Thursday, October 21, 2010

German Movies

I was recently in Germany for a week and a half, and of course jet-lagged. There, I was thrilled to be able to see episodes of 'Tatort' (deservedly running now 40 years!), but on two nights in a row my hopes of falling asleep were thwarted by the movies being shown following the detective show.
The first night it was 'Das Leben der Anderen'. I had seen it earlier, but looking at Martina Gedeck is always a pleasure so I watched it again. Big Hollywood has a great post on this excellent docudrama on the awfulness of Communism.
That post cites a wonderful, if slightly over the top, endorsement from William F. Buckley:
I looked at the record and was gratified to find, in the critics’ files, encomiums absolutely unconfined in their admiration of this movie, which in fact won the Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film. And I was unsurprised to find that what seems the whole of East Germany is riven by its impact. Since so many East Germans were complicit in the postwar reign of the German Democratic Republic, there is a corporate national shame at the betrayal of life, as so brazenly done by so many millions, but whose country, at least, has given the world this holy vessel of expiation
The next night Tatort was followed by The Baader-Meinhof Complex so I stayed up again. This film is not so well constructed, and it seems to depend on knowledge of the nutballs involved, but it was fine for me, as I remember that period. It also features the wonderful and beautiful Martina Gedeck as the somwhat-conflicted Ulrike Meinhof, so it was a pleasure to watch, but I was also really impressed by Moritz Bleibtreu as the god-awful maniac Andreas Baader. He conveyed so well the fact that the politics of this group were largely a vicious infantile tantrum, and that Germany took far too long just to simply neutralize these idiots one way or another.
I recommend the film, but I also suggest hitting Wikipedia first to get the general drift, as the film itself does little to navigate a naive viewer.
I particularly recommend Gedeck's performance as Meinhof (she is a great actress) and Johanna Wokalek's as Gudrun Ensslin. These were awful people in an awful time. It is astonishing to remember what sympathy they once had. (And guess from whom - our totalitarian lovers, the lefties.)
Germany now seems SO far from that world, and thankfully so. I love visiting the country.


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