Men and Borders

in 53rd Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival

by Kalinka Stoynovska

There were three films at the Berlinale 2003 that focused on the borders, men and illegal immigration: Michael Winterbottom’s “In this World”, the German-Polish production “Lichter” (Distant lights) – dir. Hans-Christian Schmid and the Slovenian “Reservni deli” (Spare Parts) – dir. Damjan Kozole.

Obviously, their presence at the festival was not accidental. The personal styles of the directors are different, but they all have something in common that makes for interesting critical reflection.

There is a presumption that such a theme in cinema is related to superficial political documentaries and is far from art. Why make films about things that could be read about in the newspapers or seen on television? Could the image of a group of people from the Third World, arriving after a frightful and exhausting trip to the European Mecca be interesting for an audience? And if some of these miserable creatures are found as corpses, or most of them are left several days without air and water in closed tracks – is this a bearable story?

Isn’t the inner life of the individual of the civilized world – clever, intelligent and sensitive, obsessed with his existential problems more attractive and impressive? The directors know how to show this as a cosmic drama…

I also like complex and deep films treating the existential dramas. They offer inner knowledge of human life and great pleasure for the viewer.

But for me the other knowledge is also important. The theme of migration and wandering is also important. It’s significant that some directors show us not only simple facts and social problems, but are really interested in the destiny of these miserable people who are trying to change their lives or to survive in a world, becoming more end more cruel and inhuman every day.

Michael Winterbottom using a characteristic documentary style, depicts authentically the journey of a child from the East to the West. And he reminds us that this is the usual path of thousands of children all over the world. Together with his crew, he follows this voyage without any superficial emotions. He succeeds in transforming some episodes of the documentary vision into magnificent visual metaphors.

The picture “Lichter” (Distant lights) – uses well a novelistic structure containing some human stories, related also to the trespassing of a border. But the story is developed in a Europe, ready for unification – on the Poland-German border. Here also the illegal human current is an everyday fact and has its own rules. This is also a part of our world. The human dramas are the same as everywhere – people fall in love, suffer and are deceived…

The Slovenian film “Reservni deli” (Spare Parts) focuses on the behavior of the go-betweens of the two worlds – the people, that have made a good business of the illegal transfer of fugitives. The reality in this picture seems severe and most of the characters are not at all interested in the other’s dramas that occur around them…

Maybe the reality has projected outside its monsters…

Kalinka Stoynovska