Magazine article Artforum International

Volks Film

Magazine article Artforum International

Volks Film

Article excerpt

It's fascinating, in a way, to witness the ambivalent triumphalism with which the metropolis of Berlin is merging its disparate halves into a millennial new German capital. As sleepy East Berlin neighborhoods are re-created as international art centers, and the muddy emptiness of Potsdamer Platz churned up into the world's largest construction site, so too the white spaces of German history are filled in - not least by German films.

Thus, at the last Berlin Film Festival, Wim Wenders' Die Gebruder Skladanowsky (The brothers Skladanowsky) established a Berlin pedigree for the invention of the motion picture apparatus while Ulrike Ottinger's Exil Shanghai was an epic documentary on the German Jews who fled the Nazis for the Far East. Not too much remained of the old New German Cinema. Die Mutter des Killers (The killer's mother) - a first feature by Volker Einrauch - has a raw, somewhat passe Amerindie feel. Shot in an industrial neimansland populated by middle-class kids pretending to be shrill hookers and drunken layabouts, this black and white cheapster is an intentionally cloddish noir that suggests a grotesque combination of Wenders and John Waters. The less feckless Helke Misselwitz brings a dour intensity to Engelchen (Little angel) - a tale of Berlin's lower depths featuring the ultimate sad-sack heroine. It could have been prime material for Rainer Werner Fassbinder except that, having grown up in the former DDR, Misselwitz seems inoculated against irony.

The one young German filmmaker to create a stir was thirty-three-year-old Fred Kelemen, a genuine enfant terrible who specializes in preserving dreary hunks of real tune on 16mm. film under conditions of available light. Four and a half hours long, Kelemen's Frost is the ultimate in sodden gloom - a turbid Christmas tale in which an abused mother and her child flee tawdry Berlin to wander the former East Germany, looking for a town that has long since vanished.

They should have stayed home. After all, Eastern relics are permanently on display at Berlin's Deutsches Historisches Museum. The big show this winter was "Party Order: A New Germany," solemn vitrines of everything from money to uniforms to advertisments, all emblazoned with fraternally clasped hands. At the film festival, this East German theme park was supplemented by East Side Story, a DDR That's Entertainment compiled by Dana Ranga and Andrew Horn. …

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