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 The Berlin School and Beyond 
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Post Re: The Berlin School and Beyond

While somewhat removed from the Berlin School movement, I did watch a couple of contemporary German documentaries recently that are worth mentioning. The first, Maria Speth's 9 Leben, is one I've been looking out for since initially witnessing her work, yet only surfaced online last year. It's an interesting look at Berlin's teenage homeless, extracting them from the street environment and presenting them in a sterile studio so as to strip the figures down to their feelings and experiences. The second, Heinz Emigholz's Schindler's Houses, is more concerned with imagery than memory and reminded me quite strongly of the aesthetics we've seen thus far in the thread. Lingering, static shots that depict the harmony (or, clash) between the urban and the natural. Since it displays the work of architect Rudolph Schindler, there is obviously a certain emphasis on geometry, which we've also seen in the thread.

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Mon Sep 08, 2014 12:28 am
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BS aesthetic in Ramon Zürcher's recent The Strange Little Cat:

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Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:41 pm
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Ooh, nice!

I'll be watching this soon. :)

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Wed Jan 14, 2015 1:53 am
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Sooooo good....

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Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:46 pm
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Have you seen it, my love?

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 2:43 am
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Not sure who you're talking to now, haha. But I saw it! It's like an Angela Schanelec/Peter Greenaway mashup. But I'll let it simmer a bit before I try to write anything.

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:21 am
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:D

It's an odd (strange) one, isn't it? Somehow ungainly despite mostly taking place in one location.

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:25 am
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Ungainly??

I do know I felt like I was standing in that kitchen, much more than the "being there" of most films. I was always making space for people to get by. :P

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:42 am
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You're always in the way, Maiden!

Ungainly in that it tends to stumble along, I guess?

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:54 am
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it's only the best film of the 2010s jedi

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 12:19 pm
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Whaaat how come you've all seen this one?

I've heard no mention of it on here...

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:17 pm
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The Strange Little Cat? Pretty sure myself and a bunch of other people spent the last 18 months raving about it

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:34 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Ungainly in that it tends to stumble along, I guess?
Hmm, the day stumbled along, like a real day would, but the camera was remarkably agile, even graceful, catching every word and expression...

And, bah, even the day wasn't ungainly! I thought it all moved smoothly, all the gears interlocking, building up to an event, and easing us back down.

JediMoonShyne wrote:
I've heard no mention of it on here...
LEAVES has mentioned it more than once.

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 2:39 pm
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what do you think of the fact that it is apparently adapted from The Metamorphosis

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 4:18 pm
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I read an interview where he said it started as that, but evolved so much that only the presence of the moth showed its origins.

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 4:29 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Have you seen it, my love?


Watched it at TIFF last year and absolutely loved it. The Zurcher brothers are a pretty adorable duo too.. I think he said the idea germinated during a student workshop with Béla Tarr where they each had to pick a text from Kafka to adapt or some such. He picked the Metamorphosis but yeah, admitted that the film he ultimately made departed almost completely away from the text. It sounded to me like he set up some specific formal challenges / ideas for himself and then let the story evolve around those. Worked great for me.

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 4:50 pm
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watching it feels like watching one of Ruiz' first. this guy could be big

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:50 pm
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I wanted to pet the cat!


Sun Jan 18, 2015 9:07 pm
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Pretty sure I did pet the cat! :D

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Mon Jan 19, 2015 7:53 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
You're always in the way, Maiden!

Ungainly in that it tends to stumble along, I guess?
I thought it was ingenious at most every frame, so I don't know how much stumbling there could be. Especially with all of the clever and playful goings-on with the sound and frame being fondly remembered in the transitioning scenes where the people have all left and the 'artifacts' of the scene remain behind. For me it was like getting to play in a formalist playground. Pure fun.

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Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:11 pm
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^that

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Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:38 pm
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Yep. I thought there was a kind of electricity running through the whole thing. Like the planet dance in Werckmeister Harmonies.

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Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:00 pm
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So, are we calling this one Berlin School? Or just the Bela Tarr Master Class School of Future Geniuses?
Where do I put my writeup? :P

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Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:15 am
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well technically, the Berlin School is only comprised of people who went to the DFFB. at least according to Pia Marais when i ASKE DheR

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** The Seashell and the Clergyman / Dulac
The Tales of Beatrix Potter / Mills
* A Flood in Ba'ath Country / Amiralay
Times and Winds / Erdem
Most Beautiful Island / Asensio
* Japanese Girls Never Die / Matsui
* Birth Certificate / Różewicz
Bush Mama / Gerima
** Paris Is Burning / Livingston


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Tue Jan 20, 2015 4:12 am
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snapper wrote:
well technically, the Berlin School is only comprised of people who went to the DFFB. at least according to Pia Marais when i ASKE DheR
Sure. But for this thread, we've always gone beyond to influence, right? And, as Jedi's screenshots prove, this fits visually. I'm not even sure why it seems so different to me.

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Tue Jan 20, 2015 5:36 am
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LEAVES wrote:
I thought it was ingenious at most every frame, so I don't know how much stumbling there could be. Especially with all of the clever and playful goings-on with the sound and frame being fondly remembered in the transitioning scenes where the people have all left and the 'artifacts' of the scene remain behind. For me it was like getting to play in a formalist playground. Pure fun.

It is a nice exercise in playful formalism, you're right. But then, what's a nice exercise in playful formalism without Sabine? Also agreed that it is concerned just as much with what is going on around the frame as what we are seeing in it, and the film does expertly capture the comings and goings of people and pets in your average family home - the fleeting presence of particular characters, and the subtle undercurrents that swirl around them. I suppose those two things are related, too, since it would be impossible to effectively document all the movements of such an active family organism. In this case, the camera stays still and the events and faces and exchanges swim in and out of view. Almost like the stationary status of the domestic cat in your average household!

Shieldmaiden wrote:
Where do I put my writeup? :P

Here, please!

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:38 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Here, please!
Five weeks late. :-/

I wrote a few words in my thread, but I'll try to put something a little better together for this thread.

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:30 am
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Oh I know, but the sentiment still applies. :heart:

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:47 am
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"The camera hardly leaves her face, and she’s so pissed off all the time, haha!" I thought it perhaps best to reiterate this point made by our fair Maiden on the previous page regarding the presence of Sabine Timoteo in Stephan Geene's After Effect, though it's impossible to over-emphasise just how pissed off she really is. She appears to hate just about everything, from the people she works with the the air she breathes - but then, she goes out of her way to sleep with one of her poor male colleagues, initially in what seems like some kind of power move since he practically cowers before her. The film itself is a curious one: part artistic exhibition, part formal experiment and part marketing campaign. Whimsical or bohemian might be a good way to describe it, if the film wasn't so terribly clinical at points, and with a clear emphasis on things like social structure and political hierarchy - though the occasional inserts featuring fanciful TV spots do help. It reminded me a little of Christoph Hochhäusler's recent The Lies of the Victors in that it features a bunch of creative young minds all working on top of one another in a fast-paced environment and striving to get ahead, though that one seems to revolve around ideas of morality - something that is virtually nonexistent here. Animals are something of a recurring theme, since the advertising agency in question seems to specialise in logos and promo material that also involves animals. I'm not quite sure how this relates to everything else, though there is a nice line at one point about how "animals can't look you in the eyes, even when you're standing right in front of them", or something.
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Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:55 am
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So, I've been going through this great book that some very pretty person sent me.

Have scanned in a few chapters and will post them up here, if anyone is interested?

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 8:13 am
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Can it compete with this thread?

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:51 am
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Oh, it kind of blows it away, unfortunately. :(

Particularly, love the essays by BS directors:

On Whose Shoulders: The Question of Aesthetic Indebtedness by Christoph Hochhäusler
The View from Here by Valeska Grisebach
The Cinema of Life by Thomas Arslan

Actually, there's a nice preview here:

http://www.moma.org/momaorg/shared/pdfs ... 1384787369

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Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:24 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
So, I've been going through this great book that some very pretty person sent me.


as long as you don't have two copies :shock:

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Sun Mar 01, 2015 1:56 pm
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:D

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Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:01 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
On Whose Shoulders: The Question of Aesthetic Indebtedness by Christoph Hochhäusler
Oh, excellent. The one I was most eager to read is included in the preview. :D

I like how Hochhäusler seems to be explaining our affinity for the films as well —
Quote:
The habit of thinking about film history as a kind of encyclopedia that one can refer to again and again seems to me more decisive than any fondness for the same type of cinema. In a way, the cinema of the Berlin School is unthinkable without the possibility of ranging through all periods and across national borders that has been offered by the DVD. […] The change in cinema brought about by the DVD surely deserves closer study, but to my mind what has changed above all is one’s distance from film. Ownership of a DVD, as opposed to a film reel, puts one in control by furnishing analytical tools—pause, forward, back, faster, slower, larger, smaller, as well as audio commentaries and so on—and allows one to research aspects of film history in a way possible before only at considerable expense. I suspect that our “Olympus” is, for that reason, more eclectic than that of previous generations, less rigidly oriented along the Hollywood–Paris axis.
And, again...
Quote:
In fact, the Berlin School, despite what the label suggests, is not a specifically German phenomenon. All over the world there are filmmakers exploring related terrain. In Austria (Jessica Hausner), in Argentina (Lisandro Alonso, Lucrecia Martel), in the United States (Lance Hammer, Kelly Reichardt), in Japan (Naomie Kawase, Hirokazu Kore-eda), and in many other places.

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Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:06 am
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Yes! He says something to similar effect in this BBC Culture piece:

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Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:36 pm
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While the films of the Berlin School do not typically dwell on their nation's past, seemingly more interested in the mores and motions of contemporary society, there is a notable recurring interest in the traditional German fairy tale as a thematic foundation. Christian Petzold has repeatedly returned to fable-like narrative ideas but also imagery in his work: looming, ancient forests that tend to encircle figures, who become isolated within the landscape through which they travel. With In This Very Moment, Christoph Hochhäusler adopts a similar approach, borrowing the tale of Hansel and Gretel and then applying it to a modern day situation - a stepmother's abandoning of her stepchildren - set along the Polish border. This frontier setting is key here, for it allows Hochhäusler to draw a line between countries and cultures. The sterile house, busy roads and power lines seen at the beginning of the film are subsequently offset against the featureless backdrops seen later on: an abandoned parking lot, deserted service station and disused open air theatre. We've seen such haunted locations before, but Hochhäusler's positing of them within the context of a foreign land lends these places a certain otherness. It becomes the kind of land, seemingly free of social conventions and regulations, in which just about anything can happen: a land described in the introductory segment of the excellent Border Visions: Identity and Diaspora in Film, as one of "unexpected scenarios ... unknown and dangerous, but that is also one of its main magnetic attractions."
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Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:27 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
I enjoyed In This Very Moment much more than I Am Guilty. Part of that is the children (yes, Jedi), and the fact that I'm a sucker for the whole idea of reworking fairy tales.

This is very much a recurring thing though, isn't it? While these filmmakers rarely ever delve into the country's political past - sometimes up to the fall of the wall, but never beyond it - they are only too happy to embrace tradition and folklore. I read a little of this book, which speaks about the lasting legacy left behind by Grimms' tales and how they have been applied to contemporary ideas and situations. Aside from the Hochhäusler and Petzold's work, there is also mention of this film - which, unfortunately it seems has no English subs. It also speaks about the lack of a happy ending here:

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Thu Mar 12, 2015 10:39 pm
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That book looks good! This confused me though:

Quote:
Certainly, the children are not willfully abandoned in this film
Weren't they??

I'm thinking some BerlinSchool might be a good way to come out of my film-watching slump. Tentative lineup:

    Bungalow
    The Seen and the Unseen
    Wolfsburg
    A Fine Day
    Die Liebe der Kinder

Also, would Elementary Particles count?

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Sat Apr 04, 2015 2:15 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Weren't they??

Ha, I remember having this discussion with someone before. They were willfully abandoned, you're right, though I suppose you could make the argument that it's more of a moment of frustration followed by worry and guilt. There is always some adult or authoritarian figure looking over the kids, even if for the wrong reasons, which could be compared to something like Koreeda's Nobody Knows in which the children are almost entirely dismissed by everyone, from the mother to the landlady and the shopkeeper - only the coach of the baseball team actually concerns himself, if I recall. But then, the interaction between children and adults plays a massive part in Koreeda's work, especially in the last one!

And I'd love to go through some of those, especially Wolfsburg which I have queued up to rewatch. Elementary Particles, too!

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Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:24 pm
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Ah, Bungalow is really good. I love Ulrich Köhler! Why hasn't he made more films? He consistently disproves the oft-repeated 'Berlin School lacks humor' line. Everything about Paul's cringe-worthy avoidance strategies is funny, though the humor gets pretty dark at points. Everything is so perfectly observed: the way Lene smells Max when he touches her, the way Paul and Kerstin dance around their unexpressed feelings, his extreme fish-out-of-water awkwardness. And I like the touch of ambiguity in the ending. This is why I watch the Berlin School: for the careful way we're shown things we've seen many times before, but with a clear-eyed compassion that makes it all new.

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Sun Apr 19, 2015 3:34 pm
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I'd never claim that Köhler lacks humour, only that I don't find him funny.


Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:36 pm
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Ah, Bungalow is really good. I love Ulrich Köhler! Why hasn't he made more films? He consistently disproves the oft-repeated 'Berlin School lacks humor' line. Everything about Paul's cringe-worthy avoidance strategies is funny, though the humor gets pretty dark at points. Everything is so perfectly observed: the way Lene smells Max when he touches her, the way Paul and Kerstin dance around their unexpressed feelings, his extreme fish-out-of-water awkwardness. And I like the touch of ambiguity in the ending. This is why I watch the Berlin School: for the careful way we're shown things we've seen many times before, but with a clear-eyed compassion that makes it all new.

I know, right? Wish he'd make more: it's already been 4 years since Sleeping Sickness and still no sign of anything else in the pipeline. Out of curiosity, I just checked his IMDb page and found some cinematography credits dating back to 1981, when he was 12 years old. That has to be a mistake, right? But yes, Bungalow is one of those that frames even the most mundane of actions in a way that lends them weight. Everything about Paul's movements suggests a meandering, disenchanted existence but there is something to be found in each. It's like, we find out more about this young man and perhaps his generation at large from what he isn't doing, as opposed to what he is doing.

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Sun Apr 19, 2015 11:55 pm
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Circus Freak wrote:
I'd never claim that Köhler lacks humour, only that I don't find him funny.
To be honest, I didn't see much comedy while watching it; but, afterward, it took on a comic edge. Sort of like when a terrible/embarrassing thing happens (in real life), and you know it'll make a great/funny story later on, but you have to suffer through it to get there.

JediMoonShyne wrote:
But yes, Bungalow is one of those that frames even the most mundane of actions in a way that lends them weight.
Yeah, it's the suspense, right? We know what's coming.

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The Iron Giant ▪ Lisbon Story ▪ Jealousy Is My Middle Name ▪ On the Beach at Night Alone ▪ Paju ▪ A Girl at My Door ▪ A Brand New Life ▪ Moana ▪ Ant-Man and the Wasp ▪ Night Must Fall ▪ Colo

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Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:42 am
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Wolfsburg is another small, perfect film from Petzold. I like how he does melodrama so clinically that it ceases to be melodrama at all. It's like the echo of melodrama. No, no—the autopsy of melodrama. We're simply studying its effects in the past, in someone else. No way it can hurt us now! Yet it gets under our skin somehow regardless, like Greek tragedy. Nina Hoss is more amazing every time I see her. Also, does he use the same sets/locations again and again? That stretch of beach is starting to look very familiar.

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Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:07 am
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looks great!


Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:46 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Also, does he use the same sets/locations again and again? That stretch of beach is starting to look very familiar.

Ha, I actually remember feeling that Wolfsburg is somehow more conspicuous in terms of (titular) locations.

Jaimey Fisher's SoC piece on Petzold mentions little else!

With his 2003 Wolfsburg, Petzold refocused on the nature of labour and economy in post-war Germany, not least by making a film with a title invoking the factory town of Volkswagen, Germany’s biggest and in many ways trademark company. If Farocki has been a regular collaborator, with Wolfsburg Petzold nods in the direction of another of his DFFB teachers, Hartmut Bitomsky, whose nonfiction film Der VW-Komplex (1990) he cites as a major influence: Bitomsky’s film also takes up how work changes people, though in a more accessible and wry mode than most of Farocki’s films. In Petzold’s hands, the VW factory town hosts a melodrama, in which a distracted yuppie car salesman quarrelling on his mobile phone with his girlfriend happens to run over a boy. After fleeing the scene, Philip (Benno Fürmann) goes to visit the boy in the hospital and then starts to fall in love with the boy’s (single) mother, Laura (played by Hoss). What could be an almost maudlin tale becomes, typically for Petzold, a bare-bones plot with which to consider the loneliness of modern life and the dissonances of contemporary labour. Love and work are, as in many of his films, insidiously interwoven, with Philip’s initial girlfriend, Katja (Antje Westermann), the co-owner of the dealership where he works and then, in turn, his finding a better job for the underemployed Laura.

Although a German viewer would likely expect a film entitled “Wolfsburg” to feature the eponymous town’s massive factories, Petzold counter-intuitively steers clear of any of the city’s copious manufacturing, favouring instead a deterritorialized glass-and-steel car showroom in which Philip works for Katja’s brother. Whereas the film hints at an earlier mechanics’ training for Philip – he is noticeably skilled at concealing any marks of the collision on his vintage car – his upward mobility in the new Germany requires increasingly dematerialized labour, focusing on the manipulation of unsuspecting buyers rather than the material production of cars. Similarly, Laura trained as a graphic designer but has found work only in a Walmart-style, big-box retail store. This depressing store is bare and spare, an environment where the boss observes his employees through the sort of surveillance cameras that feature in many of Petzold’s works. Both Farocki and Petzold often cite Gilles Deleuze’s theories on societies of control, in which technology has led not so much to liberation as to increased surveillance and discipline. The makings of the plot may be melodramatic, but the subtexts are clear, not least in the automobile and the mobile subjectivity it represents.


http://sensesofcinema.com/2013/great-di ... anpetzold/

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Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:07 am
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Also, will definitely rewatch this week. :heart:

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Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:07 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Image

Shieldmaiden wrote:
Image
Also also, love that we picked similar shots!

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Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:30 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Also also, love that we picked similar shots!
Haha! Of the eight shots I originally picked (for Bungalow and this) three were identical to yours, plus that one, which is close! It must have been subconscious memory. Or, we're the same person. :D

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The Iron Giant ▪ Lisbon Story ▪ Jealousy Is My Middle Name ▪ On the Beach at Night Alone ▪ Paju ▪ A Girl at My Door ▪ A Brand New Life ▪ Moana ▪ Ant-Man and the Wasp ▪ Night Must Fall ▪ Colo

Voyage | Female Gaze | MACBETH | Sokurov | Fassbinder | Greenaway | Denis | Sono | my bookshelf


Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:17 am
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