“Die Nibelungen: Siegfried” showing at The Electric Cinema

Die_Nibelungen_2On Sunday 2nd November, Birmingham’s Electric Cinema is offering a rare treat:

A matinee screening of Fritz Lang’s 1924 silent movie epic Siegfried, accompanied on live piano by BBC Radio 4’s Neil Brand, the world’s leading silent movie pianist who has performed live scores for a number of classic features.

Made by the director who is famous for the hugely influential expressionist film Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s black and white cinema masterpiece Siegfried is adapted from the same myth that Wagner drew on for The Ring Cycle.

Siegfried (Paul Richter), son of King Siegmund, masters the art of forging a sword at the shop of Mime (George John). On his journey home, he hears tales of Kriemhild, the princess of Burgundy (Margarete Schoen). En route to Burgundy, Siegfried slays the dragon Fafnir, and bathes in his blood. This makes him invulnerable to attack — except for one spot on his shoulder blade which he has missed…

Click here to book tickets.


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at the Electric Cinema

On Sunday, 30 June 2013, at 6pm, Britain’s oldest working cinema, The Electric in Birmingham, will be showing one of the earliest classic examples of German cinematography: Robert Wiene’s expressionist masterpiece “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary”.

A twisted tale of madness and somnambulism, set in an eerily distorted version of Germany’s narrow medieval townscapes, this is a film not to be missed.

What makes this screening special, is the synthesised, highly atmospheric live score by Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Steve Severin.

Click here for more information and to book.

Film ab! German Film Season in Birmingham

The next (and final) two screenings of the Birmingham German film season take place next next Wednesday.

The theme for the evening is “memories”. It is approached in diverse ways by two very different directors, both demonstrating how the Germany of today is strongly influenced by both the on-going effects of the Nazi-era and by the social and economic repercussions caused by the Fall of the Wall and the end of the Cold War.

The second film of the night, Robert Thalheims’s “And Along Come Tourists” addresses these issues full on as it asks the question of how we should deal with the memory of the Nazi crimes, almost 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz. As the last of the survivors die, the issue of how to memorialise the Holocaust and how to communicate the crimes and horrors of the Nazi-regime to a young generation, is much debated in German society. The film shows Sven, a young school leaver who opts to replace his military service with a community service placement at Auschwitz. Working at the visitor centre, he meets survivors and visitors who often resemble tourists and he witnesses the town’s struggle to become Oświęcim, a “normal” Polish place that in many ways tries to free itself from the constant association of German crimes.

Before Thalheim’s very direct confrontation with German memory, Christian Petzold’s “Jerichow” will be shown, a film that is much more obscure in its ways of addressing the past and yet takes place in a world which is very clearly shaped by historical developments.

Petzold works form part of the so-called Berlin School of film-making, renowned for its intellectual avant-gardism and its thematic focus on characters struggling with the anonymity and the insecurities of modern life.

In his films Petzold has repeatedly addressed significant chapters in German history, such as the left-wing terrorism of the Red Army Faction in “The State I Am In” or life in the GDR in his most recent, critically acclaimed film “Barbara”. His films are highly emotional and extremely subdued at the same time.

In Nina Hoss, the star of most of his films, Petzold has found an actress that is ideally suited to portray the strangely vulnerable yet highly resilient female characters at the centre of many of his works. In Jerichow, Hoss once again gives an impressive performance as the seemingly emotionally detached wife of a Turkish migrant who falls passionately in love with her husband’s new employee, a traumatised former soldier who has returned to the east German province after his mother’s death. Although the main focus is on the love story, the characters’ constellation and the deprived surroundings they move in, offer a poignant commentary on the society of post-“Wende” Germany.

Jerichow will be introduced by Dr Elystan Griffiths from the University of Birmingham, and his colleague Dr Joanne Sayner will speak about “And Along Come Tourists”.

The films are shown on 27 Feb 2013 at 6.15pm and 8.15pm respectively at Birmingham’s Library Theatre (map).

The film season is organised by the Birmingham International Film Society with support from the Goethe-Institut London.

“Changing Germany”: Film Season at Birmingham International Film Society

In February, Birmingham’s International Film Society is teaming up with the Goethe-Institut to show a short season of  recent films from Germany. Following the theme “Changing Germany”, the films have been chosen for their various perspectives on contemporary Germany and the country’s social and political changes.

The season kicks off on Tuesday, 5 February, with two films about migration. They will be introduced by Leila Mukhida from the University of Birmingham and Dr Claudia Gremler, Lecturer in German here at Aston. The screenings will take place at the Library Theatre in Paradise Forum (map). For students, tickets are £3.50 per film or £6 for the double bill.

 The first film is Feo Aladag’s directorial debut “Die Fremde” (“When We Leave”), a powerful portrayal of a young woman’s struggle to lead a self-determined life. Having grown up in Germany, Umay now lives in her native Turkey with her abusive husband. When she decides to leave him and returns with her young son to her parents’ house in  Berlin, she fails to foresee the dramatic consequences of her actions.

Starring Sibel Kekilli, who rose to fame in 2004 with Fatih Akin’s highly appraised “Gegen die Wand” (“Head-On”), another Turkish-German drama that dealt with the challenges of interculturalism, “Die Fremde” was very well received. It won numerous international awards for its candid depiction of the private dimensions of cultural conflict  and the effects of male control over women’s lives.

The second film for the evening will be Hans Christian Schmid’s “Lichter” (“Distant Lights”). Schmid is known to British audiences for hard-hitting dramas that often focus on characters in crisis.

In 2006, his remarkable film “Requiem” told the true story of a devout Catholic student in the German province, who attempts to combat her epilepsy with exorcism and suffers fatal consequences. Three years later, Schmid embarked on an international co-production, “Storm”, which explored the legacy of the Yugoslav wars.

“Lichter”‘s sobering subject matter is in line with many of Schmid’s other works. The film is set in the border region between Germany and Poland, in the years before Poland joined the EU. Inspired by Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts”, the film combines a multitude of characters and many different episodes to offer a fascinating yet sad portrayal of life in a region which is shaped by struggle and disillusion. In the film we encounter a group of economic migrants from Eastern Europe, attempting  to cross the border into Germany. But it’s not easy to escape police control and whom do you turn to when you are stranded in a foreign country? Schmid carefully dissects his characters’ naive hopes and dreams and demonstrates the misleading allure of life elsewhere.

Two more films will be shown on 27 February. They deal with the role of memory and remembrance in contemporary Germany. We will bring you more details nearer the time, so watch this space!


Oscar-nominated German film showing at the MAC

Don’t miss Christian Petzold’s highly acclaimed, award-winning and Oscar-nominated drama “Barbara” which will be showing at the MAC in Cannon Hill Park, starting this Sunday.

Set in the 1980s, it stars Nina Hoss as a young doctor who has applied to leave East Germany and finds herself banished to the provinces as punishment for failing to co-operate with the repressive socialist state. In the words of the Guardian’s cinema critic, this is an “elegant drama based on human and political dilemmas” which successfully captures “the weird oppression and seediness of the times” – and we couldn’t agree more!

Details and trailer can be found here.

Successful Visit to Solihull School

Dr Uwe Schütte, Head of German at Aston, recently paid a visit to Solihull School.

He taught a revision class to the Upper Sixth German Class on the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which students and staff found “excellent” and “highly stimulating“. Due to the success of the event, which was very inspiring for everybody who attended, further visits to Solihull School are planned. Outreach activities like cultural days, taster sessions, master classes and school visits are part of the German section’s ongoing commitment to introduce the benefits of language learning and of enrolling for a degree at Aston to pupils in and around Birmingham.

Art Crosses Boundaries – German-British Art Connection

Birmingham’s prime art venue „Number 9-The Gallery“ specialised in contemporary art will host an evening showcasing German and British paintings, sculptures and drawings. The gallery was recently nominated Best Arts and Entertainment Venue 2012 by readers of the Birmingham Post. Lee Benson and his team invited German Art historian Carolin Rodler for a project stay and will celebrate the exchange between British and German artists and art enthusiasts with a reception to be held at the gallery 31st of May from 5-8pm.


Image source: Number 9 Art Gallery, copyright Philip Wakelam.


To visit the gallery’s website, follow this link.

Berlin Meets Birmingham: Wings of Desire at Victoria Square

The International Dance Festival Birmingham (IDFB) is currently being held in the city for the third time. Produced by DanceXchange and Birmingham Hippodrome, IDFB is a four-week festival bringing great dance to venues and public spaces across Birmingham and the West Midlands.

IDFB is offering many exciting performances but there is one particular event we would like to draw your attention to:

On Wednesday, 16 May, at 9.30 pm there will be an outdoor performance of Wings of Desire in Victoria Square. It is inspired by Wim Wenders’ celebrated 1987 film.

Considered by many to be his masterpiece, Wings of Desire is set in  pre-unification Berlin and tells the powerful story of a divided city inhabitated by people suffering from the modern condition and trying to find happiness in their everyday lives. They are watched over by angels who see the passing of time and try to relieve human suffering.

The German title “Der Himmel über Berlin” (The heavenly skies above Berlin) tries to capture this better than the English translation.

Stylishly clad in dark overcoats, these invisible messengers of God are disenchanted with human history and their own limited capability to ease people’s anxieties. They are removed from the city and only see the world in black and white.

But colours burst onto the screen when angel Damiel (played by Bruno Ganz who demonstrated his incredible versatility as an actor by moving from playing an angel in Wenders’ film to incorporating Adolf Hitler in the internationally successful “The Downfall” (Der Untergang) in 2004) falls in love with a melancholic trapeze artist and decides to become human to live with her.

This exciting adaptation will form the IDFB’s spectacular finale, featuring Australia’s world famous CIRCA, Britain’s urban 2Faced Dance Company, interactive performance experts seeper and starring internationally-renowned DJ, film and TV star Goldie.

And the best thing: IT IS FREE! No need to book tickets, just turn up on the night and be amazed!

But there’s more: For those of you who have never seen Wenders’ visually stunning original there is a chance to see this cinematic masterpiece at the Electric Cinema in a matinee performance on Sunday, 13 May at 2.30pm.

German Film “If Not Us, Who?” Showing at the MAC

On 23rd, 24th and 26th April the MAC in Cannon Hill Park is showing Andres Veiel’s award winning film “Wer wenn nicht wir”. (Click here for screening times.)

The film portrays the extreme love-story between German left wing terrorist Gudrun Ensslin and her husband Bernward Vesper. As part of the 1960s protest generation, Gudrun and Bernward challenged the ideals of bourgeois society and the concept of capitalism. This biopic follows their story from early student days in Tübingen to their work at the core of the protest movement. Torn between loyalty and admiration for his father, a Nazi era writer, and his own strong rejection of a post-war German society which refuses to accept responsibility for its history, Bernward develops a drug-fuelled self-destructive lifestyle. In 1964 the couple moves to West Berlin, where Gudrun becomes increasingly radicalised after meeting and falling in love with Andreas Baader…

It’s that time of the year…

Last Thursday, the German Christmas Market opened its doors in Birmingham.

For a little more than a month, fans of Christmas and German (food) culture can eat, drink and enjoy the Christmassy atmosphere at Victoria Square and New Street in Birmingham.
And why not try a typical German dish while you’re at it? Maybe some sausages, or Kartoffelpuffer (Potatoe Cake) and a Glühwein and some buttered mushrooms? Of course you can always try a taste of the very German (well, Bavarian, really!) Sauerkraut and drink some beer.
The most important thing is that you have a good time.

(image from: focusbirmingham.org.uk)
But before you go out to have a lovely evening on the Weihnachtsmarkt, remember: All that glitters is not gold.
Especially the biscuits can be bought much cheaper at supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. That’s where most stands buy them from anyway.
With that in mind, enjoy your visit!