Archiv der Kategorie: Film

Where the Monsters Are

Film review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Director: Yorgos Lanthimos)

By Sascha Krieger

The ancient Greek king Agamemnon was a mighty man. But compared to the gods, he was nothing. Long before he would die at the hands of his wife and her lover, the beginning of the final chapter of his family’s pre-destined downfall, while he was on his way to lead the Greek troops in the Trojan war, he killed a deer. A sacred deer, it turned out. Artemis, goddess of hunting, didn’t quite like that, so she manipulated the winds so that the Greek fleet was stuck where it was. in order to free it, she demanded a sacrifice of Agamemnon: that of his daughter Iphigenia. Being the dutiful king, general and subject he was, Agamemnon complied. And even though many later attempts have been made – some unknown ghostwriter seems to even have added such a turn to Euripides‘ original play – to have Iphigenia survivor, this is how the original story ends. Greek film maker Yorgos Lanthimos no doubt knows his Greek mythology. And he likes this ending. Be4cause it gives his a great blueprint to explore motives of guilt, sin and redemption in a world only seemingly far removed from ancient Aulis. And he does so in a film as cold as the hearts of the gods – and as radical in its constistency, as brutal in its straightforwardness as the Greeks consider faith. A film you’ll either love or hate. There is no in-between.

Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell (Image: Alamode Film)

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„See you around, kid!“

Film review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Director: Rian Johnson)

By Sascha Krieger

Now, the hard work begins. Not just for the protagonists in this, the eighth official instalment of the Star Wars saga, but also for its creators. The key task for the previous film, The Force Awakens, was to exorcise the last trilogy, released in the early 2000’s, that bubble-gum-like prequel which was badly received at the time and has aged even worse. J.J. Abrams‘ film who had done similar things to the Star Trek franchise, did that and he paired this with a film that continued the story in an ingenious, captivating but also very intelligent and fairly deep way. But in comparison, this was easy. Now, his successor Rian Johnson has a different task. He has to now find a narrative that is unique to this new trilogy, that defines it, that becomes entirely its own – one, obviously, that still connects to the franchise as a whole. And he does so, among other things, by departing from Abrams‘ template. As strong as The Force Awakens was, there was still a clear polarity between light and dark, good and evil, white and black. Johnson breaks this up. Sure, there still is an essentially „good“ and a rather „bad“ side here but the distinctions become a lot more blurred as Johnson inserts an ingredient that drives the film and turns it into the best of the entire series and by quite some distance: uncertainty.

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Im Schweinesystem

Film – Nature Theater of Oklahoma: Germany Year 2071, Hebbel am Ufer (HAU2), Berlin (Regie: Pavol Liska, Kelly Copper)

Von Sascha Krieger

Es waren seltsame Szene, die sich im Juli letzten Jahres vor dem Haus der Berliner Festspiele abspielten: Wild schreiend und gestikulierend, die Gesichter in Panik verzerrt rannten dutzende Menschen durch die Schaperstraße, immer und immer wieder. Nebenan lief gerade die letzte Ausganbe des Festivals „Foreign Affairs“, da passten die apokalyptischen Szenen gut. Die natürlich auch dazugehörten: Nature Theater of Oklahoma, vor einigen Jahren Schwerpunkt beim Festival drehten Szenen für einen dystopischen Science-Fiction-Film namens Germany Year 2071, ein (letztes) Projekt des Festivals, gemeinsam mit dem Kölner Performance-Festival „Impulse“. Ein Filmdreh als Festival-Programmpunkt: Das ist kein kreativer Weg, Subventionen zu bekommen, sondern Teil des partizipativen Oklahoma-Konzepts. Die Gruppe befasst sich seit jeher mit der schwierigen und oft spannungsreichen Beziehung zwischen Kunst und dem, was wir flapsig Leben zu nennen gelernt haben.   So sind ihre Theaterarbeiten oft Aufeinandertreffen von Spielarten der Realität mit vollkommen unpassend erscheinenden Genreüberstülpungen. In ihren filmischen Projekten hat die „Wirklichkeit“ noch eine ganz andere Möglichkeit einzudringen: Da wird das Publikum zum Mitspieler und Miterschaffer, verschwimmen die Grenzen zwischen Kreation und Rezeption, ist das Drehen des Films zumindest nicht weniger wichtig als das Ergebnis. Der Weg ist das Ziel. Da wundert es nicht, dass der Andrang teilzunehmen groß war, der Saal bei der Berliner Premiere jedoch halbleer blieb. Oder dass die Filmproduktion wesentlicher Teil eines Festivalprogramms war, seine Vorführung sich jedoch an einem Sonntagnachmittag im HAU2 versteckte.

Bild: Sascha Krieger

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The Power of Survival

Film review: Dunkirk (Director: Christopher Nolan)

By Sascha Krieger

What a beginning: a few soldiers are roaming a deserted street, peep into windows, look at the fliers sailing down from a peaceful sky. Suddenly a shot. One of the soldiers collapses. They start running. More shots. One by one they fall. With one exception: a very young soldier jumping over a fence, running until he reaches a beach. Vast. Full of people waiting. Waiting to be rescued from this deadly prison the town has become. This is how Dunkirk opens, Christopher Nolan’s film about one of the turning points of the Second World War. When after being stranded in the northern French town of Dunkirk, completely surrounded by German troops closing in, 350,000 mostly British soldiers were evacuated, this giving Britain the basis to continue and eventually win the war. A miracle many call it.

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Black and Blue

Film review: Moonlight (Director: Barry Jenkins)

By Sascha Krieger

In the moonlight, all black boys look blue. A drug dealer repeats this sentence, heard as a child from an old lady, to a young, shy, bullied boy. At the end of the film, we see the boy, in the moonlight at the beach, looking back at us, shining blue. Between this unfolds what was rightly – though clumsily – named the year’s best film at the 2017 Academy Awards. Moonlight tells the story of a black boy who starts out as „Little“, a tiny, shy, silent, soft-seeming boy bullied by his peers. Hiding in a drug hole, he is discovered by a dealer, Juan, who becomes an unlikely surrogate father while the drugs he sells the boy’s mother begin to destroy any home the boy has had. This is part one. Part two is called „Chiron“, the boy’s real name. Now a teenager but more an outsider than ever he experiences the pangs of being different, struggles with a broken home and his blossoming sexuality which only confirms to him that he’s not like the rest. At the end he makes a choice that brings him to part three, „Black“, the name he once rejected and now adopts. It’s the name of a tough drug dealer with a drug dealer’s muscle, a drug dealer’s style, a drug dealer’s car. A man who’s conforming to role models he sees around him, to a dominating interpretation of masculinity, to what he has learned is what a man is supposed to be like. A man who’s become what he thinks the world wants him to be. A man who seems to have forgotten who he is.

Bild: © A24 / DCM

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Berlinale 2017: Final Thoughts

By Sascha Krieger

Two lonely people meet as a pair of deer in their dreams, they shyly explore each other and reluctantly fall in love, slowly beginning to crack their shells they’ve constructed to keep a hostile world out. Testről és lélekről, this year’s deserved Golden Bear winner is a fragile, poetic, deeply intimate celebration of the right to even the tiniest measure of private happiness. How do film makers respond to a world in crisis, to a rise in nationalism, hatred, racism, an erosion in fundamental democratic values all over the world, a shifting of certainties, a crumbling of foundations in liberal societies? If this year’s Berlinale is any indicator, the answer is two-fold: first, by focusing on the private, the individual fight for themselves, their happiness, their sanity. The best films in this edition’s competition belong to this category and find the political in the private: in a woman’s struggle for her son and her soul (Félicité), in the crisis of society’s cradle, the family (The PartyThe Dinner), in individual fights for dignity in which even the so-called „refugee crisis“ finds place (Toivon tuolla puolen) or in a trans woman’s journey past hat and abuse (Una mujer fantástica). Others such as the only remarkable German entry Helle Nächte refuse the political sphere altogether.

Winner of the Golden Bear: Testről és lélekről (Image: Berlinale)

Winner of the Golden Bear: Testről és lélekről (Image: Berlinale)

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Berlinale 2017: Day 7

By Sascha Krieger

Return to Montauk (Competition / Germany, France, Ireland / Director: Volker Schlöndorff)

Max and Rebecca used to be in love years ago. Now Max, a successful novelist, returns to New Your City, where Rebecca has made a lot of money as a top lawyer. Max has written a book in which she’s heavily featured which doesn’t leave her cold. So she takes him on a trip to Montauk at the very end of Long Island. He wants to rekindle their love, she doesn’t. That’s the story which is peppered with motives of regret, lost love and the wish to rewrite the past, correct the wrongs, start over – the business of writing, of course. Stellan Skarsgård and Nina Hoss play the couple and they do so with a restrained routine that it shares with the entire film. Sure, Volker Schlöndorff can create a nice narrative flow and exquisite images that rely heavily on the strained and pained faces (the only interwsting performance is Susanne Wolff’s as Max‘ loving and used current girlfriend). And of course. Schlöndorff and Colm Tóibín are fine story-tellers and perfectly capable of writing a good script. So where did it all go wrong? Maybe it was the dedication to Max Frisch, a hero of Schlöndorff’s that curtailed his creativity. For what we have here is a heavy-handed doomed love story meets artist drama meet sentimental looking back movie that’s full of meaningful looks, big lines and characterisation using the big brush. Everything is existential and turns out to be bland. Return to Montauk is what it would look like if Schlöndorff ever directed a Rosamunde Pilcher film.

Return to Montauk (Image: © Wild Bunch Germany 2017 / Ann Ray)

Return to Montauk (Image: © Wild Bunch Germany 2017 / Ann Ray)

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Berlinale 2017: Day 6

By Sascha Krieger

Toivon tuolla puolen (Competition / Finland, Germany / Director: Aki Kaurismäki)

A man leaves his wife and opens a restaurant. A Syrian refugee arrives on a coal ship. Two stories Aki Kaurismäki lets run parallel for the first half of this film. Which is a problem. The first of those stories is pure Kaurismäki: Stony, stoic faces, lightly darkish drab interiors, images as rigid and dry as his characters. The least spectacular leaving scene in film history starts a melancholy and drily funny story about people who don’t dare give up and who have hearts of gold beneath those faces of stone. Among Kaurismäki’s stories about the (sometimes not so) little man plodding on stoically to find a tiny little bit of happiness, this is an exemplary one. But there is a second one, that of Khaled from Aleppo. His narrative strand feels generic like an essay slash pamphlet about refugees caught in the mills of bureaucracy, more of a newspaper article than a film. When both strands are combined as the two men meet in a memorable scene, the film picks up speed. The driest of humour accompanies what is melancholic existential comedy meets adventure tale. it would have done the film much good to focus on these strangely easily meeting world s and leave out the bland social drama complete with a murderous Nazi gang. As it is, the film is a solid addition to Kaurismäki’s oeuvre but not more than that.

 (Image: Malla Hukkanen © Sputnik Oy)

Toivon tuolla puolen (Image: Malla Hukkanen © Sputnik Oy)

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Berlinale 2017: Day 5

By Sascha Krieger

The Party (Competition / United Kingdom / Director: Sally Potter)

A politician has just been promoted and is throwing a little afternoon party for her closest friends. This is the setting of Sally Potter’s aptly named film. Impeccable black and white leads the viewer into a cosy, comfortable upper middle class home, not too posh, not too shabby. The crisp cleanness of the imagery cannot hide the disaster that will soon unfold for very long. At the end of the 71 minutes the passing of which hardly goes noticed, a man has almost died, several relationships and friendships have collapsed, one may have been mended and a murder might well be about to be committed. In a fast-paced satirical comedy full of witty lines and characters that are better or worse at hiding their bruises and resentments, The Party feels like a vivisection on the body of the intellectual and reasonable middle class, a body that looks healthy from the outside (again, the carefully composed black and white frame do their purpose) but is riddled with cancer inside. Their subjects have spent so much time at keeping up appearances that substance has long given way. Is there any foundation left to these relationships or is the well-meaning world of those who profess to create a better world but might well be too caught up in their careers to not have lost sight of what’s true. Although: what is truth anyway? A question whose answer doesn’t appear that obvious. Not only here. A hilarious comedy and a devastating social miniature, The Party, performed by an exquisite cast, leaves a smile and a bitter taste. Oh, and the cast is great, too.

The Party (Image: © Adventure Pictures Limited 2017)

The Party (Image: © Adventure Pictures Limited 2017)

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Berlinale 2017: Day 4

By Sascha Krieger

Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Generation 14plus / Canada / Director: Mathieu Denis, Simon Lavoie)

A three-hour film, formally and narratively challenging, featuring a 5-minute black screen opening and an „interlude“ almost as long: placing this into the Berlinale’s Generation section is a fairly bold move. No doubt: this film challenges the attention level not only of younger audiences. On one hand, a highly theoretical essay on the necessity and futility of revolutions, it centers on a small revolutionary, one might also say: terrorist cell in modern-day Montréal with objectives somewhere between the anti-capitalist and the nationalist. The film has the feeling of a collage: realism follows symbolism, news footage is combined with music-only sequences, there are multi-layered narrative overlaps, theoretical soundbites and text boards, more confusing than structuring title cards scattered throughout the film, time is fluid, no change ever explained. At the centre is the group’s „headquarters“, a darkened, nocturnal, clattered cave-like house, that’s living quarters, art space and lab all at once. Changing but always somewhat encapsulating frame formats heighten the sense of claustrophobia and of people losing any touch with reality – when they are forced into contact, the resulting scenes are the film’s rather bland and clichéd weak spots. For most of the time, this is a challenging, multi-faceted exploration of youthful rebellion, an examination of a society in paralysis, observed through the eyes of not very objective outsiders, a journey underground to society’s underbelly of lost ideals and the despair of a failing desire to change the world. A music-driven elegy, distant and close, a painting, human beings between isolation and a bond that supports and holds back. In long scenes the camera follows the characters around on their paths. Lonely, dark, uncertain. They lead nowhere, so at the very end when the everlasting barrage of theory and appeals stops, when light comes in, this spells a glimmer of hope. Hope for another way. For this has ended in a dead end.

Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n'ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Image: © Eva-Maude T-Champoux)

Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Image: © Eva-Maude T-Champoux)

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