Klaus Wyborny – Die Geburt der Nation AKA The Birth of a Nation (1973)

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Authentically ‘New’ German Cinema, and, simultaneously, an archaeology of narrative film itself, Wyborny’s avant-garde landmark defines cinema as a ‘nation’ that has perversely acquired rulers, laws and hierarchies before it has even been physically mapped out. At first appearing to spin an elementary yarn of social organisation (the predictably fraught establishment of a rudimentary commune in the Moroccan desert of 1911) in the ‘authoritative’ film language of DW Griffith, Wyborny proceeds to break down that language to its constituent elements and produce fragmentary hints of alternatives. Structural film-making of a rare wit and accessibility results, with flashes of appropriate absurdity highlighting the redundancy of closed systems, whether social or cinematic. Continue reading

Robert Reinert – Nerven aka Nerves (1919)

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In Nerven, writer-director-producer Robert Reinert tried to capture the “nervous epidemic” caused by war and misery which “drives people mad”. This unique portrait of the life in 1919 Germany, filmed on location in Munich, describes the cases of different people from all levels of society: Factory owner Roloff who looses his mind in view of catastrophies and social disturbances, teacher John who is the hero of the masses and Marja who turns into a radical revolutionary. Using different fragments the Munich Film Museum could reconstruct this forgotten German classic which is a historic document and anticipates already elements of the Expressionist cinema of the 1920s. Continue reading

Hans Weingartner – Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei aka The Edukators [+extras] (2004)

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The Edukators (German: Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei) is a German-Austrian film made by the Austrian director Hans Weingartner and released in 2004. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival,[1] it stars Daniel Brühl, Stipe Erceg and Julia Jentsch.

The original German title, Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei translates literally as “the fat years are over”. Die fetten Jahre is a German expression originating from the story of Joseph in Egypt as found in the Luther Bible, meaning a period in which one enjoys considerable success and indulges oneself heavily. The official translation of the statement as used in the film and the subtitle to the English-language release was “Your days of plenty are numbered.”

The film was generally well received by critics. Based on 74 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 69%, with an average score of 6.5/10. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 68, based on 28 reviews. Continue reading

Wolfgang Becker – Good Bye Lenin! (2003)

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If not as dense as Godard’s Masculin Féminin, Wolfgang Becker’s Good Bye, Lenin! is an equally playful look at the effects of American globalization abroad. Christiane Kerner (Katrin Saß) is a Communist party supporter who falls into a coma after a heart attack and sleeps through the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent invasion of America’s fast food joints. Looking to spare his mother further injury, Alex (Daniel Brühl) concocts an elaborate plan to convince the bedridden woman that Communism is still very much alive: He videotapes fake news programs to explain the “Trink Coca-Cola” banner outside her window and makes her believe that her favorite brands of food haven’t been replaced by cheap—but apparently similar tasting—knock-offs from Holland. Continue reading

Arnold Fanck & Georg Wilhelm Pabst – Die Weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü AKA The White Hell of Pitz Palu [+Extras] (1929)

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Plot Synopsis
While enjoying a romantic stay in a remote mountain cabin, Maria and Hans (Leni Riefenstahl and Ernst Petersen) discover a logbook revealing the tragic tale of Dr. Johannes Krafft (Gustav Diessl). He lost his wife in an avalanche, and wanders the faces of Pitz Palu seeking to reclaim her frozen corpse. On the anniversary of her death, Krafft appears at the cabin, and Maria and Hans volunteer to join him on the next leg of his grim expedition. A series of unfortunate events leaves the three stranded on the dreaded north face without shelter or supplies. While Johannes’s loyal friend (Otto Spring) leads a spectacular torch-lit rescue effort through the icy glacial caves, Johannes, Maria and Hans face the realization that they cannot all survive, and someone is fated to perish in The White Hell of Pitz Palu. Continue reading

Rolf Schübel – Gloomy Sunday – Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod (1999)

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Budapest in the thirties. The restaurant owner Laszlo hires the pianist András to play in his restaurant. Both men fall in love with the beautiful waitress Ilona who inspires András to his only composition. His song of Gloomy Sunday is, at first, loved and then feared, for its melancholic melody triggers off a chain of suicides. The fragile balance of the erotic ménage à trois is sent off kilter when the German Hans goes and falls in love with Ilona as well. Continue reading

Volker Schlöndorff – Die Blechtrommel AKA The Tin Drum [Director’s Cut] (1979)

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“A country unable to mourn,” Volker Schlöndorff wrote in his journal as he adapted Günter Grass’ novel, The Tin Drum. “Germany, to this day, is the poisoned heart of Europe.” When the film premiered in West German cinemas in early May 1979, it figured within a country’s larger (and, in many minds, long overdue) reckoning with a legacy of shame and violence. Indeed, the Nazi past haunted the nation’s screens, more so than it ever had since the end of World War II. The American miniseries Holocaust aired that year on public television in February and catalyzed wide discussion about Germany’s responsibility for the Shoah. Later that month, Peter Lilienthal’s David gained accolades at the Berlin Film Festival for its stirring depiction of a young Jewish boy living underground in the Reich’s capital during the deportations to the camps. History returned as film; retrospective readings of the Third Reich by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz, Helma Sanders-Brahms, and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (among others) would become the calling card of the New German Cinema and bring this group of critical filmmakers an extraordinary international renown. In 1979, The Tin Drum won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. A year later, it would become the first feature from the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) to receive an Oscar for best foreign film. Continue reading