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
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.
Saturday, November 23
1:30 Sehnsucht (Longing). 2006. Directed by Valeska Grisebach. With Andreas Müller, Ella Koplin, Rose Kuchenbecker. In a small German town, an affair introduces friction into an otherwise blissfully uneventful marriage. Markus loves his wife Ella—they‘ve been close since they were children—but nothing feels the same. Filmed with mostly non-actors, the love triangle plays out in long takes, in a quiet mode of realism. Yet, with moments of ambiguity poetically woven into the narrative, the film vacillates between too-real loneliness and the stuff of fairytales. 88 min.
4:00 Bungalow. 2002. Directed by Ulrich Köhler. With Lennie Burmeister, Devid Striesow, Trine Dyrholm. A young man, aimless but adventurous, progressing through life without purpose, takes advantage of an opportunity to step away from the herd, head in the opposite direction, and investigate himself. This is the stage that Köhler sets at the outset of his debut film, which encapsulates the poetics and problematics of the Berlin School through the experiences of a would-be solider gone A.W.O.L. The film features a strikingly naturalistic (and purposefully limp) performance by newcomer Lennie Burmeister, who can be seen as a stand-in for many directionless German youths in the post-Wall era. 85 min.
7:30 Barbara. 2012. Directed by Christian Petzold. With Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Klaus Schütz. Summer in the German Democratic Republic in 1980. Barbara, a doctor, has submitted an application to emigrate to the West. Instead she is punished by being posted far from the capital, to a hospital in a small town. Jörg, her lover in the West, is busy planning her escape. It ̳s a waiting game for Barbara. Meanwhile her new boss confuses her. Is he spying on her? Is he in love? Petzold once again focuses on a woman who seems to drift through life like a phantom. Hers is a life in which the fear of surveillance seems to be firmly embedded in all interpersonal relationships. (Text adapted from the 2012 Berlinale program.) 105 min.
Sunday, November 24
2:00 Der Räuber (The Robber). 2010. Germany/Austria. Directed by Benjamin Heisenberg. With Andreas Lust, Franziska Weisz. Based on a true story, the film follows Johann Rettenberger, a marathon runner and bank robber who, upon his release from prison, returns to auto theft and armed robbery, operations that he approaches with clinical precision and seemingly no emotion. Johann is fueled by a unquenchable need for motion, adrenaline, control—but what is the end goal for our antihero? Even without any clear answer, the effects of this finely crafted thriller/love story/existential meditation are mesmerizing. 90 min.
2:30 Alle Anderen (Everyone Else). 2009. Directed by Maren Ade. With Lars Eidinger, Birgit Minichmayr, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Nicole Marischka. A young couple, Gitti and Chris, are vacationing at his parents‘ home beneath the warm Sardinian sun. They are thoroughly contemporary Germans: she is confident, headstrong, and amorous; he is thoughtful, sensitive, and sweetly sexy. Their mutual attraction and compatibility is clear, but they are not immune to each other‘s potential for cruelty. Their possible downfall looms when Gitti challenges Chris to do something ―masculine.‖ In response, Chris feigns more traditional masculine behavior but is ridiculously bad at it, and the crumbling of their partnership seems tragically inevitable. Perhaps the starkest examples of the shift in Germany between old attitudes and new is revealed in the reevaluation of sexual relationships between heterosexual partners, and Ade‘s film provides an engrossing and finely crafted cinematic perspective on that shift. Winner of the Jury Award and Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. 119 min.
5:00 Unter dir die Stadt (The City Below). 2010. Directed by Christoph Hochhäusler. With Robert Hunger-Bühler, Mark Waschke, Nicolette Krebitz. As the head of a bank, a king in a glass tower overlooking Frankfurt‘s financial district, Roland is used to having his way. A moment of attraction with Svenja, a woman he encounters at an art gallery, soon escalates from flirtation to the two strangers, both married, finding themselves in a hotel room. Svenja is taken by the man, but she resists consummating the affair—all the while unaware that her husband works under Roland. Roland, however, manipulates the couple‘s life to get what he wants. 105 min.
Monday, November 25
7:00 Modern Monday An Evening with Christoph Hochhäusler and Benjamin Heisenberg 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.
Tuesday, November 26
4:00 Falscher Bekenner (I Am Guilty). 2005. Directed by Christoph Hochhäusler. With Constantin von Jascheroff, Viktoria Trauttmansdorff, Manfred Zapatka. Armin graduated high school, but he isn‘t going anywhere. He lives in the suburbs with his parents, who hover around him, hoping he‘ll amount to something. He begins making anonymous claims of responsibility for crimes he sees on the news—first as a lark, then obsessively, returning to the scene of the crime and skulking around police stations. When he is finally arrested, we see for the first time a smile on his impassive face. Finally, there‘s a new reality, a moment of rupture, some sort of way out. 90 min.
7:00 Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness). 2011. Germany/France/Netherlands. Directed by Ulrich Köhler. With Pierre Bokma, Jean-Christophe Folly, Jenny Schily. In his third feature film, Ulrich Kohler transplants the oft described ―clinical‖ Berlin School aesthetics to a scrupulously unsanitized Africa, and exposes the ability of this visionary movement to locate itself beyond the borders of Europe, and engage with transnational narratives. His dislocated characters, grappling with identities at odds with their origins are both localized and universal. The film, for which Köhler was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival, situates its lead characters on Conradian journeys facing real- world dilemmas and a struggle between past and present. 91 min.
Wednesday, November 27
4:00 Im Schatten (In the Shadows). 2010. Directed by Thomas Arslan. With Mišel Maticević, Karoline Eichhorn. Upon his release from jail, Trojan goes straight back to his gangster ways; he gets hold of a weapon and looks out for new gigs. Since crime makes up Trojan‘s daily existence, the film concentrates entirely on the technical nature of a life outside the law. Each hand movement has to be right. All of a sudden, the question of whether Trojan will manage to start the getaway car on time becomes a great cinematic moment. (Text adapted from the 2010 Berlinale program.) 85 min.
Friday, November 29
4:00 Orly. 2010. Germany/France. Directed by Angela Schanelec. With Josse De Pauw, Maren Eggert, Natacha Régnier. Spending time in an airport is like finding yourself in a moment of transition. While you are waiting, you are nowhere, someplace in between. In Orly, four couples inhabit the liminal space of the titular Parisian airport‘s departure hall: a man and a woman who just met; a mother and her teenage son on their way to a funeral; a young couple embarking on their first big trip; a woman who reads a letter from the man she has recently left. The camera maintains a distant point of view, but clearly captures their dialogues and their moments of silence, as their thoughts wander to the trip ahead. 84 min.
4:30 Bungalow. 2002. Germany. Directed by Ulrich Köhler. With Lennie Burmeister, Devid Striesow, Trine Dyrholm. (See Saturday, November 23, 4:00) 85 min.
7:00 Der Räuber (The Robber). 2010. Germany/Austria. Directed by Benjamin Heisenberg. With Andreas Lust, Franziska Weisz. (See Sunday, November 24, 2:00) 90 min.
Saturday, November 30
1:30 Den Wald vor lauter Bäumen (The Forest for the Trees). 2003. Directed by Maren Ade. With Eva Löbau, Daniela Holtz, Jan Neumann. In director Ade‘s feature debut a young woman, Melanie, has a vision of her future, or at least what it should be. Determined to establish a better life for herself and her community, the slightly awkward Melanie moves away from her family and her lethargic boyfriend to teach a new generation in a new town in the German provinces. Her idealism is battered by the unwillingness of the members of that close-knit society to accept her optimistic overtures (as odd and off-putting as they may be) and by the real cruelty just below the surface in the people around her. Stymied by their pervasive rejection of change, she must confront her own naïveté and loss of direction. Shot with a handheld digital video camera, the film has all the rawness and urgency of a low-budget documentary. 81 min.
2:00 Die innere Sicherheit (The State I Am In). 2000. Germany. Directed by Christian Petzold. With Julia Hummer, Barbara Auer, Richy Müller. (See Wednesday, November 20, 7:00) 106 min.
4:00 Geschwister (Brothers and Sisters). 1997. Germany. Directed by Thomas Arslan. With Tamer Yiğit, Serpil Turhan, Savaş Yurderi. (See Thursday, November 21, 7:00) 82 min.
7:30 Madonnen (Madonnas). 2007. Germany/Switzerland/Belgium. Directed by Maria Speth. With Sandra Hüller, Luisa Sappelt, Coleman Orlando Swinton, Susanne Lothar. (See Friday, November 22, 4:00) 120 min.
Sunday, December 1
2:00 Mein langsames Leben (Passing Summer). 2001. Germany. Directed by Angela Schanelec. With Ursina Lardi, Andreas Patton, Anne Tismer. (See Thursday, November 21, 4:00) 85 min.
2:30 Gold. 2013. Germany. Directed by Thomas Arslan. With Nina Hoss, Marko Mandić. Canada, 1898. (See Friday, November 22, 8:00) 101 min.
5:00 Unter dir die Stadt (The City Below). 2010. Germany. Directed by Christoph Hochhäusler. With Robert Hunger-Buhler, Mark Waschke, Nicolette Krebitz. (See Sunday, November 24, 5:00) 105 min.
Monday, December 2
4:30 Jerichow. 2008. Germany. Directed by Christian Petzold. With Nina Hoss, Benno Fürmann, Hilmi Sözer. (See Friday, November 22, 7:00) 93 min.
8:00 Alle Anderen (Everyone Else). 2009. Germany. Directed by Maren Ade. With Lars Eidinger, Birgit Minichmayr, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Nicole Marischka. (See Sunday, November 24, 2:30) 119 min.
Tuesday, December 3 4:00 Im Schatten (In the Shadows). 2010. Germany. Directed by Thomas Arslan. With Mišel
Matičević, Karoline Eichhorn. (See Wednesday, November 27, 4:00) 85 min.
7:00 Sehnsucht (Longing). 2006. Germany. Directed by Valeska Grisebach. With Andreas Müller, Ella Koplin, Rose Kuchenbecker. (See Saturday, November 23, 1:30) 88 min.
Wednesday, December 4 4:00 Orly. 2010. Germany/France. Directed by Angela Schanelec. With Josse De Pauw, Maren
Eggert, Natacha Régnier. (See Friday, November 29, 4:00) 84 min.
7:00 Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness). 2011. Germany/France/Netherlands. Directed by Ulrich Köhler. With Pierre Bokma, Jean-Christophe Folly, Jenny Schily. (See Tuesday, November 26, 7:00) 91 min.
Thursday, December 5
4:00 Den Wald vor lauter Bäumen (The Forest for the Trees). 2003. Germany. Directed by Maren Ade. With Eva Löbau, Daniela Holtz, Jan Neumann. (See Saturday, November 30, 1:30) 81 min.
Friday, December 6
4:00 Falscher Bekenner (I Am Guilty). 2005. Germany/Denmark. Directed by Christoph Hochhäusler. With Constantin von Jascheroff, Viktoria Trauttmansdorff, Manfred Zapatka. (See Tuesday, November 26, 4:00) 90 min.
7:00 Barbara. 2012. Germany. Directed by Christian Petzold. With Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Klaus Schütz. (See Saturday, November 23, 7:30) 105 min.