Cosmic's German Film Rundowns

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Since a few people have expressed to me an interest in seeing more German films, I've decided to dedicate a thread to German film recommendations. I'm putting these in their own thread instead of in my Strange Variety of Film Reviews one because these are not going to be like my typical reviews, and will be formatted differently. These posts will focus more on the types of people who may or may not enjoy the film, rather than on my own personal opinion (though that will be included as well).

Every rundown will include:
  • An introduction to what the film is about
  • What I personally thought about the film
  • The type of person to whom I'd recommend this film
  • Warnings to those who probably wouldn't enjoy it
Where applicable, some posts may include:
  • A link to an English-language trailer
  • A link to a full review or HoF post I already wrote about the film
  • Random trivia that may or may not be meaningless
My rundowns will not include:
  • Unmarked spoilers
  • Popcorn ratings
I will be starting out mainly with films I've already discussed on the site, so people have an idea of what to expect here. Like always, this thread is completely open to discussion so feel free to post your own opinions about the films, or to ask any questions.




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Nice idea - just purely out of interest will you be watching these auf Deutsch or subtitled/dubbed?
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Thanks! I hardly ever watch dubbed films, because the audio always bothers me in them. Some of the films I've seen have been purely in German, while others I saw before learning enough of the language, so they were subtitled. For the ones I haven't seen yet, it depends on what the copy I have access to has. Some of the films are on VHS and thus have subtitles that cannot be turned off.

For anyone who is curious, everything I write about in this thread should be readily available with English subtitles.

I'm almost finished my write up of the first film, but I have to go shovel now (we had a bit of a snowstorm overnight/this morning). There are at least 15 films I know well enough that I won't need to rewatch them before writing my rundown, but there are a lot more I do need to rewatch, and plenty that I haven't seen yet but am looking forward to.





Good Bye, Lenin!
(2003)

Directed by: Wolfgang Becker
Starring: Daniel Brühl, Chulpan Khamatova, Katrin Saß
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Runtime: 121 minutes
English Trailer

Introduction:
The film follows the story of Alex Kerner, a young man who grew up in East Germany before reunification, and his experiences during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rapid Westernisation of his homeland. While caring for his sick mother, Alex attempts to shield her from the drastic changes happening right outside their window, and struggles to keep the DDR alive inside their apartment.

My Opinion:
This is actually one of my favourite German films. I find it very clever, occasionally touching without being overly sentimental, and the comedy really works for me. I enjoy the cinematography a lot, particularly the colours, and Daniel Brühl's performance is very engaging. There are some aspects of the film that I think fall a little flat, but I'm more than willing to forgive them since they don't have a large impact on my enjoyment of the film as a whole.

See also: my post in the 11th Hall of Fame, though it's much the same as what I've already said here.

Fun Facts:
This film contains real documentary footage from East Germany during the time period covered in the film.
Sandmänchen, the children's tv series Alex is seen watching in the film was a real program popular in both East and West Germany.
Good Bye, Lenin! placed 3rd in the 11th Hall of Fame, and was very close behind the 2nd place nomination.



Recommended for:
Anyone who enjoys political satire should appreciate the commentary present in this film if they already have a passing familiarity with the situation in East Germany at the time. Even for those who don't have an interest in East Germany's integration into Western culture, the story of Alex and his dedication to keeping his mother's world alive is engaging enough on its own.

Not recommended for:
Anyone who is looking for a critical representation of Socialist Germany is going to be very disappointed, because the film actually portrays a nostalgic, positive view of the DDR. While the film does have a number of tragic elements, the overall tone of the film is probably too light-hearted to satisfy anyone viewing this film purely for the family drama and nothing else. The comedy will also be hit or miss, depending on the viewers enjoyment of the borderline absurd events depicted in the film.



Care for some gopher?
Will follow your thread, Cosmic. Since i am German i am very interested in what "foreigners" think of "our" films. :-)

Regarding Good Bye, Lenin!: I've only seen it once many years ago, so i can't comment on how i would like it now but i recall liking it back then.
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A unique idea. I'm looking forward to whatever is in store.

Haven't seen Goodbye Lenin, but your review makes me interested. I do love the soundtrack.



jiraffejustin's Avatar
R.I.P. Billy Conforto
I've not seen very many German films, but I'd love to see more. I'd be interested in eventually seeing your thoughts on some of these that I've seen:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
M (1931)
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1971)
Das Boot (1981)
Europa Europa (1990)
Downfall (2004)
The Lives of Others (2006)
Cherry Blossoms (2008)
The White Ribbon (2009)



cricket's Avatar
Pimpin' ain't easy
Good Bye, Lenin! was one of my favorites from that HoF, so glad you nominated it.

I'm leaning towards nominating a German film for the next one. We'll see.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Interesting idea Cosmic, and I like the formatting you've used to set out your write-ups. Is there any specific reason why you have such an interest in German cinema? Goodbye Lenin is one I've been meaning to watch for several years now ever since I blind bought it on DVD



Glad you finally got around to this Have you seen any of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films? I've been meaning to see more from him after loving Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.



Interesting idea Cosmic, and I like the formatting you've used to set out your write-ups. Is there any specific reason why you have such an interest in German cinema?
Thank you! While I've always liked films in general, I didn't get interested in looking at them critically or from technical and artistic standpoints until I took some German film classes in University. I became really interested in cinematography and what goes on behind the camera because of those classes, so I've just had a soft spot for German cinema since then.

I ended up doing every film-related class the University offered, other than some French and Russian classes that required French/Russian knowledge, even for the low level ones that were taught in English (which I thought was dumb). My favourite classes were the ones on Film Form and Film Theory, and I wish there were more than a couple classes available on those topics, but Film Studies was just a newly added Minor program at the time (and it still is).

So yeah, that all started by taking an optional German film class haha.

Have you seen any of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films? I've been meaning to see more from him after loving Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.
Other than Ali I've only seen the Berlin Alexanderplatz mini-series, and the mini-series/tv film (not sure what to call it) Welt am Draht. I've been meaning to watch more of his work, but haven't.



Never got round to Good Bye Lenin, might give it a go some time as even though comedy is very much in the eye of the beholder as you rightly say I do like a bit of the absurd at times. Loving the layout, especially the recommended / not recommended sections as even with films I've not watched I can safely read those bits and get some sort of idea as to whether or not one may or may not suit my taste



I'm going to subscribe to your thread. I have seen so many German films and series. Well if I know who is Stephan Derrick ...,

I don't speak fluent German but I can get by and I always watch movies in its original using subtitles. Looking forward to your recommendations.
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Loving the layout, especially the recommended / not recommended sections as even with films I've not watched I can safely read those bits and get some sort of idea as to whether or not one may or may not suit my taste
Thanks! A video game website I follow usually writes about the type of gamer they do and do not recommend games to, and I thought that was a clever idea I could steal reuse.





Barbara (2012)
Dir. Christian Petzold
Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rainer Bock
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 105 minutes
English trailer

Introduction:
Barbara is forced to move from Berlin to a small town on the Baltic Sea, where she is closely monitored by the Stasi. Neighbours and co-workers must be kept at a distance, out of fear that they may inform on her and her plans to flee to the West. The film focuses mainly on atmosphere and subtle tension than it does on actual events in an attempt to tell a more personal tale of the oppression felt in East Germany during the early 80s.

My Opinion:
While this film didn't have the same emotional impact the ending of The Lives of Others had the first time I saw it, I actually enjoy Barbara more as a whole, due to the narrow focus of the story, and the more relatable, every-day characters it portrays. I really appreciated how eerily quiet the entire film is, and the cinematography was very beautiful to watch. Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld both give great performances as well, to the point where I frequently forgot I was watching a movie.

See also: my post in the 12th Hall of Fame, though it's mostly an expanded introduction to the film.

Fun Facts:
This was Nina Hoss' fifth appearance in a film directed by Christian Petzold. The previous films being Toter Mann (a made-for-television film known as Something to remind me in English), Wolfsburg (2003), Yella (2007), and Jerichow (2008). Since Barbara, Nina Hoss has been in a sixth Petzold film: the 2014 drama Phoenix.
Barbara placed 4th in the 12th Hall of Fame.



Recommended for:
People who enjoy slow, quiet films that exercise a lot of restraint will likely enjoy Barbara, with its static camera and average shot lengths that are longer than what a lot of people have become accustomed to. If atmosphere is what you're looking for, then you're making a good choice with this film.

Not recommended for:
Anyone who wants a fast-paced movie, or one that puts a lot of emphasis on events and plot points will probably find this film rather boring. If you're expecting a great deal of political commentary given the setting, you will likely be disappointed as well because Barbara is really just one woman's story, that focuses on personal morality instead of making any overt judgements about the government.




Anyone who has been in the last few HoFs with me might be wondering if the next film I plan to post about is Murderers are Among Us, but the answer to that is no (or at least, not yet). I wanted to start with 2 films I'd already written about here to get a feel for how these posts would be laid out and how to differentiate them from my reviews.

The next film will be something I don't think I've ever even mentioned on this site before, though some of you may know it.



Care for some gopher?
I've never heard of Barbara and i've only seen Nina Hoss in Wir sind die Nacht. Sounds interesting, though.