Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, an endless amount of effects and reverberations have been felt, not just in regard to the nation's dismantled political institutions but to the cultural identity of its inhabitants. A small group of filmmakers captured this essence, with their portrayals of characters in a transitory stage of their identity in a reunited country going on to be dubbed the "Berlin School" by critics. Starting today, the Museum of Modern Art will present a film series covering the movement, which is considered the first since the New German Cinema of the 1960's and 1970's to push forward the boundaries of the art form.
Entitled "The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule," the series is comprised of 17 films from nine filmmakers, who present stories of people in a state of liminality and on the cusp of the future. This new wave of films released in the past decade includes a wide variety of genres and aesthetics, from the tense personal drama of "Barbara" to the heart-pumping chase scenes of "The Robber," all brought together by their close observation of figures on the periphery of change.
"The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule" runs from today until December 6. Check out the full screening schedule below, and for more information head over to the MoMA website.
The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule
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.