German Film Week at IFI: The System

Marc Bauder’s fiction feature debut The System screened on Tuesday night at the IFI as part of German Film Week. A taut, well-written thriller, The System introduces us to Mike Hiller (Jacob Matschenz), a young layabout who gets involved with a former East German secret service agent Konrad Böhm (Bernhard Schütz) now working as an international lobbyist to secure the future profits from a deal to build a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Böhm introduces Hiller to a world above petty crime and after exchanging his hoodie for a suit seduces him to the dark side of capitalism.

The System delves into the underbelly of corruption, blackmail, politics, power and profit. Yet as the film develops we learn that there is so much more that actually brings the two together and it is the personal rather than the political that paves their fate.

A smart and sophisticated film, The System is marked by its 3 central standout performances – Jacob Matschenz as the young malcontent, Jenny Schily as his stoic mother, and Bernhard Schütz, enthralling in his role as the Machiavellian shrewd operator.

The German Fim Week at the IFI concludes this evening with the screening of Stopped on Track, Andreas Dresen’s moving drama of a family man suffering from a mailgnant brain tumour – a film that has garnered a multitude of awards and promises to be a fitting end to a fine week of German film.

Tickets are available from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

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German Film Week at IFI: 4 Days in May

4 Days in May screened on Monday evening continuing the German Film Week at the IFI. The third film by writer/director Achim von Borries, 4 Days in May portrays an extremely odd incident that took place during the final days of World War II. With the end of the war imminent 8 Russian soldiers under the command of Captain Kalmykov (Aleksei Guskov) lie low in a German-run orphan shelter on the Baltic coast. Meanwhile a large troop of war-weary German soldiers arrive on the nearby beach, forcing a stand-off between both sets of soldiers. Yet as events transpire it is not the German soldiers that the Russians end up having problems with.

Von Borries chooses to tell the story from the perspective of a 13-year-old German boy, who gets caught up in the events desperate to prove himself a hero, which allows the director to tell the tale from a non-judgmental standpoint and focus on the events that unfold. Since his debut feature in 2000 England!, von Borries has proved himself to be a director with a strong sense of narrative and a skill for evoking mood. No better than here with 4 Days in May in a beautifully shot climax to events that is stunning in its simplicity and effective in its message.

The film will no doubt have sparked many a political and philosophical debate amongst its German and Russian audiences. Ultimately though, this is a human story and functions as a valuable personal footnote to the larger scale story of war.

With 4 Days in May Von Borries has created a compelling film that challenges preconceptions of what makes soldiers do what they do and opens up perceptions of both sides through the eyes of the other.

The German Fim Week at the IFI continues this evening with the screening Marc Bauder’s thriller The System at 18.50.

Tickets are available from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

Steven Galvin

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German Film Week at IFI: Almanya: Welcome To Germany

 

Almanya: Welcome To Germany screened on Saturday evening as part of the German Film Week at the IFI. A light-hearted and charming comedy, the film explores the experiences of 3 generations of Turks who settled in Germany to make a life for themselves. The film, set in modern-day Germany, traces its family’s history of immigration. Effortlessly shifting from 1964 to the present day, the flashbacks are told from the perspective of Canan, a young member of the family who is telling the story to her 6-year-old cousin Cenk at a family meal. Cenk’s curiosity has been piqued by incidents at school where he doesn’t know which football side to play on and when his teacher’s map doesn’t extend to his family’s original homeland – as a result the teacher’s pin is fastened into the empty space of the wall to the right of the map.

Canan’s story tells how the family’s most senior member Hüseyin left his family in Turkey in the mid 1960s to become a part of Germany’s ‘economical miracle’. His family soon join him setting off this comedy of cultural misunderstanding and family bonds. Hüseyin tells the family at dinner that he has bought a house back in their homeland and wants them all to join him on a trip back to Turkey.

Yasemin Samdereli directs with a keen eye and a feel-good nature, shooting Turkey in glorious dappled colours and widescreen open terrains while Germany is shot in tighter enclosed spaces with a more washed-out palette. Written with her sister Nesrin Samdereli, Almanya: Welcome To Germany  is a breezy, well-paced effort which maintains a buoyant mood throughout. It skillfully feeds off stereotypes for comic affect without ever straying into unpalatable territory. The film is cleverly constructed winning over the audience with its comic heart and likeable characters in such an endearing and affective manner that it is also able to adeptly pull at the heartstrings when it matters most.

The German Fim Week at the IFI continues this evening with the screening of 4 Days in May, Achim von Borries’ controversial film which depicts a true incident that took place in the final days of World War II told through the eyes of its 13-year-old protagonist.

Tickets are available from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

Steven Galvin

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German Film Week at IFI: Cracks in the Shell

The German Film Week at the IFI continued on Friday evening with a screening of Christian Schwochow’s impressive Cracks in the Shell. Schwochow again coaxes a wonderful performance from his lead actress. In his  2008 debut film, November Child, Anna Maria Muehe was stunning in her dual role as both the mother in 1980s East German and the daughter in modern-day Germany in Schwochow’s emotional drama.

This time Schwochow has Danish actress Stine Fischer Christensen putting in a remarkable performance. Christensen plays Josephine, an aspiring actress who is cast to play the lead in a performance of Camille. Josephine lives at home with her mother and younger sister Jule, who is brain-damaged’ and it’s clear from the start that acting is a means for her to escape herself and her frustrations.

Her introverted fragility and vulnerability are seized upon by Svengali-like theatrical director Kasper Friedemann, who bullies Josephine into performing beyond her natural limits to realize the role of Camille – a sexually aggressive yet self-destructive character. As a result, Josephine begins to lose control of her own identity as she falls into the role of Camille, which leads her down a dark path.

Cracks in the Shell has been compared to Black Swan and while both films do indeed share similar themes, Schwochow’s film never ventures into the camp excessive territory of Aronofsky and as a result plays as a more disturbing piece and a more uncomfortable film to watch. Made all the more powerful by Stine Fischer Christensen devastating central performance.

The German Film week continues this evening with Almanya: Welcome To Germany, Yasemin and Nesrin Samdereli’s comedy of Germany’s migrant workers.

Tickets are available from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

Steven Galvin

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German Film Week at IFI: Calm at Sea

Calm at Sea provided an intense yet profoundly moving start to the German Film Week at the IFI. The French-German co-production is directed by Volker Schlöndorff, probably best known to audiences for his 1979 adaptation of Günther Grass’ novel The Tin Drum, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and the Palme d’or at Cannes and was at the centre of New German Cinema, which reached its peak of recognition in the late ‘70s.

Schlöndorff’s films are marked by their literary inspiration; many of them being adaptations of famous literary works by Arthur Miller, Gunter Grass, Marcel Proust, Heinrich von Kleist, and others. Alongside this, his works bear a strong personal stamp and are often interested in exploring a personal sense of justice.

Calm at Sea continues in this vein. Highlighting an incident that should never be forgotten, the film is built upon interweaving stories that centre on an atrocity that took place in German-occupied France in World War II sparked by the assassination of a German officer in Nantes by 3 young communist members of the Résistance. In retaliation, Hitler ordered the execution of 150 communist hostages.

The film centres on 27 of these prisoners of war kept hostage at the Choiseul internment camp in Brittany. The youngest victim of these hostages is the 17-year-old Guy Môquet (played here by Léo-Paul Salmain), whose fate as one of the hostages chosen to be executed drives the senseless tragedy to its harrowing conclusion.

As a result Môquet became an icon of the Résistance, and since 2007, on the anniversary of his death, one of his last letters written in captivity is read by French school-child. There is also a Paris Métro station named after him.

Calm at Sea was inspired by Heinrich Böll’s autobiographical stories, and Schlöndorff constructed the film around the writings of Ernst Jünger, a captain at the Wehrmacht headquarters of Paris, who features in the film, and the French journalist Pierre-Louis Basse, who has written on the event.

Despite being conceived as a made for ‘TV film’, Calm at Sea holds its own on the big screen and its traumatic retelling of historical truth is solidly presented by Schlöndorf, who is experienced enough here to let the story do the work and the film’s conventional manner and narrative strength plays its part in that aim, effectively backed up with Bruno Coulais’ moving score.

The German Film Week continues this evening at the IFI with a screening of Christian Schwochow’s Cracks in the Shell at 18,50, a psychosexual drama that has been likened to (but a precursor of) Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

Tickets are available from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

Steven Galvin

 

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Volker Schlöndorff’s ‘Calm at Sea’ kicks off German Film Week at IFI

German Film Week, presented in association with the Goethe-Institut Irland, kicks off this evening at the IFI at 18.40 with the screening of Volker Schlöndorff’s Calm at Sea [Das Meer am Morgen), an affecting film based on a real-life story that portrays an atrocity that took place in German– occupied France during World War II. The IFI presents this much anticipated film from one of the pioneers of New German Cinema, whose film The Tin Drum ((1979) was one of the most financially successful German films of the 1970s while also winning both the Cannes’ Palme d’Or and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

The other films in the season are Christian Schwochow’s Cracks in the Shell (Friday, 11th May 2012 @ 18.50); Yasemin Samdereli’s Almanya: Welcome to Germany (Saturday, 12th May 2012 @ 18.50); Maggie Peren’s Colour of the Ocean (Sunday, 13th May 2012 @ 18.30); Achim von Borries’s 4 Days in May (Monday,14th May @ 18.50); Marc Bauder’s The System (Tuesday, 15th May @18.50); and Andreas Dresen’s Stopped on Track (Wednesday, 16th May @ 18.50).

The week promises an eclectic mix of contemporary German cinema’s finest directors alongside the best of the country’s emerging talent and Film Ireland will bring you regular  reports from the week.

Tickets are available from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

Calm at Sea

Cracks in the Shell

Almanya: Welcome To Germany

4 Days in May

The System

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