135: Run Lola Run (1998)

Keep your convents, nuns. Can’t you see I’m busy?

1998. Remember then? That was a good time, wasn’t it? Penny sweets that costed a penny, Mickey Mouse ice lollies, turkey twizzling school dinners. It was a big year for culinary delights. If only I had seen Run Lola Run back then it would have set my exercise gear in motion.

Winning a host of worldwide cinema awards and representing Germany for the prestigious Academy Awards nomination, Run Lola Run is a prime example of futurist, European cinema. And it still holds up this day. Snapshot cut sequencing, animation interludes, a pandemoniac soundtrack, it has it all, and then some. Complex, simple cinema doesn’t get better than this. Yes, a contradictory, juxtaposing sentence, but you just watch the flipping film and you’ll understand exactly what I’m banging on about.

★★★★★☆
IMDb it.

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053: Die Lage (2012)

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Why, it’s Pope Benedict XV, of course. Roll out the red carpet, disrobe the young bairns.

Revered indie-doc filmmaker Thomas Heise’s Die Lage passively follows the monotonous preparation of the Pope’s visit to the German city of Erfurt. Instead of the expected ‘Popemania’ hysteria, the film cooly projects the incessant organisation of the chaps’ stay, making such preparations seem more like a chore than the second coming.

Is it actually entertaining? Of course not. Adopting many of the conventional traits of cinema verite and observational documentary, Die Lage accentuates the space and separation we have from setting and scenario, meaning that it’s the filmic equivalent of watching paint dry. However, without even catching a glimpse of The (supposedly) Holy Father, as an audience, we feel cheated and are left tightroping over the wholly tedious affair.

THE GOOD: On a purely aesthetic level, the black and white filming is lush.

THE BAD: The lack of willingness to entertain or pertain audience enthusiasm is increasingly frustrating and moreover insulting.

★☆☆☆☆☆

IMDb it.

052: Kuhle Wampe (Who Owns the World?) (1932)

Erased from German film history, this politically subversive, communist film was banned by the then chancellor of Germany Adolf Hitler. Provocative and highly entertaining, this Bertolt Brecht story questions the makings of capitalist Germany, with mass unemployment and quality of life diminishing. Sounds all very relative, doesn’t it?

Clearly influenced by Vertov’s Living Russia from three years previous, the film starts with a silent sequence of German labourers cycling from place to place desperately seeking work; the spiralling chains and mechanism an allegory for the autonomous regime.

From there, the film starts talking and director Slatan Dudow’s scathing, controversial attack on the abysmal state of Berlin is unabating, often to the point where any sense of entertainment is sidelined. However, the film’s political potency is most magnificent in the closing scene of the film, where an unhappy, hungry and unemployed Berlin community debate the state of things to come, with one young hopeful shouting out over the rest with the eternal mantra: ‘Those who will change the world are those who don’t like the world.’ A testament of things to come in 1930s Germany, and advice that still rings true today.

THE GOOD: Like a lot of forgotten thirties masterpieces, the surrealism on display rivals even today’s phantasmagoric cinema.

THE BAD: Lacks some adhesive bind to bring it all together. A Brechtian smörgåsbord of ideas rather than a complete filmic sandwich.

★★★★☆☆

IMDb it.

 

047: Gnade (Mercy) (2012)

At last! After five failed attempts I finally found something I could sink my teeth into at this year’s Berlinale Film Festival.

Set in the beautiful yet desolate Hammerfest, Norway, Mercy centres on the relationship of Maria and Niels and their son Markus. Moving out of their native Germany and into the icy Scandinavian surroundings, the new location encourages lies, lust and complexities that have been bubbling underneath, now ready to implode.

Aside from three strong acting performances, the fourth star of Mercy is the location itself. With snowfall for nine months of the year, the hazardous and entraping conditions are equally mesmerising and claustrophobic; symbolising the broken family and their need to escape from the city and each other.

THE GOOD: All of the above, plus some equally inspired cinematography and apposite lighting.

THE BAD: The final three seconds of the film. I felt like shouting at the fifty foot screen and twelve hundred-strong audience.

★★★★★☆

IMDb it.