Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenössischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heißes Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen während der Erarbeitung eines Stücks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



Berlinale box

Selected highlights from the Berlin film festival

Living two truths: Jose Padilha's "Tropa de Elite" (Competition)

An elite cop as protagonist-narrator, gun in hand, in the favelas of Rio de Janiero? Sound like an Egoshooter film? It's anything but. But - and this is what makes the film so intelligent - it's also far off being the opposite. This film deliberately delivers the audience up to a hero whose behaviour is impossible to justify. It not only forces one to endure acts of violence; it almost makes one sympathise with much of what he does. Almost - because of course this film forces one to fight this sympathy and not lose one's reason when confronted by social situations which the director Jose Padilha convincingly and consistently describes as hopeless.

And so on into the Foucault seminar. Members of a youth NGO actually do sit about discussing Michel Foucault's "Discipline and Punishment" and the micro-effects of power which can't be escaped even by pitching oneself against them. Among the students is a man who is prepared to do anything to side with the good guys, Andre Matias: black, intelligent, police officer. Of course he doesn't tell the other students this. Andre lives in two worlds, two truths, to the point of schizophrenia. He starts to feel the pull of two opposing powers and the film is also the story of the fight for his soul.

"Tropa de Elite" describes one system in a network of systems which tend to be connected to one another through corruption rather than law and order. The well-meaning NGO for example is involved in drug dealing, simply because no one can enter the favelas without the green light from the drug barons. And above all, the police is corrupt in ways unimaginable to any film director, which is why Jose Padilho consulted a police officer from the elite BOPE corps while writing the script.

Through the eyes and words of Capitao Nascimento (Wagner Moura), the first person narrator hero, we learn about the special police unit from the inside. Nascimento is about to become a father and wants to leave the unit alive, so he needs to find a successor. His two options are the law student and NGO member Andre Matias (Andre Ramiro) and his best friend Neto. The film accompanies them on their way from straightforward police recruits through the elite training camp where they are humiliated and dehumanised. The story of the film is about a man who starts off as a human and becomes a killer, an elite cop who forces himself to believe that he's siding with the good.

Jose Padilha whisks the viewer, without manipulative intent, into the centre of complexity, using scenes and situations where it is impossible to distinguish between right and wrong because everything is wrong. The film is shot in a documentary style but without the usual "fake and shake" effects. Not a single scene follows film conventions: there are no establishing shots, no double or triple angles on a scene from various camera positions. No instructions for the actors, no marks on the floor. And not a single written dialogue. The actors completely improvise every scene having been given a rough outline of their situation.

The team spent three months rehearsing before filming began; the actors playing cops even did some BOPE training. The result of this representational strategy is a long shot from naive authenticity. The mixture of fast-paced documentary and consistent alienation through the choice of perspectives is disorienting in the most illuminating way. The film has been accused of being BOPE propaganda but no film so consistently distances itself from the simplifications of propaganda than "Tropa de Elite".

Ekkehard Knörer

Jose Padilha: "Tropa de elite - The Elite Squad". Starring Wagner Moura, Caio Junqueira, Andre Ramiro. Brasil, Argentina 2007, 118 mins.

Pure joy: Johnnie To's "Sparrow" (Competition)

Four pickpockets in Hongkong are hoodwinked by a girl from the People's Republic. She is the lover of an old man who won't let her go. When our four heroes hear this, they decide to rescue her from her plight. The old man is rich, he has her passport, and he was also a pickpocket once upon a time. Hongkong, a sparrow, a few umbrellas and music (from Xavier Jamaux and Fred Avril) which is reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn comedies.

The umbrellas play a role in a scene which seems almost to be filmed in slow motion. One of the thieves, (Simon Yam) stands at a red light at a pedestrian crossing, the passport in the pocket of his suit jacket. On the other side of the street are the men who are following the old man to steal his passport. The light turns green and they walk towards him. Eyes, faces, tension, the rain drops on the umbrellas, a few rapid movements. Then it's all over. But this takes several minutes. You breathe every breath they take, feel every movement watch every raindrop fall.

But this is no elegantly choreographed ballet. "Sparrow" is not even a perfect genre film with irresistibly inventively staged pickpocketing scenes. To be quite honest the film often borders on slapstick. This film isn't out to prove anything. It is just a gift of pure joy.

Anja Seeliger

Johnnie To: "Man Jeuk - Sparrow". Starring Simon Yam, Kelly Lin, Lam Ka Tung, Lo Hoi Pang. Hongkong, China 2007, 87 mins.

Randy old rabbits:
Isabel Coixet's"Elegy" (Competition)

Isabel Coixet (photo), the Spanish director and script writer whose films are always a meditation on age and death, meets Philip Roth, a man obsessed with his own demise, but brilliantly so. "Elegy" is a lively mix of Madrid and Manhattan and one that should be enjoyed as a DVD on the sofa with a glass of red wine.

In the film "Sexy Beast" Ben Kingsley proved that he had an animal lurking inside him. So he made a perfect choice to play the lead in a fim based on a novel called "The Dying Animal," in which the world of predatory Professor Kespesh falls apart when the chase for young student Consuela (Penelope Cruz) leads to genuine feelings of love.

Roth's laconic New York cynicism is one of the main reason's to see this film. "I talk about Goya and Kafka but really I only want to fuck them." Or, "When a man sleeps with a woman, it is revenge for all the times he has suffered defeat in his life." The confessions of a man, who in an honest moment admits to a female friend (also a former student) that he has "behaved like a teenager his whole life."

The aging sex beast has a sidekick who is just as perfectly cast. His old friend George, the marriage-wrecking poet played by a jocular Dennis Hopper. Their conversations about the eternal beauty of women and their own transience flow as refreshingly in the cafe or the squash court. But this energy gets lost in the second half to create space for a lugubrious seriousness. Kespesh almost gets buried in an avalanche of blows of fate. Illness, death and loneliness all at once. And then his son goes and tells him that he failed as a father.

This second half, underpinned by cellos, is certainly moving but I missed the grouchiness of the first half. And Kingsley and Hopper might be perfect as randy old rabbits but Penelope Cruz as a precocious student? Sorry love, you're just too old.

Christoph Mayerl

Isabel Coixet: "Elegy". Starring Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson. USA 2007, 108 mins.

Burning the midnight oil: P.T. Anderson's "There Will be Blood"

And a few quick words about "There Will be Blood" which is released on German screens today. Daniel Day Lewis plays the Daniel Plainview, who over 3 decades and 158 minutes goes from passionate entrepreneur, to brilliant but ruthless businessman and finally becomes a free radical crazy with nothing to lose. The only person who can get to him in this state is a preacher who wants to get his hands on some of his money, and their conflict becomes a maelstrom to which P.T. Anderson gladly hands over his film.

Three tips for watching. Firstly, make sure you have a big screen. Secondly, you need good speakers . The rumbling of the bass when the oil starts running through the rock is a full-body experience. And thirdly, try to watch the film when you're hungry. This might not help the average wage earner to really understand why Plainview never gives up. But at least you will have the feeling of being gnawed at by something the whole time.

Christoph Mayerl

Paul Thomas Anderson: "There Will Be Blood". Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J.O'Connor, Ciaran Hinds, Dillon Freasier. USA 2007, 158 mins.

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - 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

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