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January 13 - January 16, 2012

Dreileben

In the summer of 2006, members of the “Berlin School” – the latest wave of German filmmakers whose work has been seen primarily in film festivals and art houses – began a lengthy correspondence discussing the current state of that country’s cinema. Participating were Germany’s three leading filmmakers – Christian Petzold (b. 1960), Dominik Graf (b. 1952) and Christoph Hochhäusler (b. 1972). Graf launched the discussion by positing that the films of the Berlin School privileged visual style over narrative, overlooking the role of language in cinema; hence seeming to downplay or even deny the possibility of communication between the characters onscreen. This opening salvo generated a great deal of soul-searching about the usefulness and limits of genre filmmaking and the joys and discontents of auteurism. Ultimately, the three agreed to make a trilogy of interlocking films, all taking place in the same location and linked by one event: the escape of a convicted murderer.

The films are independent of one another – each has its own plot, so that each can be understood on its own – and they can be seen in any order. At the same time, the experience of each film is deepened by seeing the others. Together, the trilogy constructs a narrative maze whose labyrinthine depths hints at other partially concealed stories – which mostly involve the lives of the police – branching off from the central manhunt thread: the aging detective with a bad ear and failure of a son he keeps at arm’s length; the hothead cop who’s quick to fire his weapon and even quicker to lose his temper; and hints of corruption within the force. Living up to its origins in the debate over genre, narrative and auteurism, Dreileben moves swiftly through a vast array of storytelling genres: fairy tale, horror film, suspense thriller, character study, love story.

Above all what emerges is the portrait of Dreileben (“Drei” is German for “three,” and “drei leben” could be translated as “three lives”) a fictional small town in Thuringia, the heavily forested state at the heart of Germany. Besides its central location, Thuringia can also be seen as a focal point of recent German history (it was part of East Germany) and legend (the location of the mythic resting place of Frederick I, aka Barbarossa). And indeed, both historical and legendary past intrude into the daily lives of the Dreileben inhabitants onscreen. – David Pendleton

Presented in conjunction with the Goethe-Institut Boston. Special thanks to Detlef Gericke-Schönhagen and Karin Oehlenschlaeger.

Dreileben will also screen at ArtsEmerson during the weekends of Feb. 3 and 10.

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Friday January 13 at 7pm
Saturday January 14 at 9pm

Beats Being Dead (Etwas Besseres als den Tod)

Directed by Christian Petzold. With Jacob Matschenz, Luna Zimic Mijovic
Germany 2011, digital video, color, 88 min. German with English subtitles

Alternately tender and haunting, Beats Being Dead is an absorbing portrait of a relationship set against the disquieting backdrop of a police manhunt. Mutual attraction quickly leads to an all-consuming sexual relationship between Johannes, a hospital intern dreaming of studying medicine in Los Angeles, and Ana, a Bosnian immigrant working as a hotel maid. Eventually, their differing backgrounds and ambitions force the outside world to reassert itself. One of the best-known filmmakers of the “Berlin School,” director Christian Petzold was the subject of an HFA retrospective in 2004, and his two most recent features, Yella (2006) and Jerichow (2008), had limited theatrical releases in this country. As in those films, Beats Being Dead reveals the ways class distinctions both fuel and endanger intimate relationships.

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Friday January 13 at 9pm
Saturday January 14 at 7pm

Don't Follow Me Around (Komm mir nicht nach)

Directed by Dominik Graf. With Jeanette Hahn, Susanna Wolff,
Misel Maticevic
Germany 2011, digital video, color, 88 min. German with English subtitles

Christoph Hochhäusler’s contribution to the trilogy centers around the criminal’s escape and the manhunt it engenders. The film cuts back and forth between Molesch’s desperate flight and the sleuthing of the police detective who had previously fingered him for murder. As each tries to outwit the other, we begin to see how their respective lives as parent and child contribute to their present situations. Hochhäusler’s habitual fascination for risky and ambiguous behavior is guided by his restless and assertive camera, which almost seems to pursue a detailed investigation of its own, its elegantly smooth movements revealing the world to be a a set of opaque signs that subverts any search for answers with further questions. In many ways the characters seem themselves to be signs, players who are assigned roles that do not explain their actions; instead they determine them.

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Sunday January 15 at 7pm
Monday January 16 at 7pm

One Minute of Darkness (Eine Minute Dunkel)

Directed by Christoph Hochhäusler. With Stefan Kurt, Eberhard Kirchberg
Germany 2011, digital video, color, 90 min. German with English subtitles

Christoph Hochhäusler’s contribution to the trilogy is the one in which the criminal’s escape and the manhunt it engenders comes to the fore. The film cuts back and forth between Molesch’s desperate flight and the sleuthing of the police detective who had previously fingered him for murder. As each man tries to outwit the other, we begin to see the ways in which their lives as parent (the detective) and child (the murderer) contribute to their present situations. The film exhibits Hochhäusler’s habitual fascination for risky and ambiguous behavior, while his camera leads its own detailed investigation, caressingly exploring space and surfaces with elegantly smooth movements. Under the gaze of this camera, the world becomes a set of opaque signs in which the search for answers begets only further questions, and the narratives used to sort these signs assign roles to the players involved that do not explain their actions but determine them.

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