27/02/2007

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Die Tageszeitung 27.02.2007

The taz can't make up its mind about "The Lives of Others." Stefan Reinecke defends the film as "an intimate play which doesn't go in for an overpowering aesthetic. It dissolves the Stasi cliches without prettifying them, and opens up an identification game. That's the key of its success. Maybe it took the naivete and obsessive curiosity of an outsider like Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck - from the West, 16 years old when the Berlin Wall fell – to get off the well-trodden path of the GDR Stasi topic. So what's the problem? In 2006, "The Lives of Others" was not taken as a competition film for the Berlin Film Festival. Why not? Why is it so hard to see the excellence of this film? True, director von Donnersmarck has a level of confidence that borders on hybris. But that's not what it's about. It's about a culturally critical reflex which has long since become routine – namely, a distrust of success. A German thriller that also tells a political story – there's something very suspicious about that."

Cristina Nord, on the other hand, doesn't like the film. "What's strange is that the political element of 'The Lives of Others' disappears in itself. We don't have to go so far as to accuse the director of working with immoral means. But every definition, every analytical access gets lost because 'The Lives of Others' belongs to a kind of cinema which depicts political circumstances as humanly understandable."


Frankfurter Rundschau
27.02.2007

Arno Widmann thinks that Americans don't see "The Lives of Others" as a film on a German topic. "Too many passages in this film remind Americans of the ongoing debate about patriotic and unpatriotic behaviour in the war on terror. They don't recognise us but rather themselves in this film. In the USA, 'The Lives of Others' is not a film about the past and definitely not about Germans, but rather a warning of a possible future."

Author Silke Scheuermann explains in an interview why it doesn't bother her at all that her debut novel "Die Stunde zwischen Hund und Wolf" (the hour between dog and wolf) is being celebrated as a "portrait of her generation." "Because that means a lot of people recognise themselves in the book, or at least see something of today in it. Of course on the other hand it's not a sociological study, and wasn't meant as a generational novel. I was much more interested in identities and the problem of loss of identity. The starting point was entirely personal – a visit to an exhibition of works by Francis Bacon. The portraits showed a very eerie side of people – their animality, how their human side disappears and only instincts remain."


Die Welt 27.02.2007

Former civil rights activist Werner Schulz does not think "The Lives of Others" deserved an Oscar. "Steven Spielberg would have been picked to pieces all over the world if he'd simply made up Oskar Schindler and his list. The same is true of Roman Polanski and his 'Pianist.' Evidently, no one cares if you give your imagination free reign and retell GDR history with no respect for historical authenticity. The film shows how a tough nut Stasi interrogation specialist suddenly starts protecting dissidents."

An "obituary war" has been going on in Spain for several months, writes Albrecht Buschmann. It all started when the daughter of a Republican victim purchased half a page in El Pais. After her, many descendents of "victims of Marxist barbarity" started purchasing obituary space for themselves as well. Now things have calmed down somewhat. "For the moment. Because in Spain, at least 80,000 unidentified victims of Franco's political cleansing campaigns are still lying buried, who volunteers have started to disinter only recently. 800 have been found so far, and their remains have been turned over to their next of kin for burial. Until today the state has shirked its responsibility here. The mass graves are not even properly mapped, and large numbers of dead have no graves at all. Their descendents now want to commemorate them in some way, if only with a 15 by 25 centimetre obituary notice."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 27.02.2007

Berlin architect Jürgen Mayer H. has built a student cafeteria in Kalrsruhe that reminds Roman Hollenstein of the brutalist university architecture of the 1970s. But it's ecologically correct and made entirely from wood – even if you can't see it. "For aesthetic but also hygienic reasons, it was covered with a polyurethane skin, 2 mm thick, which is more commonly used in bridge construction. It's not just the catchy while discrete colour (the standard yellow green of RAL 1000) of this surface that recalls 70s design style, but also the rounded corners which give the clumsy building an optical elasticity."

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