Film Series / Events

Search All Film Series (1999-present)
Browse All Film Series

Global Visions - Postwall Prospects: Recent Films from Germany

Since the death of Fassbinder and the passing of the New German Cinema in the early 1980s, the only German titles most American cineastes may have seen are Heimat; Men; Wings of Desire; The Nasty Girl; Europa, Europa; Maybe, Maybe Not; and Run Lola Run. While we may appreciate this handful of films, we surely remain uncertain about their place in the larger picture of today’s Germany and the diverse energies that define it. With the end of the Cold War, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, and unification, German reality has become dramatically transformed—as has German cinema. The films in this series offer intriguing glimpses of the extraordinary formal energy and expressive fervor at work in contemporary German filmmaking as it witnesses a changing country and assesses the state of things in today’s challenging social and political situation.

These postwall prospects range widely in their formal and stylistic approaches—from the exuberant, whimsical, and playful to the earnest, deadpan, and poignant. As traditional notions of homeland, nation, and identity give way to alternate sources of orientation in an age of transnational and global initiatives, these films transport us to rundown buildings and nocturnal territories, where characters contemplate resonant yet shadowy pasts and altogether uncertain futures. Energetic new directors spirit us through the multicultural neighborhoods of Berlin and Hamburg, probing the psychic and social topographies of today’s young Germans. Contemporary German films, it is clear, have not lost the incendiary potential of the New German Cinema to illuminate obscured worlds and redeem marginal perspectives.

HFA is pleased to welcome the filmmakers Doris Dörrie, Fred Kelemen, and Jan Schütte, who will be present to introduce and discuss their most recent features. The series also celebrates the establishment of a contemporary German Film Collection at the HFA, made possible by a generous gift of more than 150 feature films administered through the auspices of the FilmFernsehFonds Bayern. Both the collection and this program owe a debt of gratitude to Harvard Professor of German Eric Rentschler.


October 6 (Friday) 7 pm
October 8 (Sunday) 9 pm

Short Sharp Stock (Kurz und schmerzlos)

Directed by Fatih Akin
Germany 1998, 16mm, color, 100 min.
With Adam Bousdoukos, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Mehmet Kurtulus
German with English subtitles

Costa the Greek, Bobby the Serb, and Gabriel the Turk used to form a neighborhood gang in the Altona district of Hamburg. But things are changing. Gabriel, just released from prison, dreams of leading a regular life but is held back by Bobby’s attempts to join the Albanian Mafia. Inexorably, the three men are drawn into an unfolding tragedy. Reminiscent of the early films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fatih Akin’s debut relates a powerful tale of young people willing to resort to violence yet full of tenderness toward each other. Counterpointing the melodramatic with the comic, Akin develops captivating visual keys through different camera concepts for each of the main characters: Costa’s takes are static and rapidly cut; Bobby is portrayed through a nervous, handheld camera; while Gabriel, the classical hero, is revealed through steady shots and fluid motion.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 6 (Friday) 9 pm
October 7 (Saturday) 9:15 pm

Mr. Zwilling and Mrs. Zuckermann (Herr Zwilling und Frau Zuckermann)

Directed by Volker Koepp
Germany 1999, 35mm, color, 126 min.
With Matthias Zwilling, Rosa Zuckermann
German, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, and Ukrainian with English subtitles

Czernowitz, a remote European town in western Ukraine, was once a center of Jewish culture in the Bukovina, a border region characterized throughout the centuries by an abundance of nationalities and cultures. Mr. Zwilling, 70, and Mrs. Zuckermann, 90, are two of the few survivors of the deportations into Transnistria’s camps operated by Germans and Romanians in 1941. The stories of their lives reflect the horrors of this century. Besides friendship, they share a passion for the German language; Mr. Zwilling visits Mrs. Zuckermann every evening to talk about politics, literature, old times, and everyday worries. Koepp’s precise and patient documentary style sensitively depicts the old people’s stories and combines their memories with views of past Jewish culture and its currently reviving traditions.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 7 (Saturday) 7 pm
Director Jan Schütte in Person

Farewell (Abschied)

Directed by Jan Schütte
Germany 2000, 35mm, color, 91 min.
With Josef Bierbichler, Monika Bleibtreu, Jeannette Hain
German with English subtitles

It is one of the last days of an exceptionally hot summer in 1956. Bertolt Brecht (Bierbichler) is about to leave his lakeside house among the tall birches in Brandenburg to return to Berlin for the upcoming theater season. Most of the women in his life are there: his wife, Helene Weigel (Bleibtreu); his daughter, Barbara; his old lover Ruth Berlau; his latest flame, the actress Käthe Reichel; and sensuous Isot Kilian, whose affections and body he shares with the rebel political activist Wolfgang Harich. The friends and lovers swim, write, eat, drink, and philosophize about art, politics, and life as the Stasi lurks all the while on the sidelines, waiting. The serenity of the country on this summer day stands in marked contrast to the storm of jealousy and egomania, betrayal and dashed hopes at whose center Brecht is trapped, struggling to make plans for a future that fate will end only days later. A brilliant ensemble cast and music by John Cale complement this fascinating portrait of one of Germany’s leading modern artists.


October 8 (Sunday) 7 pm
October 10 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Life is All You Get (Das Leben ist eine Baustelle)

Directed by Wolfgang Becker
Germany 1997, 16mm, color, 118 min.
With Jürgen Vogel, Christiane Paul, Martina Gedeck
German with English subtitles

If life is all you get, Jan Nebel (Vogel) certainly gets a full share of it. On his way to work at the slaughterhouse he rescues a young woman from two men during a street riot, only to discover that her pursuers are plainclothes policemen. Left with a large fine, things start to get worse: he loses his job, learns he may be HIV-positive, and finds his father dead, face-down in a plate of pasta. With references to British directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, Becker’s Life Is All You Get is a sensitive, tragicomic approach to the young German generation of the late nineties, who search for their own identities as they seek out friendship, fortune, and love.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 11 (Wednesday) 9 pm
October 13 (Friday) 9 pm

Tuvalu

Directed by Veit Helmer
Germany/Bulgaria 1999, 35mm, b/w, 90 min.
With Denis Lavant, Chulpan Hamatova, Philippe Clay

Tuvalu is a post–Cold War allegory about the transformation of Eastern Europe and the passing of old ways and institutions. Told nearly without dialogue and shot in a style reminiscent of the silent cinema, the film tells the story of Anton, a young man whose blind father manages an old public bath. To please his father, Anton maintains the illusion that the derelict bath is intact and constantly busy. The only guest to come, however, is Eva, in search of a vintage steam engine in the bath’s basement. When the father dies, the old, empty pool dies with him. Anton and Eva take the engine and sail away on Eva’s tugboat to the island of Tuvalu.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 14 (Saturday) 9 pm
Special Event—all seats $10
Director Doris Dörrie in Person

Enlightenment Guaranteed (Erleuchtung garantiert)

Directed by Doris Dörrie
Germany 1999, 35mm, color, 108 min.
With Uwe Ochsenknecht, Gustav Peter Wöhler, Anica Dobra
German with English subtitles

In her most recent film (shot entirely on digital video), writer-director Doris Dörrie creates a sweetly comic and spiritually enlightened work reminiscent of her earlier international success, Men. Two brothers—Gustav, a feng shui expert, and Uwe, an utter slob who has just been left by his wife—want to get their screwed-up lives together by traveling to Japan for a retreat in a Zen monastery. En route, their respective mid-life crises turn into catastrophe when they find themselves hopelessly lost in the midst of nighttime Tokyo with neither money nor a clue about how to get back to their hotel. Their first lesson in the Zen concept of "leaving everything behind" is absorbed with unanticipated literalness. Life in the monastery is an immersion of a more subtle kind: here, the mundane and the sublime merge in liminal ways. Although the enigma of enlightenment continues to elude them, the brothers are nonetheless changed forever.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 15 (Sunday) 8 pm
Director Doris Dörrie in Person

Am I Beautiful? (Bin ich schön?)

Directed by Doris Dörrie
Germany 1998, 16mm, color, 120 min.
With Franka Potente, Maria Schrader, Gottfried John
German with English subtitles

Am I Beautiful? is about longing, disappointment, and joy. Sketched out as a rondo of alliances and misalliances, the film follows a group of people seeking change who come together and eventually lose sight of one another again. Franziska marries the wrong man in order to put an end to her great but troubled love for Klaus; Klaus mourns his love for Franziska by wandering through Spain, until he finally meets up with Linda; Herbert has an affair with Jessica, who silently slashes her wrists in the bathtub in his house; Unna, Herbert’s wife, finds her old flame David again, who has lost all power of memory following a stroke. With her characters constantly in motion, Dörrie creates a world in which loss strikes deeper than fortune but is nonetheless imbued with a mordant sort of comedy.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 18 (Wednesday) 9 pm
October 22 (Sunday) 9 pm

Paths in the Night (Wege in die Nacht)

Directed by Andreas Kleinert
Germany 1999, 35mm, b/w, 98 min.
With Hilmar Thate, Cornelia Schmaus, Henriette Heinze
German with English subtitles

The opening film of the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999, Pat Heinze
German with English subtitles

The opening film of the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999, Paths in the Night is a dramatic work shot in haunting black and white. Set against the backdrop of post-unification Germany, the film explores the breakdown of relations in a decaying social structure. Unemployed and alienated from his waitress-wife, 55-year-old Walter (Thate), an ex-factory manager from the communist East, has lost both his prestige and his ideals and is overwhelmed by the bleakness of his current existence. Unable to integrate into the new system, he revisits the ruins of his old factory by night. In an attempt to regain a sense of purpose and restore order to the world around him, he recruits a pair of simple-minded youths to ride Berlin’s underground by night as crime-fighting vigilantes.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 20 (Friday) 7 pm

The Himmler Project (Das Himmler-Projekt)

Directed by Roumald Karmakar
Germany 2000, video, color, 182 min.
With Manfred Zapatka
German with English subtitles

One of the most controversial films to be shown at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, The Himmler Project presents a minimalist restaging of the infamous three-and-a-half-hour speech Heinrich Himmler delivered to ninety-two SS generals in the Golden Hall of Posen Castle in October 1943. Although it has been described as "one of the most terrible examples of the German language," the speech, by the same token, is a crucial document of Third Reich ideology. Karmakar’s staging of the speech, using a lone actor with deadpan delivery and neither costume nor set, provides a unique opportunity to closely examine the text and to begin to recover the past in the absence of Nazi regalia. For the film’s director, this analytic approach provides the framework through which to reveal the inherent patterns of behavior of Nazi ideologues, their internal logic, and their structures of legitimization.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 21 (Saturday) 6:30 pm

Dealer

Directed by Thomas Arslan
Germany 1999, 35mm, color, 74 min.
With Tamer Yigit, Idil Üner, Birol Ünel
German and Turkish with English subtitles

Thomas Arslan’s third feature film describes a mental condition rather than external events. Exploring the world of a small-time German drug dealer, he creates an almost unrecognizable Berlin that is static and closed: anonymous residences with obligatory satellite dishes on their balconies, run-down industrial courtyards, dark hallways of old buildings. These images are beautifully contrasted with the clear, intensive colors of summer, bright walls, clean stairs, and the deep green of trees rustling outside of windows. Using minimal means (concise dialogue, brief movements, little music), Dealer portrays the consequences of breaking the strict codes of the drug world: with eyes wide-open, the film’s protagonist loses his friends, his family, and his freedom.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 21 (Saturday) 8 pm
Director Fred Kelemen in Person

Nightfall (Abendland)

Directed by Fred Kelemen
Germany 1999, 35mm, color, 141 min.
With Verena Jasch, Wolfgang Michael, Urs Remond
German with English subtitles

Nightfall—masterfully written, directed, photographed, and edited by acclaimed director Fred Kelemen—is a devastating existentialist account of two lovers in search of redemption. Somewhere in a dark and barren Europe at the end of the twentieth century, everything has lost its way. In the city, unemployment rules like a plague and affects the gloomy Anton (Michael). Leni (Jasch), with whom he has been living for years, irons clothes in a laundry and tries to inject life into the dark cocoon Anton has woven around them—a life dedicated not to materialism and work but to sensuality, belief, and the possibility of love: ultimate anarchistic acts against a barbarous environment. Torn apart at dusk, the lovers venture out on separate odysseys through the black of the night and their own souls, meeting different people along the way but ultimately reuniting with renewed and transformed spirits.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 22 (Sunday) 7 pm
Director Fred Kelemen in Person

Fate (Verhängnis)

Directed by Fred Kelemen
Germany 1994, 16mm, color, 79 min.
With Valerij Fedorenko, Sanja Spengler

Fred Kelemen’s acclaimed debut feature, Fate is a brilliant, intensely personal exploration of the destinies of lost souls. Through the course of a single night, the film follows a Russian accordion player and then his girlfriend across a seedy and hostile Berlin. Loosely episodic encounters with tango, vodka, billiards, infidelity, rape, and death accrue to create a strangely beautiful visual poem about the starkness of life in contemporary Europe. The film was shot in long, slow takes by Kelemen on Hi-8 video and then transferred to 16mm, not only to enhance the mobility of his camera work but to allow him to destroy the "purity of the images" in order to "create something warm."

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 27 (Friday) 7 pm
October 28 (Saturday) 7 pm

(Der Olympische Sommer)

The Olympic Summer

Directed by Gordian Maugg
Germany 1992, 35mm, b/w, 85 min.
With Jost Gerstein, Verena Plangger, Otto Ruck
German with English subtitles

A tale of lost innocence and a reflection on the relationship between the historical and the personal, this story of a young man and his affair with a wealthy widow in Berlin takes us from the Olympic summer of 1936 to the end of the Second World War. The film’s visually arresting world was created through the use of a hand-cranked Askania camera manufactured in 1927 as well as through vintage shooting and editing techniques and rare archival footage. Completely narrated and devoid of any dialogue, The Olympic Summer is a unique work and a true labor of love.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 28 (Saturday) 9 pm

Little Angel (Engelchen)

Directed by Helke Misselwitz
Germany 1996, 35mm, color, 88 min.
With Susanne Lothar, Cezary Pazura, Sophie Rois
German with English subtitles

In her second feature film, Helke Misselwitz, who directed some of DEFA Studio’s most intriguing and sensitive documentaries, assembles a cast culled from Germany’s finest contemporary stage and film actors. Ramona Schneider, nicknamed "Little Angel" (Lothar), is a hypersensitive woman obsessed with the dark side of life who leads a lonely and inconspicuous existence in an apartment near the Ostkreuz train station in East Berlin. One day, through a grotesque coincidence, she meets the roguish and handsome Andrzej (Pazura), a Polish dealer of bootleg cigarettes with connections to Berlin’s underworld. The two fall in love and, for a short time, Ramona’s gloom begins to lift before a tragic descent from the heights of her unexpected happiness intervenes.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 27 (Friday) 9 pm
October 29 (Sunday) 9 pm

Fisimatenten

Directed by Jochen Kuhn
Germany 1999, 35mm, color, 97 min.
With Maximilian Schell, Edgar Selge, Tonio Arango
German with English subtitles

Edward, a young painter who lives in an idyllic old country inn, loves art and Hanna, his model. Sponsored by a discerning and witty gallerist with political ambitions, he works on a single picture which he paints over repeatedly. After losing his home, however, Edward becomes determined finally to earn money with his art and prepares for an exhibition of "painted over" pictures. To bankroll the exhibit he sells a religious art object to a pastor, performs action-art in a museum, and promotes his work on a talk show. Life soon begins to imitate art, however, becoming a "painted over" picture itself and forcing Edward to take action.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

October 29 (Sunday) 7 pm

Vagabonding Images

Directed by Nicolas Humbert and Simone Fürbringer
Germany 1998, 16mm, color, 48 min.
English, French, and German with English subtitles

Shot in Super 8 over a period of several years, this "experimental" work weaves a series of visual fragments into fleeting, miniature stories that reflect on the nature of perception, memory, time, and dreams. Buoyed by voices reciting texts of Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, and André Breton, Vagabonding Images plays with the forms of cinematic language as it takes inspiration from the poetic collage techniques of the French Surrealists and Japanese haiku.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top

January 7 (Sunday) 2 pm and 7 pm

One Last Glimpse (Augenblick)

Directed by Doris Dörrie
Germany 1997, video, color, 59 min.
German with English subtitles

In 1996, cinematographer Helge Weindler died while shooting his wife Doris Dörrie’s film Am I Beautiful? in Spain. With One Last Glimpse, part of a five-film documentary series titled "Thinking about Germany," Dörrie explores the very intimate process of mourning her loss and struggling to resurface into life again. Constantly on the move, Dörrie observes the social environment that surrounds her, trying to find a sense of the present. She interviews a friend who emigrated to America years ago but returned to Germany and another who lost his wife in a car accident while vacationing in the U.S. In seeking closure, she also revisits the set in Spain and the hospital in which her husband died.

Browse Other Series from this Season
Return to Top
Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700