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.