Tag Archives: German Cinema

The Reader – Movie Review

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Movie: The Reader

Releasing Year: 2008

Director: Stephen Daldry

Writer/Screenplay:  David Hare

Country of Origin: U.S.A & Germany

Running Time: 124 minutes

Languages: English, German, Greek

Genre: Drama, Romance, History

The Reader Movie Review:

Well ‘The Reader’ is a movie about an affair between a woman in her mid-thirties, Hanna (played by Kate Winslet) and Michael who is 15 (played by David Kross and in the later part of the movie played by Ralph Fiennes in his 60s). A movie with Nazi Holocaust as the backdrop. I have seen so many movies on this topic-the list is endless. But that event in the history of mankind, still inspires people to make movies on it. As there are so many aspects to it which the world hasn’t stopped thinking about. But ‘The Reader’ is much more than an expression on the futility of human cruelty. It is about love, reconciliation, and a woman’s pursuit to find redemption. Hanna defends herself in the war-crime trial and like many of us, realizes the severity of her crime much later in life, when it’s too late.

The Reader is a good comment on classic human behavior of ‘doing without thinking’. Hanna in the movie, at least had the courage to admit that she was one of the guards in selecting the Jews every month (as to who will go to the gallows). But her other colleagues just follow the bandwagon of ‘fallacy,’ denying their involvement in the crime. A very typical of human behavior of not wanting to rise above mediocrity, as we don’t wish to lose our comfort zone.

Michael’s affair with Hanna was more based on sexual relationship. Michael as a teenager discovers his own sexuality with Hanna who also wisely guides him in the act of lovemaking. There are good number of scenes of nudity and the experience of orgasmic fulfillment. But the relation between the two runs much deeper….more so, for Michael. Hanna is illiterate and loves to be read to. And Michael a good, animated reader reads to her some of the best works of literature (Homer’s Odyssey, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The lady with the little dog). This reading followed by sex forms a bond between them-an experience, a relation that will affect Michael for a lifetime.

Life often gives us a chance to look back at our behavior, analyse our past actions, and rise above our errors to become a more wholesome and a responsible human being. But very few can justify this chance-just a few like Hanna did in The Reader.

At the end of the movie Michael meets a Jewish woman (a survivor of the Holocaust) with an expectation of the Jewish victims to understand Hanna. The woman does not forgive Hanna’s crime but does make an effort to understand the culprit better, which for me is a step towards forgiveness. This effort of great character does somewhere make the Jewish woman a slightly more satisfied human being. And therein lies the power of forgiveness.

The Reader Performances:

The performances by Kate Winslet and David Kross as young Michael are commendable. Bob Marley once said, “Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” In this movie, Michael Berg finds that one worthy person.

 

Reviewed By: Pallavi Patil

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) – Movie Review

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Movie – Das Leben der Anderen

English Title – The Lives of Others

Direction and Screenplay by – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Country – Germany

Language – German

Cast – Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch

Releasing Year – 2006

 

Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others Review –

The year is 1984 (does that ring a bell?). A great wall divides East and West Germany.  East Germany is GDR (German Democratic Republic), ruled by the socialists which also form the Stasi – the Ministry of State Security. It considers itself the ‘sword and the shield’ of the governing party.

Stasi keeps a close watch on everything. It is responsible for the behavior and actions of everyone living in the GDR. The citizens are strictly instructed to unquestioningly follow the laws, rules, and orders of the reigning Socialist Party. Not a soul is allowed to doubt any ideas of the party and any deviation in this is dealt with a ruthless prosecution. In that sense, the Stasi not only governs the land but it also controls the minds of every person residing there.

Freedom of expression holds no meaning under this dictatorship. Those not in tune with the ideas of GDR are punished. Artists(writers, actors, painters, etc.) lose their careers and right to live freely if they do not agree to the government policies. All the lawlessness, unfair dominance and injustice is swept under the carpet.

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) - Movie
The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) – 2006 German Movie

Anyone who is suspected to be guilty of disloyalty is secretly and intelligently surveilled by the Stasi. Those under suspicion are subjected to harrowing, inhuman interrogations. The State security has the right to install surveillance even of the most private matters of the people and carry out raids on slightest doubt. No allegations, not even trivial jokes against the State politicians are tolerated. A particular scene in the cafeteria where a junior officer casually jokes about the government speaks volumes about the constantly lingering fear in minds of the people. The viewer can feel the paranoia and the ever mounting pressure.

Under these circumstances, Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is ordered to closely monitor the day to day events in the lives of the famous playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his beautiful and talented actor girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) who are being suspected to be disloyal to the government. This onset a fast paced thriller with a befitting climax.

While doing his duty, Wiesler gets almost personally involved with the ideas and the feelings of Dreyman and his colleagues. He cleverly betrays his officers and risks his career and life to save Dreyman from punishment. In the process, Wiesler and his seniors discover the shrewd diplomacy and betrayal of a very powerful State Minister who foul plays for his personal pleasures.

The film is a very intense look at the conflict in the human mind when subjected to inhuman repression. It shows what happens to a man when he is not allowed to think and express freely. Political suppression can lead to grave consequences. The movie is a stunning and thought-provoking comment on anarchy and dictatorship. At its core, it reinforces that a human mind is and will always be ‘free’. Even in the confines of a prison, no one can take away your thoughts. The film also shows the complex dynamics of close interpersonal relations, under severe stress and pressure.

Being a film, the storyline reminded me of the imprisonment of the famous Iranian director Jafar Panahi. The Iranian government has banned him from writing, directing any film or giving any interview to Iranian or foreign media for next 20 years. He is currently serving his 6 years jail sentence. This suppression of freedom has provoked many eminent people from the film fraternity across the globe to stand up for Panahi since they believe that art of any form can never be suppressed.

Das Leben der Anderen Movie 2006
                                   Das Leben der Anderen) – Movie 2006

In the movie, Wiesler forgets his job as a security officer and gets passionately involved in ‘the lives of the others’. Towards the end, in spite of all the deadly chaos around him, his sense of humanity prevails making him a hero in our minds. The Berlin Wall falls in 1989 and the story continues.

Injustice has had its way for years. But the human mind revolts. Because freedom is every man’s right. No one will ever be able to possess the human mind and this fact has proved itself in rebellion and uprisings against tyranny and injustice across the globe for many centuries now.

This movie won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2006.

 

Reviewed By – Pallavi Patil

Stroszek – Movie Review

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Movie – Stroszek

Director – Werner Herzog

Releasing Year – 1977

Country – Germany

Language – German


Stroszek Movie Review –

The film opens with the scene of Bruno being released from prison. His prison inmates give him amusing farewell gifts with great warmth, showing us how loved Bruno is, among his prison friends. On the release, the chief of the prison advises Bruno, very earnestly, to stay away from alcohol abuse which the police see as the main reason behind Bruno’s crimes.

Bruno is approximately a 30 yrs old man, slightly deranged and unable to hold up any conversations with people around. He has been into several reformatories all his life. He has been severely ill-treated in the past and has lived a very painful life, always neglected by people. And the very unkept, ragged Bruno, we see in the film is probably the result of all the malice and the apathy that he has experienced.

He comes back to his dingy apartment, still saved for him, by his loving and old neighbor Mr. Scheitz. Bruno is an incorrigible alcoholic and meets his old acquaintance Eva at a bar. Eva is a prostitute, heavily mistreated by her pimps. Bruno gets her home. Bruno is a kind man, all closed up in his own world. Definitely, not by choice. Mean men bully him, calling him a creep. He cannot defend himself against anyone.

He is a social anomaly who knows very well that his life moves in circles from good times to bad times to good and then to bad again. And this happens in an unbearable rhythmic way. Deep inside, he is well aware, that there is no escape from this vicious circle of life that has been enforced on him. A man in the midst of turbulence – Bruno plays this role with painful accuracy. The sincerity of his performance (a non-actor), leaves you chilled to the bone.

Stroszek 1977 German Movie.
Stroszek 1977 Movie

Bruno’s black piano has helped him sustain through the drudgery of living. He is a hobbyist musician playing in the backyards of buildings, with only the faces peeping out of the windows, as his audience. We all say that real talent will see the light of the day. But we are far from that. Not every sincere sound is heard. Probably we are too scared to hear it, out of the fear of not being able to give justice to it. Because even our acknowledgment today is governed by uncontrollable influence.

His relation with Mr. Scheitz is a very warm one. The latter has not only kept his apartment safe for him but has also taken great care of his pet bird. And we wish that there were more people like Mr. Scheitz in his life and then maybe, things would have been different. Eva’s pimps, out of sheer spite, beat up Eva, vandalize Bruno’s home and humiliate him.

Mr. Scheitz has plans of migrating to America to his nephew, Clayton, in Wisconsin. Bruno, Eva and Mr. Scheitz decide to move to America, together, to have a better life. Eva earns the money for the travel by hooking some clients. Life in Wisconsin starts pretty well with Bruno working in Mr. Scheits nephew, Clayton’s garage and Eva takes up a job as a waitress. She takes the loan for a big mobile house and then life seems fair for all. Bruno is very well aware that paying the loans is beyond their means. Eva assures him that she would take care of it.

But slowly Eva starts drifting away. Maybe she has her own reasons and is no one to be blamed. In a wonderful scene of an altercation between Bruno and Eva, Bruno shows her a twisted little sculpture and says that – he is slowly turning into something like the model where his existence has lost all its significance and he was probably better of in Germany than in the promised land of USA. Bruno is aware that Eva brings in a bigger chunk of money but is slowly going away from him, mentally and physically.

Now he feels caught up in the same claustrophobic circle where there is no way out. Another simple dream of wanting a decent life goes awry. Is it Bruno’s fault that he is a little slower in his ways and has no survival skills? Or is the society punishing him for being a misfit? Do all these questions really have an answer? Is there anyone in this world who has found the answers to all these daunting questions life asks while we try to make a living? Bruno starts falling apart, again. He did try to create a better world for himself but couldn’t. What is it that would really heal his spiritual wounds? Is it money….is it acceptance? Or maybe a little more understanding and love.

Stroszek 1977 German Movie.
Stroszek Movie.

In the end, Bruno finally drives away Clayton’s vehicle. He uses a few coins at the amusement arcade where the hens and rabbits perform in very small cages. These are probably the best scenes in the film where lovely creatures perform their act, dancing and playing the mini piano…dancing to the tunes played by external factors. A beautiful metaphor is drawn between the lives of Bruno and these helpless animals. Bruno has always lived to the dictates of the world around. He could never live the way he wanted to. I think the film is a look at the mysterious ways of life that never allowed a simple soul to break through.

Many posters of the film express something like the protagonist being heavily disillusioned by the beautiful American dream. But frankly speaking, i never found any such peculiar expression in the movie. Bruno would have probably faced the same fate irrespective of which corner of the world he lived in. Because it not about nations, their policies but about basic human desires and the reciprocations to it. Countries define our nationalities for convenience. They sure don’t label our identities as humans.

No single person (including himself), is responsible for Bruno’s fall.

Life is just like a see-saw taking you to both sides of living in a rhythm. In Bruno’s case, this rhythm is just too lopsided. Where will this see-saw ride stop and who will stop it? Will so many Bruno’s ever have a fair life? Is Bruno solely responsible for the outcome or is it the world and its ways? Bruno finally takes a never ending ride in a sky lift wanting go round and round. But he does not go back to the treacherous world of crime. He holds his ground and chooses to get off the see-saw.

 

Reviewed By – Pallavi Patil