Richard Wagner’s last opera has remained controversial since its first performance for its unique, and, for some, unsavory blending of religious and erotic themes and imagery. Based on one of the medieval epic romances of King Arthur and the search for the holy grail (the chalice touched by the lips of Christ at the last supper), it recounts over three long acts how a “wild child” unwittingly invades the sacred precincts of the grail, fulfilling a prophecy that only such a one can save the grail’s protectors from a curse fallen upon them. Interpreters of the work have found everything from mystical revelation to proto-fascist propaganda in it. Continue reading
Director Hans-Jurgen Syberberg examines the rise and fall of the Third Reich in this brooding seven-hour masterpiece, which incorporates puppetry, rear-screen projection, and a Wagnerian score into a singular epic vision. Syberberg, who grew up under Nazi tyranny, ruminates on good and evil and the rest of humanity’s complicity in the horrors of the holocaust. Continue reading
Silent movies require a unique visual storytelling grammar, a rhythm of clear, economical medium shots, punctuated by close-ups of pertinent objects and human faces reacting. Veit Helmer’s debut feature Tuvalu isn’t strictly a silent movie—it features sound effects and the odd exclamation—but the film is virtually dialogue-free, and heavily influenced by the grammar of the silents and the fanciful retro-futurist decay of Terry Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. But Helmer has neither the clarity nor the rococo flourish of his predecessors, and his over-reliance on color filters and crammed, busy takes inhibits Tuvalu’s ability to charm and enchant. The film stars Denis Lavant (the craggy but acrobatic center of the contemporary French cinema classics Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf and Beau Travail) as the manager of a swimming pool in a crumbling, depressed metropolis. Continue reading
There are places in Europe that have remained as painful memories of the past – factories where humans were turned into ash. These places are now memorial sites that are open to the public and receive thousands of tourists every year. The film’s title refers to the eponymous novel written by W.G. Sebald, dedicated to the memory of Holocaust. This film is an observation of the visitors to a memorial site that has been founded on the territory of a former concentration camp. Why do they go there? What are they looking for? Continue reading
One of the last great German Expressionist films of the silent era, Joe May’s Asphalt is a love story set in the traffic-strewn Berlin of the late 1920s. Starring the delectable Betty Amann in her most famous leading role, Asphalt is a luxuriously produced Ufa classic where tragic liaisons and fatal encounters are shaped alongside the constant roar of traffic.
In Berlin, a policeman called Holk is summoned to a jeweller’s shop, where a beautiful young woman has tried to steal a diamond. En route to the police station, the woman takes Holk back to her apartment on the pretext of collecting some papers and ends up seducing him. Soon he finds himself caught between his duty and the woman he is falling in love with. Continue reading
One dramatic event marked the life of the great German artist in particular. At the beginning of the First World War she was already world famous for her etchings, lithographs, carvings and drawings. To her horror, her youngest son, Peter, volunteered to go to war. Within a few weeks she received the dreadful news Peter fell in Flanders. Käthe Kollwitz, who had always sided with the common people, became a committed pacifist and even a socialist. She lived with her husband, a doctor to the poor, in the Berlin working-class quarter of Prenzlauer Berg, where a central square is now named after her. The bloody end of the November Revolution destroyed her hope for swift improvements in living conditions, but strengthened her convictions. The excellently cast DEFA film shows impressive images from the life of a woman who was later to be a vehement foe of National Socialism and whose work still impresses the world today. Continue reading
Lotte is impulsive, rough around the edges and leads a colourful life on the streets of Berlin, stumbling from man to man and flat to flat. One night in her local bar she bumps into Marcel, an almost forgotten acquaintance. Just after he recognises her Lotte takes flight, finding refuge in the flat of her friend Sabine. The following day, the events of the previous evening still grate on Lotte and she cannot seem to shake them off, even during her work at the hospital. A young girl, Greta, is brought in, Lotte takes care of her and a gentle affection develops between them. But this happiness is short-lived because, a little later, Lotte witnesses an encounter between Greta and Marcel. The three catch sight of each other and Lotte realises she will not be able to run away this time. Continue reading