German Films: Specificity in Diversity By Nenad Dukic

in 56th Berlinale

by Nenad Dukic

Before the festival, one of the questions Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick was asked was why he included such an usually large number of German films. The implication was that he probably uses the advantage of home turf to show as many German movies as possible. In the end, this insinuation proved to be quite inappropriate.

The festival presented eight German films in competition and in the Panorama section, but more important is the fact that all of them deserved the attention. Four films are ranked among the best films within both programs. The selection demonstrated the thematic diversity of the new German production as well as the authors’ specific and imaginative approach to the treatment of phenomena and the psychology of contemporary life.

According to the choice, the German cinema is on the road to establishing high standards in treating aspects of contemporary life, no matter if the subject is the social or psychological-intimate aspect of the film topic. Furthermore, in most of the cases, these are films whose authors make no compromises with the use of film language or the specificity of the film form, but, at the same time, they pay attention to their communication with the audiences. The examples are the movies The Free Will (Der freie Wille)by Matthias Glasner, Tough Enough (Knallhart) by Detlev Buckand Longing (Sehnsucht) by Valeska Grisebach.

The psychological drama The Free Will by Matthias Glasner is set as a psychological thriller so that the line of the movie portraying the main character’s complex psychological conditions would be cinematic and, thus, convincing and based upon life itself. Theo, a victim of sexual abuse in his childhood, who consequently, grows into a perpetrator himself, wanders around the labyrinth of his closed circle of hell, raping women, as he can achieve no other communication with them. With directing interventions harmoniously paying attention to the consistency of the action on the one hand, and to the logic of the film story on the other, the author made a film about the terror of fear, helplessness, loneliness and the feeling of being lost.

Another film with a social background and a subtle film language was Tough Enough. The story about a boy who, due to a lack of harmony in his family and the neglect of the society, grows into a young man whose life is marked by crimes and superficial sensations. This is, seemingly, a cliché story with cliché characters, but the well structured scenario and the inventive directing gradually introduce the viewer into a film of multi-layered meanings: the character of the boy is well developed; a strong social context imbues all the lines of the film story. The emotional line of the film is graded skillfully and without pathos. The political dimension discretely introduces the topic of different ethnic groups in Germany today. Quite unusually for films of this type, Tough Enough is visually rich (a creative use of color in a black-and-white texture) and edited in the way that the rhythm of the film corresponds to its dramaturgy.

Completely different, in thematic and formal sense, was Longing by Valeska Grisebach, a movie of a specific directing procedure and sensibility. A love story taking place in a German village; the authenticity of the characters and the authenticity of the sensations of their everyday life — this is the framework the director fills with a feature film in a documentary style and with the excellent choice of non-professional actors.