MoMA Kicks Off THE BERLIN SCHOOL: FILMS FROM THE BERLINER SCHULE Series Today
The Museum of Modern Art presents The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule, a film series that examines the first major movement within German cinema since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, from today, November 20 to December 6, 2013, in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters.
The exhibition highlights 17 films by nine filmmakers-many of whom will be present during the opening weekend to introduce their films-made between the mid-1990s and the present and representing a new, aesthetically driven form of cinema.
The fall of the Berlin Wall triggered a collapse not only of political institutions but also of many elements of German social and cultural identity, particularly in the former East. Berlin, its physical borders demolished, became the epicenter of integration and progress politically, economically, and culturally. A small group of Berlin-based auteur filmmakers, including Thomas Arslan, Christian Petzold, and Angela Schanelec-all from the former West and graduates of the dffb (Deutsche Film-und Fernsehakademie Berlin)-emerged to form what is now known as the Berlin School. More of a critics' designation than an artistic declaration, the Berlin School features observant portrayals of characters in flux and in search of new identities in a reunited country. Together with their younger colleagues, these filmmakers mark the first movement within German cinema to push the art form forward since the New German Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s. The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule is organized by Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film, MoMA, and Anke Leweke, independent film critic, with Sophie Cavoulacos, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, MoMA.
Though there is no single manifesto, one common feature of Berlin School films is a departure from the notion that the most compelling German stories come from its totalitarian past. The films are rooted in the present tense, centered on characters in transit through their own lives and often motivated at once by the impetus to move forward and to create a new future, and a lingering resistance to change. Stylistically, the films emphasize introspective vision and perception, setting aside conventional dramatic narratives to create a cinema of observation. The focus is often on characters who stand at the periphery of events-seldom is the character a figure who "makes history."
Angela Schanelec's 2001 film Mein Langsames Leben (Passing Summer) follows a group of Berliners over the course of a languid summer as their lives intersect-observing their
relationships, crises, and fleeting conversations. The film captures their small joys and everyday trials in controlled compositions that bleed their private moments into the ambient soundscape of the city's streets and cafés. In Ulrich Köhler's Bungalow (2002), a would-be soldier Gone A.W.O.L. drifts through his young life-and the film-both restless and unmoored, an emblematic Berlin School antihero.
Many Berlin School films focus on microcosms and interpersonal-familial, romantic, or sibling-relationships to represent the mood of the country. Interactions in a family kitchen or a parking lot in a province resonate beyond a singular moment. Thomas Arslan's 1997 film Geschwister (Brothers and Sisters) explores the vastly differing lives of siblings in a German- Turkish family. One, who speaks perfect German, excels at school, and has a girlfriend; another has no prospects and considers returning to Turkey for his military service; a third, their sister, goes her own way entirely. The personal problems that they discuss on their walks through the Berlin-Kreuzberg neighborhood-love and money problems, family, and worries about the future- highlight a drifting approach to life that can no longer be identified as simply German, Turkish, or German-Turkish. In Christian Petzold's Die Innere Sicherheit (The State I Am In) (2000), a German family lives in hiding in Portugal, wanted by the police for crimes committed more than a decade earlier. When their cover is blown, the family is on the run, fleeing to seek help from former comrades in crime. In this anguished tale, the Cold War generation's attempt to break from its past is pitted against the new generation; Jeanne, the couple's daughter, yearns to lead a normal teenage life and risks blowing their cover. The film follows them as they drive through Europe In the Family Volvo, the ideals of their former German utopia as obsolete as their now- worthless getaway stash of deutschemarks.
Recently Berlin School films have evolved to convey the same ideas across varying genres, styles, and cultural geographies. In Ulrich Köhler's 2011 film Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness), the filmmaker transplants the oft-described "clinical" Berlin School aesthetic to Africa, following his dislocated characters as they grapple with identities at odds with their origins. The boardroom-to-bedroom intrigue of Christoph Hochhäusler's Under dir die Stadt (The City Below) (2010) unravels in the glass towers of Frankfurt's financial district, while Thomas Arslan's Gold (2013) follows a group of German settlers as they travel in northern Canada in covered wagons, hoping to find their fortune in the recently discovered goldfields of Dawson. The breathtaking chase scenes in Benjamin Heisenberg's Der Raüber (The Robber) (2010) are a stark departure from the quietly precise camera style associated with the Berlin School. Yet, as Heisenberg's marathon runner-turned-robber goes from heist to heist seemingly motivated by little more than adrenaline, the film addresses profound questions of motion and stasis.
In the context of The Museum of Modern Art's Berliner Schule film exhibition, Deutsches Haus at NYU is very pleased to present a two-day conference about the Berliner Schule. The conference will take place from November 22-23, 2013, and will consist of a number of panel discussions among filmmakers, academics, and other film experts. The panels will explore a variety of topics relating to the filmmakers of the Berliner Schule and their work, including their concept of realism, the role of women, their writings on film, their vision of cinema and their international cohort, and the influence and future of the school. The following filmmakers will participate in the
conference: Thomas Arslan, Benjamin Heisenberg, Christoph Hochhäusler, Ulrich Köhler, Christian Petzold, and Angela Schanelec. Cinematographer Reinhold Vorschneider will also participate. Two of the panels will be moderated by Marco Abel, Associate Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Nebraska.
An Evening with Christoph Hochhäusler and Benjamin Heisenberg
Monday, November 25th: 7:00 p.m., The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2
In conjunction with Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule, filmmakers Christoph Hochhäusler and Benjamin Heisenberg talk about their influences, their work and the difficulty of defining the loose association of contemporary German auteurs brought together under the rubric Berlin School. Though varied in their interests and strategies, these filmmakers tend to be united by an interest in writing and criticism; Hochhäusler and Heisenberg discuss the publication Revolver, of which they are co-editors, as a hub for conversation, discovery and debate.
The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019, (212) 708-9400, MoMA.org. Hours: Saturday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
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Film and After Hours Program Admission: $12 adults; $10 seniors, 65 years and over with I.D.; $8 full- time students with current I.D. The price of an After Hours Program Admission ticket may be applied toward the price of a Museum admission ticket or MoMA Membership within 30 days.
The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule
November 20-December 6, 2013
Wednesday, November 20
7:00 Die innere Sicherheit (The State I Am In). 2000. Directed by Christian Petzold. With Julia Hummer, Barbara Auer, Richy Müller. Clara and Hans, still wanted by the police for their participation in acts of terrorism more than 15 years ago, are living under false identities. From their point of view they have committed only one deadly sin: conceiving and bringing up a child, Jeanne, who, as she grows older, is likely to demand more freedom and risk blowing their cover. The family is a metaphor in which personal and revolutionary longings exist, irreconcilably, side-by-side. 106 min.
Thursday, November 21
4:00 Mein langsames Leben (Passing Summer). 2001. Directed by Angela Schanelec. With Ursina Lardi, Andreas Patton, Anne Tismer. In the languid heat of summer, a group of Berliners see their lives intersect. Schanelec captures her characters' relationships, crises, and fleeting conversations in controlled compositions, heightened by the ambient soundscape of the city's cafés and streets. The director-and, by extension, the viewer-is ?just there,? observing as the characters unravel, carried by the ebb and flow of the everyday. 85 min.
7:00 Geschwister (Brothers and Sisters). 1997. Directed by Thomas Arslan. With Tamer Yigit, Serpil Turhan, Savas Yurderi. The camera follows the siblings Erol, Ahmed, and Leyla through their daily life. One brother lives day to day and, with no prospects, considers going back to Turkey to do his military service. The other, by contrast, speaks perfect German, is at the top of his class, and has a girlfriend. Their sister is very much going her own way. On their forays through Berlin-Kreuzberg, the trio talks about everything: love and money problems, family and future worries. These walks become the expression of a drifting approach to life that can no longer be identified as German, Turkish, or German- Turkish. 82 min.
Friday, November 22
4:00 Madonnen (Madonnas). 2007. Germany/Switzerland/Belgium. Directed by Maria Speth. With Sandra Hüller, Luisa Sappelt, Coleman Orlando Swinton, Susanne Lothar. ?You were never a mother to me,? Rita accuses her mother Isabella. But how is the young woman dealing with her own children? When she isn't leaving them with the hated Isabella, Rita does attempt to lead a kind of family life with Marc, a U.S. soldier stationed in Germany. Speth's film has as much a mind of its own as its heroine; it doesn't dwell on the question of why a mother continues to bring new children into the world when she doesn't want to take responsibility for them. Rather, what is sketched is the biography of a young woman who insists on her right to refusal, and who prefers to meander through life free as a bird. The film makes it clear that we don't always have to understand a person in order to get closer to them. (Text adapted from 2007 Berlinale program.) 120 min.
7:00 Jerichow. 2008. Directed by Christian Petzold. With Nina Hoss, Benno Fürmann, Hilmi Sözer. Harnessing his admiration for American literature and genre storytelling, Petzold delivers what has been described as a Berlin School take on James M. Cain's pulp novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. A love triangle involving a restless wife, her menacing husband, and the handsome ex-soldier who enters and disrupts their life, this languid thriller leverages contemporary anxieties around Turkish immigrants in Germany and the effects of the Afghan war to chilling effect. 93 min.
8:00 Gold. 2013. Directed by Thomas Arslan. With Nina Hoss, Marko Mandic. Canada, 1898. A group of German settlers travel toward the far north in covered wagons, with packhorses and their few possessions in tow. They are hoping to find their fortune in the recently discovered goldfields of Dawson, but they have no idea of the stresses and dangers that lie ahead on their 2,500-kilometer journey. Before long, uncertainty, cold weather, and exhaustion begin to take their toll, and conflicts escalate. Once upon a time, Germany was also a country of emigrants.... (Text adapted from the 2013 Berlinale program.) 101 min.