Berlinale 2012: Diary Day 7

By Sascha Krieger

Die Vermissten (Perspective German Cinema / Germany / Director: Jan Speckenbach)

A teenage girl disappears. Her father who has not seen her in seven years goes searching for her. This made for TV film starts out as a family drama albeit a rather cool, bloodless one. It is shot in the pointedly realistic way that has become the style of choice in contemporary German cinema. It is a decidedly gray world, everything screams decay. Halfway through the film takes a turn into the (pre? post?) apocalyptic but the film never takes off or rather it never wakes up. There is no intensity of any sort, the contrast between the story and the realistic style fails to create any atmosphere and the dialogues are embarrassingly formulaic. There is no direction, it seems like someone had what seemed to be a good idea but nobody knew what to do with it. An utterly forgettable film.

Westerland (Perspective German Cinema / Germany / Director: Tim Staffel)

A young man is walking on fields of ice. As the camera zooms out we see nothing but ice as far as to to the horizon. In the middle of this cold desert a lonely figure, walking. Tim Staffel’s adaptation of his own novel opens with what may be this Berlinale’s most memorable image of loneliness. Later the young man sits on a bench and pulls a plastic bag over his head. From the distance we see another man come up to him and it looks like they talk. Loneliness, distance, fragile closeness. These are the motifs Westerland revolves around and keeps returning to. These two lonely souls are bound to come together, to keep the other up for a while. First Cem will try to get close to Jesus, then it will be the other way around.  There will be short moments they will share. They cannot last. The film is a sequence of images symbolizing this fragile state, these fleeting moments of togetherness that is fuelled mostly by a fear of being alone. Repeatedly one or both are walking, across dunes, the beach, along empty streets. They stare out towards the sea, again and again they sit next to each other watching TV. They seldom look at each other, conversations often end in someone running away. They are in a state of paralysis, autist-like figures who cannot come together but need to try. In what may be the film’s key scene they roll around on the bed. Are they playing? Are they making love? Are they fighting? Maybe all of it. And maybe none. Does it matter?

Chocó (Panorama / Columbia / Director: Jhonny Hendrix)

Chocó brings the European viewer into a world completely unknown to most of them: those of the black people of Columbia. Descended from slaves they are still ver much second class citizens. The few white men in the film are, of course, the bosses and exploit the blacks as much as they can. The only black „boss“ is a gold mine owner who works in an environment-friendly way where the white mine owner uses mercury. In the middle of all of this is Chocó, a young mother of two with a lazy, permanently drunk and violent husband. The film starts end ends on long scenes of people singing: mourning music at the start, a celebration in the end. There is singing again and again throughout the film. The music, it seems, is meant to provide the film’s backbone and probably also represent these people’s culture. The story, however, is painfully simplistic: Chocó tries to get her family through, gets abused by her husband and her white employer, sells herself to get a birthday present for her daughter and later takes revenge on her husband. There is a hint of what might be the supernatural and that’s it. All characters are at best tw-dimensional, there is no distinctive esthetic or atmosphere to the film, no emotional depth. Between the opening and the closing scene this could be told anywhere in the world in exactly the same way. At the beginning of the screening, director Jhonny Hendrix says this was the first time someone made a film about this – this world, these people. Unfortunately he hasn’t really done so.


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