By Sascha Krieger
Berlin Alexanderplatz (Competition / Germany, Netherlands / Director: Burhan Qurbani)
Burhan Qurbani’s adaptation of Alfred Döblin’s classic takes the story from Depression era Germany to contemporary Berlin. Instead of Döblin’s struggling worker Franz Biberkopf, the film follows Francis, a refugee from West Africa. This makes sense: the social fault lines have shifted, the downtrodden, the exploited, the cast-away, the new proletariat, these are the fleeing, the refugees, the migrant workers, the „illegals“ that end up as drug dealers, fodder for the capitalist underbelly, ammunition for the ideologues. The latter is absent in Qurbani’s film (he dealt with Neonazi violence in other works), the former all to present. Narrated by Jella Haase’s Mieze, it has the sound of a morality play, a dark tale in five acts. It starts in blood red, the sea Francis is released from and his wife perishes in, upside down, just like this world. Red remains a dominant colour, red light shines in the night, the nightmare that is this story of a dienfall. The camera dances around the characters, it floats with them, rises and falls with them. Albrecht Schuch is a demonic Reinhold, a symbol of everything that enslaves, abuses, exploits. He us the white man, wearing white in a pivotal scene, the colonialist partner that becomes the killer he’s always been. The pale lights flicker on Welket Bungué’s proud face, on his bewildered, defiant, hopeful, naive features. True, the learning resistance he’s inherited from Franz, the refusal to see the Reinhold principle for what it is, feels irritating as do the ritual daughter flashbacks adding a way too obvious symbolism where none is needed. As it stands, the film is a nightmarish dance of death, a dark poem in cold nocturnal colours, a universal, superpersonal morality piece, an allegory of our times. Refugees welcome? Sure, but where and as what?