Carl Theodor Dreyer – Der var engang AKA Once Upon a Time (1922)

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Once upon a Time (a.k.a. Der var engang) is an atypical film for the Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, a departure from his more usual realistic dramas into the realm of fantasy and fairytale. It was the only film that Dreyer made for the independent film producer Sophus Madsen, a Danish film enthusiast whose only other production was Laurids Skands’s all but forgotten Livets Karneval (1923). The film was adapted from a play by Holger Drachmann, written in 1885, that was itself based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale Svinedrengen and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the
Shrew. From the outset, this was conceived as a lavish production, but it soon ran into financial difficulties. Even though some scenes were cut – including an extravagant market sequence – the film still ended up with a 150 per cent overspend on its 90,000
kroner budget. Continue reading

Bernard Queysanne – Un homme qui dort AKA The Man Asleep (1974)

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In this French tour-de-force a young student (Jacques Speisser) decides to have no more interaction with the world than is needed to minimally sustain life. His increasingly automaton-like behavior is coupled with a strange clarity of insight about the world around him. His inner musings as he wanders the luminous streets of Paris are narrated in the form of an unwritten diary by Ludmila Mikael. Continue reading

Çetin Inanç – Demir pençe (korsan adam) AKA Iron Claw the Pirate (1969)

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With his operations in Istanbul being continually upset by the masked patriot-cum-vigilante Iron Claw the Pirate (Demir Karahan) and his female sidekick Mine (Nebahat Cehre), the legendary super villain Fantomas (Necati Er) travels to the city intent on eliminating the pair. In the meantime, a government operative, Yilmaz (Oktar Durukan), is killed during a raid on one of Fantomas’s lairs and his brother Yildirim (Yildirim Gencer) vows revenge. Teaming up with Iron Claw, Mine and the mysterious agent Uncle (Danyal Topatan), Yildirim soon finds himself in the thick of the action. But if our heroes are going to defeat Fantomas, they must first get past his chief henchman, the hulking, metal-handed Behcet (Behcet Nacar). Continue reading

Achim Bornhak – Der Nachtmahr AKA The Nightmare (2015)

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After a night of partying in a mansion with a swimming pool, teenager Tina starts to experience weird things. She hallucinates a violent deja-vu, and hears discomforting sounds. At home she is haunted by a mysterious creature that only she can see. The film suggest several explanations for her visions. Is she overly tense? Psychotic? Drugged? Jealous? Her parents and friends seem to think she is going through a phase. Tina is convinced that the creature is for real, and she starts identifying with in a way that prompts her parents to take drastic measures on her behalf.

DER NACHTMAHR (“the nightmare”) is best characterized as an atmospheric thriller or indeed like a dream: at times feverishly slow, at other times restless and shifting. A vibrant electronica-soundtrack and superb acting from Carolyn Genzkow in the leading role makes it a captivating film experience. Continue reading

Tobias Nölle – Aloys (2016)

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Aloys Adorn is a middle aged private detective who lives and works with his father. He experiences life from a safe distance, through a video camera he keeps recording 24 hours a day, and the massive collection of surveillance tapes he organizes and obsessively watches at home. But when his father dies, Aloys is left on his own and his sheltered existence begins to fall apart. After a night of heavy drinking, Aloys wakes up on a public bus to find that his camera and precious observation tapes have been stolen. Soon after, a mysterious woman calls to blackmail him. She offers to return the tapes if Aloys will try an obscure Japanese invention called ‘telephone walking’ with her, using his imagination as their only connection. As he is drawn deeper and deeper, falling in love with the voice on the other end of the phone, the woman opens up a new universe that may allow Aloys to break out of his isolation and into the real world. Continue reading

Federico Fellini – La città delle donne AKA City of Women (1980)

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Marcello is in the compartment of an Italian train, facing forward when the mineral water of the woman seated across from him starts to fall toward him. He catches the bottle and makes eye contact and follows her when she leaves the compartment. For a few moments she finds him attractive too. Then suddenly she gets off the train and starts walking through a field. Marcello follows her, loses her, finds himself in a large hotel surrounded by women. A feminist conference is taking place and he tries to escape. Continue reading