Bergman who appeared in Carl Froelich’s 1938 romantic drama DIE VIER GESELLEN. Then there was the Czech actor Lida Baarova– Goebbels nearly left his wife for her – and star of DIE FLEDERMAUS (1937); the Dutch stars Johannes Heesters in FRAU IM BESTEN MANNESALTER (1959) and Ilse Werner in WIR MACHEN MUSIK (1942) . They were required to visit a police station every week to renew visas. But the brightest star in this firmament was the Hungarian actor Marika Rökk (KORA TERRY, IT WAS A GAY BALL NIGHT 1940), who sang and pirouetted her way through 19 features of the Nazi period, and nearly as many in post-war West Germany.
A special mention should go to the Gustaf Gründgens as the leading turn in Hans Steinhoff’s TANZ AUF DEM VULKAN 1938, and Helmut Käutner romantic drama AUF WIEDERSEHEN, FRANZISKA! (1941). Gründgens esteemed by Göring, but hated by Goebbels. With his androgynous looks (and muddled sexual orientation), he sang “the night is not only there for sleeping” in the 1938 drama. It was an open invitation to revolt, and Goebbels reacted by letting the film pass, but the recording of the film’s score was never released. There is some irony in this feature where city dwellers throw resistance flyers from their balconies – and in real life, the Scholl siblings were beheaded a few years later for doing exactly that in their High School. Suchsland lets Käutner get away lightly, calling him “a man with an anti-fascist soul”. After the war, Käutner directed less ironic mainstream features, now too timid to upset anybody.
Hitler and Goebbels both were film fans even before coming to power. The Leader preferred Micky Mouse cartoons and Frank Capra films, Goebbels was an admirer of early Eisenstein features. Both had it in mind to create a German Hollywood, dominated by dramatic gestures and crowd scenes. An early example of this was Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 chronicle of the Nazi Party’s Nuremberg meeting: THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (TRIUMPH DES WILLENS). It is like a religious service, an ornament of masses, constantly synchronised movements. In contrast to these epics, her Olympia films were a search for the perfect body. But what is lacking in most films of this era is irony, even the screw-ball comedies, modelled on Hollywood, lacked this essential ingredience.
Later reality and feature films moved even closer: DER GROSSE KÖNIG (Veit Harlan 1942) was premiered in parallel with USSR invasion. Male leader figures like Frederick the Great and Frederick I often featured, such as the hero portraits of Schiller, Schlüter and PARACELSUS (GW Pabst, 1943). During the war years, the newsreels lasted on average forty minutes.
The other side of these strict political agitprops were the comedies with their regressive characters; and Suchsland starts with a clip from THE MAN WHO WAS SHERLOCK HOLMES (Karl Hartl 1937). It shows the two best known male stars, Hans Albers and Rühmann (the latter a German Everyman, who was extremely popular during the 3rd Reich and in West Germany) playing around like little boys, enjoying their bath and using the foam to have fun in their separate bath rooms. Whilst Albers was usually the hero (THE BLUE ANGEL, PEER GYNT, GOLD) Rühmann (MODEL HUSBAND, HEINZ IM MOND) was the scatter-brained dreamer, who just got along, but usually came out on top.
And while the Nazis seemed to love their nighttime marches armed with torchlights in the dark, creating a sinister atmosphere of necrophilia, they loved death even more. There is a great montage in Suchsland’s documentary that shows the mountain of deaths that accumulated during these twelve years: nearly everyone seems happy to die, including the victims of Euthanasia.
Last, but not least, we should mention WUNSCHKONZERT (Eduard von Borsody, 1940) an impressive amalgamation of feature and newsreel. Kicking off with the Olympics of 1936 and ending with the Fascist victory in the Spanish war, this relationship drama starring Ilse Werner and Carl Raddatz is best described by the couple listening to the chorus, who sing: “I know there will be a miracle, and a thousand dreams will come true”. Meanwhile, the cinema audience was increasingly inured to endless sacrifice (turning a blind eye to murder), they were asked not to trust what they saw, but to “believe in their intuition that all will turn out well”. Germans, so Suchsland, did not want to leave the cinema, because the reality was too cruel.
We can look forward to Suchsland’s next project, an analysis of post-war West German cinema, which will showcase the era of the Weimar Republic and the 3rd Reich. AS
AVAILABLE ON DUAL FORMAT FROM EUREKA MASTERS OF CINEMA | 5 NOVEMBER 2018
Dir.: Rainer Werner Fassbinder; Cast: Günter Lamprecht, Gottfired John, Barbara Sukowa, Hanna Schygulla; West Germany/Italy 1980, 940 min.
This captivating 15 hour odyssey is Fassbinder’s adaption of Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel of the same name. It is the story of two men who can not admit their love for each other, and go on to destroy themselves and the women they become involved with. At the same time, it is a symbol of advancing Fascism in the Germany of the Weimar Republic – of which Döblin (1878-1957), a practising psychiatrist and novelist, became a victim himself, and was punished with emigration for being Jewish.
Berlin Alexanderplatzis often compared to James Joyce’s Ulysses and Don Passos’ Manhattan Transfer, two contemporary novels where the protagonists play a major part. Fassbinder has translated the associative structure of the text into an impressionistic portrait of the German capital, where half-sentences and poster texts mix with a permanent flowing traffic: a city which never sleeps, everything dazzles and glimmers. But the chaos of words, sounds and thoughts covers the growing infection with the Fascist bacillus, a regime which promised a new order of certainties.
Franz Biberkopf (Lamprecht) has just been released from prison, after serving four years for strangling his girl friend Ida. He is forbidden by the Police to live in certain areas of Berlin because the milieu might make a recidivist of him. Franz is working as a hawker, selling necktie holders, but he has not the gift for the gab, and finds it impossible to make ends meet, so he is talked into selling the Nazi newspaper Der Volkische Beobachter, even though some of his Jewish contacts warn him of the consequences. Unfortunately, Franz does not want to take on board their efforts to protect him and he sinks further and further into the negative influence of this misguided political movement, where robberies are supposed to benefit the NSDAP, but more often than not serve only the perpetrators. Franz gets to know his nemesis Reinhold (John), a sort of underground leader. Reinhold get quickly bored of his girlfriends, and Franz “inherits” them. One of them is Eva (Schygulla), who once worked for Franz on the streets of Berlin. But his true love is Mieze (Sukowa), who is only too glad to lose Reinhold as her pimp. But Reinhold is jealous of Franz’ chance of a happiness, and he murders Mieze, before throwing Franz from the back of a truck, after a robbery. Franz survives, but loses his right arm – ironically, he cannot perform the ‘Heil Hitler’ greeting anymore. An epilogue sees Franz recovering from his psychosis in a closed psychiatric ward where he suffers from nightmares:dreaming of the atomic bomb and other Armageddon-like events. In the end, he is prepared for work in a Fascist society, but becomes very much a prisoner of the system.
This impressive endeavour, described as the longest film in history at 900-plus minutes, is photographed brilliantly by Xaver Schwarzenbeger (Querelle, Lilli Marlen). With a cast and crew of over a hundred, most of them Fassbinder regulars – such as composer Peer Raaben and editor Juliane Lorenz – Berlin Alexanderplatz is the director’s greatest opus: the homoerotic element of German Fascism symbolised by the bi-polar love-hate relationship between Franz and Reinhold, causing (self) destruction first on a private, then on a worldwide level. AS
AVAILABLE from Second Sight as a LIMITED EDITION BLURAY BOXSET ON 23 JULY 2018 | Complete with a luxury 60 page perfect bound book.
SPECIAL FEATURES FOR LIMITED EDITIONLimited edition deluxe box set (2000 copies only)
‘Fassbinder: Love Without Demands’ – The acclaimed 2015 feature length documentary by ChristianBraad Thomsen
Berlin Alexanderplatz – A Visual Essay by Daniel Bird
‘A Mega Movie and its Story’ documentary by Juliane Lorenz
‘The Making of Berlin Alexanderplatz’
‘The Restoration’ documentary including ‘before and after’
The Original Recaps
Berlinale 2007 trailer
60-page perfect bound book featuring new essay by Cahiers Du Cinema’s Stephane du Mesnildot andarchive material by Wim Wenders, Thomas Elsasser and Christian Braad Thomsen
Dir.: G.W. Pabst; Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Franz Lederer, Carl Götz, Alice Roberts, Daisy d’Ora, Alice Roberts; Germany 1928, 135 min.
Based on two plays by the German playwright Frank Wedekind (Earth Spirit/Pandora’s Box), there had been already a stage, screen and musical version of the story, and Pabst was set to cast Marlene Dietrich in the title role of his own version, having failed to find his ‘Lulu’.
Luckily for him, and for the millions who have watched the feature, his first choice 22 year-old Louise Brooks (a trained dancer) telephoned just in time from Hollywood to accept the role. Pabst had seen her playing a circus artist in Howard Hawks’ A Girl in Every Port, and Paramount had ignored his request to borrow her. Only after she quit Paramount ((“just for the hell of it”), did Bud Schulberg tell her Pabst had offered her the part. And ten minutes later, when she cabled Pabst her agreement – Marlene Dietrich was waiting in the director’s office.
Lulu (Brooks) is a modern femme fatale, and a naïve child all rolled into one. Full of allure and sultry seductiveness: her first pimp Schigolch (Götz), is hiding on the balcony of her flat, when her lover, Dr. Peter Schön (Kortner) arrives. He ist theeditorof a bignewspaperand engaged to the aristocratic beauty Charlotte (O’Ora). After spotting Schigolch, he is delighted to discover that Lulu wants to star in a variety show, helped by Schigolch and the strongman Rodrigo Quast. But on the evening of the first night, Lulu throws a tantrum: she is not going to perform in front of her lover’s fiancée. When Lulu seducesSchön, Charlotte and Schön’s adult sonAlwa (Lederer), whoissecretely in lovewith Lulu, make their way into the backroomof the theatre.The editor has no choice now – he has to marry Lulu. On the night of their wedding, there is a drunken scene on the couple’s bed, involving Quastand Schigolch. The newly wed husband asks Lulu to shoot herself, to save him from becoming a murderer – but in the struggle for the gun he is killed. Lulu is found guilt of manslaughter, but escapes with Alwa, Schilgoch and Quast. The trio soon runs out of money, ending up pennyless in London, where Lulu meets her end at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
Not only did Pabst introduce Louise Brooks as the modern sex beast, he also casts, perhaps for the time in film history, a lesbian protagonist: Countess AnnaGeschwitz( Roberts), who is, like all men, equally smitten by Lulu. But she is no wallflower – managing to murder Quast, who wants to give Lulu away to the police for money.
Pandora’s Box was not successful at the box office, even Kracauer is dismissive of the piece believing Wedekind’s plays to be “really essays”’, lifeless and lacking visual strength. In the USA, the ending was changed: instead of being murdered, Lulu joins the Salvation Army.
Brooks would stay in Europe, starring next in Pabst’s Diary of A Lost Girl, before returning to the USA, where she ended her screen career in 1938, to become a writer. Pabst himself would never reach the same heights, retuning to Nazi Germany in 1939, and ruining his reputation. But Pandora’s Box, the result of chance and the unique historic constellation of culture in theWeimarer Republic, will live on forever! AS
Dir.: Edgar Reitz; Cast: Marita Breuer, Dieter Schaad, Michael Lesch, Rudiger Weingang, Eva Maria Bayerswaltes, Karin Rasenack, Michael Kausch, Peter Harting, Jorg Richter, Jorg Hube, Gudrun Landgrebe, Gertrud Bredel; West Germany 1984, 924 min.
Edgar Reitz was originally intending to publish Heimat as a semi-autobiographical novel but a meeting with producer Joachim von Mengershausen inspired him to film this as a chronicle of Germany’s wartime social history set in the imaginary village of Schabbach, from 1919 to 1982. He was especially keen to avoid the phoney undertones of the US soap opera ‘Holocaust’ (which ironically went down very well with German TV audiences). HEIMAT (1984) is an epic achievement that captures the turbulent years of postwar economic hardship, the rise and fall of Nazism, The Second World War and the decades that followed through the prism of traditional family life rather than through the eyes of Germany’s leaders, politicians, or creatives. Marita Breuer gives a wonderful performance as the woman at the centre of it all, holding the family together as a daughter, wife and matriarch from childhood to old age.
The story begins after Germany’s routing in the Second World War that sees Paul Simon (Lesch) returning to his family in Schabbach, where he escapes the confines of the small community by building a radio and escaping into world events. He falls in love with Apollonia, but later marries Maria (Breuer). His brother Eduard (Weigang), panning for gold in a nearby river, catches pneumonia and never really recovers and is sent to Berlin for treatment. Paul suddenly ups and leaves and Maria is left with the children.
Eduard falls in love with social climber Lucie (Rasenack), who runs a brothel and talks him into joining the SA. Back in the village, another member of the Simon clan is imprisoned in a KZ, for his Communist Party leanings. Maria has now fallen in love with the engineer Otto Wohlleben, but a letter from Paul, who is living in the USA, destroys any future for them. When Paul finally remerges, arriving in Hamburg, he cannot enter the country due to to his name being misconstrued as being ‘Jewish’ – and he has no proof of his Aryan ancestry. Meanwhile Otto is defusing bombs at the front when he learns that Maria has borne him a son called Hermann who he will meet for the first time at the end of the war, when American troops arrive in the village, after the Allies’ victory in 1945, bringing with them a sense of normality – and food. Paul finally returns from the USA, his big limousine is the talk of the village. But his return is not celebrated by everyone and he soon goes back, missing the funeral of his grandmother Katherinna (Bredel). Maria lives her life through her son Hermann who is interested in music and poetry. He eventually falls for Klärchen, who is eleven years older than him. Paul has since sold his company to the Americans for a huge profit, and channels his success into helping Herman with his musical career.
The shoot ran from 1981, and took 18 months, before 13 months of editing resulted in a 15-hour potted version, down from 18 hours of rough-cut. Over ten million West Germans watched the eleven episodes. Thanks to DoP Gernot Roll, a later cinema version was internationally successful, the seemingly arbitrary changes from colour to black-and-white and back giving the chronicle of the years between 1919 and 1982 an added feature. The main premise of HEIMATwas to show how ordinary people – in this case the Germans – can easily embrace a murderous regime such as Nazism, and even in a small village like Schabbach, could tolerate the existence of the concentration camps, almost turning a blind eye. These same people went on to embrace consumerism, this time following in the footsteps of the Americans. Reitz would follow Heimat with The Second Heimat (1992), Heimat – Fragments – The Story of the Women in Heimat (2006) and Home from Home (2013) – all together another 30 hours viewing, premiered at the Venice Film Festival, which became Reitz’ second home.
HEIMAT | 30 APRIL 2018 | Newly restored version for the first time on Blu-ray as Heimat Limited Edition Box Set courtesy of Second Sight.Restored from the original negative by The Edgar Reitz Film Foundation, the set comes complete with a limited-edition luxury 50-page soft cover book and features a vast array of brand new bonus features including Edgar Reitz’s two-hour documentary ‘prologue’ to Heimat and interviews including Edgar Reitz and Marita Breuer Weigang.
Dir.: Wim Wenders; Cast: Rüdiger Vogler, Yella Rottländer, Lisa Kreuzer; West Germany 1974, 110’.
ALICE IN THE CITIES was one of a trilogy of early road-movies by German director Wim Wenders, but the first in which found his very personal style. With the glowing b/w images of his regular collaborater and DoP Robby Müller (Paris, Texas), Wenders develops a poetic realism dealing with a psychological conflict in a subtle and often lyrical way.
German journalist Philip Winter (Vogler) has been sent to the US, to write about the daily life on the sub-continent. But he is traumatised by the visit, losing his ability to hear and see. When he finally returns to his newspaper headquarters New York, all he has to offer is some rather personal Polaroid photos. Winter literally flees New York – but is stopped at the airport where flights to Germany are suspended due to a strike. Booking a flight to Amsterdam – the nearest city to Germany – he meets Lisa Van Damm (Kreuzer) and her nine-year old daughter Alice (Rotländer). Lisa has just split up with her husband, and the three spend the night in a hotel – but when Vogler wakes up, he is alone with Alice. Lisa turns out to be an elusive character: she misses two rendezvous’ at the Empire State Building and Amsterdam airport. Winter travels with the girl to Germany to try and look for Alice’ grandmother, a woman called Krüger who lives in Wuppertal. As it turns out, she really lives in Munich, where Lisa has joined her as the police search desperately for Vogler and the young girl.
Vogler is a rather fragile character, like most male protagonists in Wenders’ features before he moved to the US. There is even a hint of gender confusion: Vogler gets on much better with Alice than his girlfriend Angela, and when he finally returns to Germany, life goes back to normal. There are some great shots of the mono-rail train in Wuppertal, and a long scene in a café, where an old-fashioned jukebox is the main attraction, rather than Alice and Vogler, who make an unconventional couple rather reluctant to give up their journey – by now Vogler’s emotional immaturity has put him on the same developmental stage as Alice, who gains confidence in the company of this older man. An Ozu-like helicopter shot of a slowly disappearing train ends a road movie about little sense and much sensibility.
Yella Rottlander is the standout here, as the film’s title suggests. Alice not only dominates Vogler, but the whole feature. She is sometimes capricious, but very much able to adjust to situations and people. Her screen presence is astonishing, and she totally lacks self-consciousness. Vogler’s Winter is a day-dreamer, who loves to get lost: not it’s not only women are an enigma for him. Wenders direct this elegy of two lost souls with great understatement and perceptiveness. The often dreamy images complement the fairy-tale allure of this adventure. AS
NOW OUT ON BLURAY DVD DUAL FORMAT FROM 4 DECEMBER 2017