Nicolas Wackerbarth – Halbschatten AKA Everyday Objects (2013)

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On an overcast summer’s day, Merle arrives at her lover Romuald’s villa, jacket and luggage in hand, to find the doors are locked. He had invited her to visit him in the south of France but seems to have headed off somewhere. She thus has to come to some arrangement with his uncooperative children, help celebrate Emma’s 13th birthday and put up with Felix’s impudence, the 16-year-old son who sees her presence as a provocation.
It doesn’t take long for the host’s absence to become barely noticeable. The plot centres on Merle, on her attempts to fit in, to take on this unexpected role as naturally as possible. In a particularly striking scene, she gets into an argument with the local baker, who refuses to give her a cake ordered for Emma’s birthday. Merle loses the battle of wills. When Romuald finally calls, she decides to side with his children rather than her distant lover, and quietly enjoys her breakthrough. With great empathy and subtlety, Nicolas Wackerbarth’s Halbschatten creates a portrait of a person ill at ease with being the centre of attention, in the glaring sunlight. Continue reading

Helma Sanders-Brahms – Deutschland bleiche Mutter aka Germany, Pale Mother (1980)

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In her film Germany, Pale Mother Sanders-Brahms depicts her childhood in Germany during and after WWII. In order to survive, mother (Lene) and child (Anna) form a self-sufficient bond which excludes the father when he returns from war. The film portrays a child’s resilience in the face of such war trauma as death, and, especially for girls, fear of assault. Anna emulates Lene’s ability to transcend suffering through her will to survive and through narrative, the focus of this paper. Lene’s reciting of the Grimms’ “The Robber Bridegroom” fairy tale, in which the heroine flees and defeats her potential assailant by telling her story, enables them to overcome their suffering as war victims and inspires Anna, the filmmaker, to narrate their story, to become the subject not the object of her life story, and to transcend the past. Postwar scenes depict the difficulty of returning to traditional family roles because of the father’s wartime absence and the resulting abuse from a disillusioned, frustrated husband/father, the postwar “enemy”. There is a role reversal in which Anna becomes the mother’s caretaker which reaches its climax in the final scene Continue reading

Werner Herzog – Fata Morgana (1971)

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Info from wiki,

Fata Morgana is a film by Werner Herzog, shot in 1969, which captures mirages in the desert. Herzog describes the film as “a documentary shot by extraterrestrials from the Andromeda Nebula, and left behind.” The only spoken words consist of a recitation of the Mayan creation myth (the Popul Vuh) by Lotte Eisner, and text written and recited by Herzog himself.

The critic David Thomson describes Fata Morgana as “extraordinary”: “[The] desert is a model for mankind. The film is in three sections: the first showing an unpeopled, beautiful wasteland; the second introducing signs of human wreckage; and the third showing wretched vestiges of life. Totally imaginative, it is a legend of life at extremes that exposes the fatuity of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Whereas Stanley Kubrick glibly assumes some all-powerful, riddle-making consciousness behind the universe, Herzog’s creator is as fallible, quirky and uncertain as man himself.” Continue reading

Stephan Geene – Umsonst AKA For Nothing (2014)

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Unannounced, Aziza is once again standing in her room – internship, Portugal, everything canceled. But her room is occupied. Her mother, Trixi, has rented it out. Zach lives there now, a twenty-something from New Zealand, who came to Germany on a one-way ticket. Starting from this situation, the film develops an almost documentary-style portrait of a Kreuzberg ‘situation’: everything is readily available, time, people, summer, streets. And in the end a crash, the film itself: ‘for nothing’? Continue reading

Oliver Haffner – Ein Geschenk der Götter AKA A Godsend (2014)

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Out of the blue Anna, an actress at a provincial community theater, gets fired. Fresh off the stage, she suddenly finds herself at the local job center. On the urging of her theater-mad case worker, she takes on an acting course for seven “hard-to-place clients“ — as a compulsory training measure. Overcoming huge resistance, Anna forms the bunch of frustrated lone wolves into a group and starts to rehearse Antigone with them. This gives new impetus to the participants’ own private dramas, while Anna too experiences a sort of “comeback” for which she wasn’t quite prepared. Continue reading

Werner Herzog – Herz aus Glas AKA Heart of Glass (1976)

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Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Heart of Glass (Herz aus Glas) is essentially a treatise by Werner Herzog on the power and importance of art. Director Herzog was known to put his actors through the wringer to get the results he wanted. In this film, Herzog decided that the best way to get his people to dance to the crack of his whip was to actually put them under hypnosis! The dazed, zombie-like performances certainly fit the subject matter. This is the story of an 18th-century Bavarian glassblower who by virtue of his delicate work virtually casts a spell over his neighbors. When the glassblower dies, the townsfolk discover that he failed to leave behind the secret for his special ruby glassware — and will do literally anything to find the answer. The word usually used to describe Heart of Glass is “haunting”; some viewers have gone beyond haunted and into “possessed.” Watch carefully and spot director Herzog in a bit as a glass carrier. Continue reading