Archiv der Kategorie: Małgorzata Szumowska

Berlinale 2018: Day 9

By Sascha Krieger

In den Gängen (Competition / Germany / Director: Thomas Stuber)

What an opening: Still lie the aisles in this superstore somewhere in the eastern parts of Germany. A peaceful twilight lies in the air. The sweet sounds of Johann Strauss‘ famous waltz „An der schönen blauen Donau“ (of 2001 – A Space Odyssee fame) fill the room while forklifts glide elegantly through the aisles. Director Thomas Stuber explores the poetry and prose of a modern supermarket – a world in its own, self-sufficient, a miniature edition of the larger, scarier one outside, which is why In den Gängen hardly ever leaves it. Franz Rogowski plays his second leading role in this year’s competition, a quiet, soft man with a floating voice that doesn’t really seem present. It’s the story of his arrival, shedding a past discovered only late when he has already found his place. Complemented by the sad cheekiness of Sandra Hüller and the dry melancholia of Peter Kurth, two of Christian’s co-worker, chief among a group of characters finely moulded no matter how small they are and excellently played by a stellar cast. The loving glance Christian directs at the forklift long before he’s allowed to operate it, is longing and a promise. A new life in the beauty of faithful efficiency. The sunless world has its own soft glow in Stuber’s film, brightening just a little as it moves on. As this is life, there is love and death, too, and a few clichés which can be forgiven. At the end, as we’ve roamed through the aisles and observed their grid from above, the camera fleetingly moving from distance to closeness and finding its space in-between, where both meet, everything is open, the rough poetry of this safe space, pale, a little run-down, but a refuge of its own, has exhibited a glimpse of magic. Which brings this year’s Berlinale Competition to a strong and moving end.

IN DEN GÄNGEN (R: Thomas Stuber); v.l.: Sandra Hüller und Franz Rogowski

In den Gängen (© Sommerhaus Filmproduktion / Anke Neugebauer)

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Berlinale 2015: Day 5

By Sascha Krieger

Als wir träumten (Competition / Germany, France / Director: Andreas Dresen)

„Listen, Dani“, Mark says as they’re sitting on a roof, „they’re playing our song.“ A police siren can be heard in the distance. Als wir träumten chronicles the youth of five friends who grow up in Leipzig around the fall of the Berlin Wall. It moves back and forth between they’re late East German childhoods and teenage years without limits, with drugs and crime and violence and alcohol – and loads of dreams. At the end, most will be shattered and a taxi driver will ask Dani: „Where to?“ The film ends here, without an answer. This is a rather untypical film for Andreas Dresen: fast-paced, two hours of tripping through the night which had just promised to be a new morning. The story focuses a little too much on ritual battles with rather prototypical skinheads, it features a heavy dose of sex and drugs and techno music clichés and has a rather bleak perspective in store for its heroes. But it does succeed in sucking the viewer into these lives, enacted by a young, enthusiastic and fearless cast which lends more credibility to the story than Wolfgang Kohlhaase’s script based on Clemens Meyer’s novel. The result is an atmospherically dense film which might lack the depth of some of Dresen’s other efforts but makes up for it with plenty of life and energy, captured by Michael Hammon’s sensitive and variable cinematography whose images tell their own story of a time in which everything seemed possible. Not a great film but one that holds the audience’s attention for two hours. That’s not too small an achievement.

Als wir träumten (Peter Hartwig © Rommel Film)

Als wir träumten (Peter Hartwig © Rommel Film)

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Berlinale 2013: Diary Day 2

By Sascha Krieger

Promised Land (Competition / United States / Director: Gus van Zant)

„We were going to make a movie about American identity“, says Matt Damon at the press conference for Promised Land. „We found the issue later in the process.“ The issue is fracking, the controversial method of accessing oil and natural gas resources, America’s ticket to energy independence. Or so many hope. Matt Damon is Steve, working for a natural gas company, who has come to convince the inhabitants of a downtrodden community that gas is their path to a prosperous future. Soon he encounters two serious opponents who make his life considerably harder. For a while, Promised Land is a compelling study in people their priorities and the hard choices they have to make. Yes, fracking might poison their land forever but isn’t that an appropriate price to pay for getting one’s kids through college. It is one of the strengths of this film that it refuses to take sides. All have good reasons, even Steve’s colleague Sue (Frances McDormand) for whom this is just a job to support her family. Gus van Zant, as always, is a careful and subtle observer, noticing every little doubt behind the self-confidence. His direction and the witty and complex screenplay full of great dialogue, which was written by Damon and co-star John Krasinski, allow the film to remain and interesting study on collective and inner dynamics for quite some time. Where it fails is in its intention. This is supposed to be about American identity after all, causing the film to constantly return to praises of the land that once was, reminiscences of a happier past, down to Steve’s boots which he inherited from his grandfather. This is all a little much and instills a conservatism that doesn’t do Promised Land much good. In the end, Damon, Krasinski and van Zant seem so uninterested in their topic that they give their film the easiest and worst of ending. When all is said and done, Promised Land is strangely harmless, almost a feel-good movie. And that sure isn’t good news.

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