On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

GoetheInstitute

24/05/2007

Good solid cinephilia

Daniel Kothenschulte writes about his favourites at the Cannes Film Festival: Fatih Akin and Quentin Tarantino are out in front

"This film rocks." So went the memorable verdict passed by Berlinale juror Frances McDormand in favour of Fatih Akin's "Gegen die Wand - Head On" winning the Golden Bear in 2003. His new film "The Edge of Heaven", which premiered at Cannes yesterday as the only German competition entry, could also be compared with an old jukebox single. But played at 33 rpm.



Fatih Akin's "The Edge of Heaven." All photos courtesy the Cannes Film Festival

It is a full forty minutes before the film reaches its thematic core, and by the time the drama has unfolded, ninety are up. But Akin has very deliberately chosen this unnervingly slow rhythm: he even precedes each of first two chapters of the three-part film with titles that outline what follows. Namely the violent deaths of two women, who, in the final section of the film, lead a successful German-Turk to "the edge of Heaven", a place beyond a simple cultural identity. And to an acceptance of death as part of a conscious life.

Nejat, who has made it as a German Studies professor in Hamburg, suddenly throws in the towel. When his father accidentally kills a prostitute whom he paid to come to his house, Nejat goes in search of his daughter in Istanbul. Here he takes over a German bookshop which functions more like a little Goethe institute, a contact point in the inter-cultural diaspora, and it is here that he is discovered by Lotte, a young German woman who not for nothing bears the name of Goethe's intellectual beloved.



"The Edge of Heaven"

Unbeknown to Nejat she is a friend of the daughter he's trying to track down, a militant regime critic who is sitting in a Turkish prison. Like a moth, Lotte soon gets burnt by her innocent love for the revolutionary, and hers is the second death in this complex web of symbolic destinies.

A film critic must refrain from recounting these, whereas a film must expend much energy to do so. Fatih Akin resists the temptation to speed knot all the separate episodes into a single carpet a la "Babel", by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. It looks likely that he's been influenced by Rossellini's travel films, whose clarity and simplicity make an uneasy transition into our times.



"The Edge of Heaven"


The film biggest problem is that it's not able to capture the impressionistic element of every inter-cultural journey. But it is also - contrary to what one might assume, free of pathos. Tuncel Kurtiz, ever-memorable from Yilmaz Güney's films, plays Nejat's gentle patriarch father with a quiet vehemence. Hanna Schygulla will not only move a nostalgic Cannes with her return as Lotte's mother – she's also telling anyone willing to listen that Akin reminds her of a young Fassbinder. And finally there's an incredibly powerful young actress in the role of the tragic revolutionary. Nurgül Yesilcay is born star material, and this will not go unnoticed in Cannes. The sky's her limit.



"Stellet Licht" by Carlos Reygadas
It's been a long time since we've seen a festival this good. Thierry Fremaux, the festival's artistic director, has had a terrific idea, and it's a wonder no one thought of it before. He simply puts the best films he can get his hands on into the competition. It's so simple, and before you know it everyone's in a good mood. Provided they've got nothing against a radical, demanding film aesthetic, that is. The best works are rich in aesthetic minimalism: for example "Stellet Licht," the masterpiece by the Mexican director Carlos Reygadas, which was filmed in Dutch. His pastoral drama in a Mexican Mennonite community takes the most compelling look at farm labour since Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven." And as opposed to its non-identical twin in the competition, Andrei Zvyagintsev's Russian jealousy drama "The Banishment," it analyses religion rather than celebrating it.



Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof"


Cannes this year has also literally done the unheard of in the popular action genre, the otherwise unpopular means of ensuring there will be enough stars on the red carpet. Quentin Tarantino lengthened "Death Proof" by half an hour, his homage to the car crash films of the 70s that flopped so miserably in the US. It's the first time that an American director has put himself to such trouble for the festival. And he's even dug up some rare Serge Gainsbourg songs.

A couple of fearless beauties have an enchanting hobby: taking out expensive old-timers for dangerous test drives. While they're at it they discuss pop culture at length, as if they'd just seen a Tarantino film. And in passing they put a stop to the bloody games of sadistic traffic thug. It's pure fun, but the way Tarantino - himself a passionate collector of old films - gives everyone in the audience the sensation of watching a half-mangled car crash classic - this was good solid cinephilia.

*

The article originally appeared in the Frankfurter Rundschau on May 24, 2007.

Daniel Kothenschulte is film critic at the Frankfurter Rundschau.

Translation: lp, jab.

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles.
signandsight.com - let's talk european.

 
More articles

Life in a bubble

Wednesday 21 March, 2012

TeaserPicAwarded a Silver Bear at this year's Berlinale, Christian Petzold's new film "Barbara" is a GDR drama set in the early 1980s. Colourful and romantic beyond any nostalgia for the East, it relates the situation of female doctor caught in the circumstances of having applied for an exit visa. For Petzold, the film is not only a highly personal story of a woman in conflict but a film about what was lost - especially for women - with the fall of the Wall in 1989.
read more

Workers of the world, be entertained!

Monday 13 February, 2012

TeaserPicThis year's Berlinale Retrospective "The Red Dream Factory" rediscovers the legendary German-Russian Mezhrabpom-Film (1922-1936). It tells of incredible film successes, ideological misunderstandings and astonishing blindness. By Oksana Bulgakova
read more

Thailand has woken up

Thursday 27 May, 2010

Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai film maker who has just won the Palme d'Or in Cannes, talks to Cristina Nord about the political situation in his country and his films.
read more

Talking to the lord of pain

Tuesday 16 February, 2010

The director Werner Herzog is the president of the jury at this, the 60th Berlinale. Katja Nicodemus met him in Los Angeles to discuss burning Lilliputians, how it feels like to be unsuccessfully shot at, and the life of a lone Bavarian wolf in Hollywood.
read more

Playing Lars

Wednesday 16 September, 2009

Charlotte Gainsbourg spent two months in Germany, either blood-spattered in a dark forest or sealed off in a sterile hotel. She talks to Martina Meister about discovering her limits during the filming of "Antichrist" by Danish director Lars von Trier.
read more

Israel's enemies take no prisoners

Tuesday 7 July, 2009

TeaserPicThe Israeli Defence Forces should be judged by different standards than those used for other armies, says Claude Lanzmann. Fifteen years after the release of "Tsahal", his controversial film about the first Jewish army, the French director talks to Max Dax about the logic of war, the value of Jewish lives and Sharon as shepherd.
read more

Marx: the quest, the way, the destination

Tuesday 20 January, 2009

TeaserPicTaking off where Sergei Eisenstein left off, Alexander Kluge has made a nine-and-a-half hour film about Karl Marx and the fairytale of "Kapital". And it's not a minute too long. By Helmut Merker
read more

Cloud 9 at 70 plus

Thursday 11 September, 2008

Emotional chaos in the elderly and the best aesthetic for folds and wrinkles. Birgit Glombitza talks to Andreas Dresen about geriatric love and sex, and his new film "Wolke 9".

read more

And isn't it baronic

Wednesday 16 April, 2008

Billed as the inspirational story of one of the greatest legends of all times, "The Red Baron" is flying, driving and healing Germany at dizzy cinematic heights. There are just not enough superlatives to do this film justice. By Ekkehard Knörer.
read more

The mild bunch

Monday 18 February, 2008

Only one truly original auteur filmmaker made it into this year's Berlinale Competition. With "Night and Day" Korean director Hong Sangsoo proved himself to be one of the great free-thinking talents of contemporary cinema. This aside, emaciated wishy-washy realism prevailed. By Ekkehard Knörer
read more

Berlinale box

Thursday 14 February, 2008

With the Berlin film festival well underway we pick out some of the highlights. Jose Padilha's "Tropa de Elite" might have all the components of an Egoshooter film but it's far off. Hongkong star Johnnie To's "Sparrow" is a bringer of unadulterated joy. Isabel Coixet's "Elegy" stars a couple of aging Roth rabbits. And P.T. Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" should be enjoyed on an empty stomach.
read more

Bordering on miraculous

Friday 8 February, 2008

A frighteningly intense Daniel Day Lewis, musical accompaniment from Martin Scorsese, Madonna and Patti Smith, home-made filmic fumblings from a music video genius, a mere smidgen of German material and plenty of Far Eastern promise. After the Berlinale Film Festival hit rock bottom last year, it seems a sharp upwards turn is on the cards for 2008.
read more

All eyes on the December children

Wednesday 5 December, 2007

Romania might have only 35 cinemas but it is having a profound effect on the world of film. Christian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" won the Palme d'Or at Cannes earlier this year and the European Film Prize in Berlin on Saturday. By Jan Schulz-Ojala
read more

Floundering Dutch man

Monday 15 October, 2007

A theme running through this year's Netherlands Film Festival is that of men running after deliverance, preferably in the form of young women. There's plenty of tongue in cheek but no changing the facts: the new man, like the old, needs a muse. By Jann Ruyters
read more

Love and two coffins

Monday 8 October, 2007

German-Turkish director Fatih Akin's "The Edge of Heaven" won the best screen play award at Cannes. Now showing in German cinemas, it is a light, bright film about death, an optimistic requiem full of little utopias. By Katja Nicodemus


read more