Tag Archives: German film



Director: David Wnendt

Writers: Claus Falkenberg, David Wnendt, Sabine Pochhammer

Based on the novel by: Charlotte Roche

Cast: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Marlen Kruse

Original title: Feuchtgebiete

Germany 2013

105 mins

This adaptation of Charlotte Roche’s notorious erotic-comic novel was hands down the funniest, punkiest film at this year’s Etrange Festival. Merrily life-affirming, with life in this case meaning spunk, shit and blood, it stars the spirited Carla Juri as a wonderfully individual 18-year-old girl with a particular affection for grime, sex and bodily secretions.

While she is being treated for an anal fissure in hospital, an occasion she is naïvely trying to use to reunite her divorced parents, she reminisces about various episodes of her past, from her dysfunctional childhood to her various experimentations with sex and drugs. Her candid lack of inhibitions both startles and fascinates the male nurse looking after her, Robin, and they begin to grow closer.

The film possesses the same charm as its heroine: the gross-out comedy – from the initial toilet scene (which recalls Trainspotting with a female twist), to the pizza masturbation or the menstrual blood oath – is irresistible, because it is all done with such wide-eyed innocence and childlike matter-of-factness. Nothing about the body repels Helen, and even though there shouldn’t be anything shocking about that, in our sanitized culture the presentation on screen of a female character’s slimy adventures was enough to trigger initially slightly stunned, then boisterous laughter in the Etrange Festival crowd.

Helen is a truly great creation, as embodied by Carla Juri. Playing the character with bold abandon and spontaneity, Juri is utterly convincing, naturally inhabiting the role. Endearingly full of contradictions, Helen is strong and vulnerable, dirty and innocent, tender and selfish, brave and irresponsible, poignantly poised between childhood and adulthood. But above all else she is irreducibly herself, and as such is immune to the pressures of social norms and rules, which makes spending 105 minutes in her company heartily invigorating.

The only minor disappointment is a simplistic rose-coloured ending that is at odds with, and somewhat undermines, the radical singularity of the character. Admittedly the film follows – and subverts – the conventions of romantic comedy, but Helen’s perspective on sex, love and femininity is so mordantly fresh that it is a shame she is forced to fit into a standard, predictable conclusion. This, however, does not detract from the overall effect of the film, which is a big blast of filthy energy.

This review is part of our Etrange Festival 2014 coverage.

Virginie Sélavy

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Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt

Format: Cinema

Release date: 27 September 2013

Distributor: Soda Pictures

Director: Margarethe von Trotta

Writers: Margarethe von Trotta, Pam Katz

Cast: Barbara Sukowa, Janet McTeer, Klaus Pohl, Julia Jentsch, Ulrich Noethen, Axel Milberg

Germany, Luxembourg, France 2012

113 mins

Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt is not a documentary, but a dramatisation of the best-known episode in the life of the German-American political theorist. In 1961, while she was a professor at the New School in New York, Arendt went to Jerusalem to report, for the New Yorker, on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, following his abduction from Argentina by Mossad. Wary of the judicial process, suspicious of the Israeli government, Arendt refused to prejudge Eichmann. And perhaps she allowed herself to take her contrariety too far.

First, she seemed to go too far towards exculpation of Eichmann, in order to put across her big idea about the banality of evil. We have now all become used to this idea as part of the landscape of cruelty and suffering: in the modern world monstrous things are not usually done by monsters, but by ordinary people. But the dramatic crux of the film is Arendt’s even more controversial criticism of Jewish leaders under Nazi rule, which she took far enough to look like blame.

So she blamed her fellow Jews and exculpated the Nazi – er, maybe you’ve overthought that one a bit, Professor Arendt? Was this stubborn devotion to truth, or was she carried away with her own ideas?

There are some flashbacks to her youthful engagement (philosophical and physical) with Heidegger, the Nazi-in-waiting, and some other mildly awkward episodes in her personal life. Dialogue is spoken in the actual languages supposed to have been used by the people portrayed: mainly German, with interludes in English, while archive film is incorporated, surprisingly smoothly. This portrait of an intellectual woman is handled more calmly and seriously by von Trotta than one can imagine it would be by a British filmmaker. Glamourisation, conjecture, pathos, symbolism, and messages are eschewed.

Arendt is let off lightly, but I guess it’s tempting to side with her when the alternative might look like siding with the Israeli government and the people who tried to hound her out of her job. Not really an edifying episode in intellectual history, but an interesting story told with appropriate restraint.

Peter Momtchiloff

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Aguirre, Wrath of God

Aguirre, Wrath of God

Format: Cinema

Release date: 7 June 2013

Distributor: BFI

Director: Werner Herzog

Writer: Werner Herzog

Cast: Klaus Kinski, Cecilia Rivera, Ruy Guerra, Peter Berling

Original title: Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes

West Germany 1972

93 mins

Werner Herzog’s first film with Klaus Kinski, Aguirre, Wrath of God, tells the story of an expedition of conquistadors searching for the fabled Eldorado and coming unstuck in the process. Made in 1972, the film was shot entirely on location in the Amazon rain forest and involved the cast and crew enduring much of the madness and hardship that the film’s characters underwent, in what was to become Herzog’s almost legendary modus operandi. The relationship between the director and lead actor – as documented in Herzog’s brilliant 1999 documentary My Best Fiend – was particularly fraught, with temper tantrums, threats of murder and even gunplay coming into the mix.

Aguirre, Wrath of God will be released in the UK as a limited edition Blu-ray SteelBook on 19 May 2014.

Aguirre incorporates this sense of ramshackle chaos and insanity. The first sight of the expedition traversing the mountains inspires anything but confidence. The adventurers and slaves descend precipitous paths awkwardly, encumbered by pieces of cannon, sedan chairs, two gorgeously dressed noble women and livestock. A crate of hens is dropped down the mountainside, clouds and mist obscure the view, and no one looks happy. The adventure – even at the beginning – seems like dangerous drudgery rather than anything glamorous or romantic. This is not the story of Europeans going mad in the jungle, but rather the madness that drives these people into the jungle in the first place. Almost immediately, the group begins to fragment, with a forward expedition being sent on, and this continual unravelling will be the main dynamic of the narrative as we follow them on their hopeful (but to us obviously hopeless) quest. Official proclamations are read to the indifferent jungle, the Holy Brother charts the unfolding of disaster despairingly in his diary, and things begin to fall apart. The most literal and dangerous example of this are the rafts that they use to transport themselves down the river and – in the earliest part of the journey – through the furious churning rapids. The camera itself is almost always in the way, splashed with water, and occasionally glanced at.

Aguirre’s transformation from muttering discontent to utterly insane and self-deluded tyrant is inversely proportionate to the amount of power he actually has. As his men succumb to disease and Indian attacks and the ranks are thinned, he lurches around and postures (so much of his performance is in his strange, lopsided stance), attempting to somehow realise his own vision through the power of his glare and his overblown and self-deluded rhetoric. The hypnotic music by Popol Vuh lulls us into a fever dream, and Herzog never allows Aguirre a moment of triumph, or a glorious death. He is left to exacting executions, via his humming henchman, and even there the main voice of opposition, the noblewoman Inez, played by Helena Rojo, defeats him by bravely walking off into the jungle.

There is a dark comedy to all this, and Aguirre is not the only lunatic in the asylum. When two friendly Indians turn up, seemingly prepared to worship the Spaniards as gods, the person who we’ve previously trusted as the narrative voice of reason, Brother Gaspar De Carvajal (Del Negro), has them executed for blasphemy. The cruelty of the expedition is shown in their treatment of the animals (horses, hens and monkeys) as well as of each other, an unpleasant aspect which the film shares with that other film of jungle madness, Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Ultimately, the fury of the title is self-inflicted and preposterous. The omnipresent river that carries them along at its own pace – and it’s slowness can prove as deadly as its rapids – will take Aguirre and his raft of monkeys into oblivion.

John Bleasdale

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Die Nibelungen

Fritz Lang’s five-hour hallucinatory epic take on mythic tale Die Nibelungen is available now from Masters of Cinema (Eureka) in a spectacular new HD restoration DVD or Blu-ray set.

Comic Strip Review by Alex Fitch and Charles Cutting
Comic Strip Review by Timur Hassan
For more information on Alex Fitch, go to Panel Borders. For Charles Cutting, go to his website.