Social Criticism and Emotional Longing By Thilo Wydra

in 47th Thessaloniki International Film Festival

by Thilo Wydra

German cinema has been in some kind of crisis for several years now. For many years, names such as Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta and Werner Herzog have been the main representatives of German speaking movies – throughout the 60s, 70s and even in the 80s. Then, times were changing, the new comedian style came up, some sort of special mainstream-humour, which nobody understood and appreciated in other countries. Luckily, this period of comedy is over and, slowly but surely, young German Cinema is developing its own special new way. Young directors gain festival-prizes, such as recently with The Lives of Others for instance. A new visual style, modest in all manners, but strong in its narrative structure, is coming up. Some new wave, called The Berlin School, is gaining a reputation even at the Cannes Film festival.

At the 47th Thessaloniki Film festival, there were some German movies and German co productions to discover as well. In the International Competition, for instance, the Berlin-director Markus Herling did present his first long feature film Riding up Front (Schöner leben). Herling, born in 1962, also wrote the script and produced the film with his own production-company. It’s a drama about several people, all living in Berlin of nowadays, told in some Short Cuts-structure, not linear, not chronological – a circle of people, lonely people, people like you and me, outcasts without any family, without somebody to be held responsible to, of people living without love. They all meet by coincidence on Christmas Eve, people who have had nothing to do with each other, except that their different paths cross. This low-budget-picture shows various sorts and forms of the seeking and longing for love and emotional togetherness. It’s about inter-human understanding, about the huge lack of togetherness in the modern harsh society of today. All the actors are more or less unknown until now, and they all play their parts convincingly. In consequence, it is probably this authentic touch, which convinces most. There seems to be no distance between actors and spectators. All these little lives could just be happening next door – in Berlin, in Germany, or maybe elsewhere in this fast anonymous globalized world…

Other sections of the Thessaloniki Film festival did include Ulrich Köhler’s Windows on Monday (Montags kommen die Fenster), screened Out of Competition, or Warchild by director Christian Wagner, shown in the Bakan Survey, or Bülent Akincis Running on Empty (Der Lebensversicherer) and female director Valeska Grisebach with her two movies Be My Star (Mein Stern) and Longing (Sehnsucht), both in the Independence Days Programme. Besides all this, the Alexander-Award has been contributed to Wim Wenders for his entire work, which was partly shown in a special tribute. Wenders himself opened an exhibition of photographs at the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, film stills taken by his wife Donata and himself on the set of various of his movies (Buena Vista Social Club, The Million Dollar Hotel, Don´t Come Knocking). So, at the end, one of the few outstanding guys representing German cinema since several decades, was honoured, whereas young German directors did introduce their first or second feature-work to the festival spectators. A closing circle, somehow.