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The Farewell-Movie Review 01/24/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true story, Biographical, German language film, Light Drama, Movies.
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The Farewell (German) 2000
Abschied – Brechts letzter Sommer

Directed by Jan Schütte
Written by Klaus Pohl
Starring Josef Bierbichler

The peculiar, emotional, and sometimes amusing dynamics of the “extended family” of famous playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht (Bierbichler) during what turns out to be one of the last days of his life in 1956.

Included in the menagerie that surround him at his vacation cottage are his wife and daughter, his assistants, his current and former mistresses, and a philosopher/political activist about to be arrested for treason along with his wife (who is also a lover of Brecht). Plans to return to Berlin that day are underway so that Brecht can rehearse one of his plays. Although his health isn’t good, he continues to write through all the activity and tensions around him. And, most especially, he wants his missing hat.

More psychological portrait of an artist than action-oriented plot.

91 min. Not rated. Some nudity.



The State I Am In-Movie Review*** 01/02/2011

Posted by Films to consider in German language film, Movies, Suspense, Thriller.
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The State I Am In (German) 2000
Die Innere Sicherheit

Directed by Christian Petzold
Starring Barbara Auer, Richy Müller, Bilge Bingul, and Julia Hummer

Among other awards and nominations:
Winner, Outstanding Feature Film, German Film Awards
Winner, Grand Prize (Petzold), Valenciennes International Festival of Action and Adventure Films
Winner, Best Feature Film, Hessian Film Awards
Nominated, Outstanding Individual Achievement-Actress (Hummer); Outstanding Individual Achievement-Supporting Actress (Auer), German Film Awards

A family of three – parents Clara (Auer) and Hans (Müller) and teenage daughter Jeanne (Hummer) – live their lives on the run, the result of Clara and Hans having been involved in terrorist actions for some unnamed group. Jeanne, now fifteen, has known no other way of living.

As her parents plot and react to constantly changing and threatening surroundings, Jeanne is struggling with the same issues other girls her age struggle with. When she meets Heinrich (Bingul), a surfer boy living in one of the towns she and her parents stayed in for a short time, Jeanne wants to be with him and starts to make some decisions on her own. But when her parents come up with another one of their schemes, things go horribly wrong.

I especially liked the performance by Julia Hummer as Jeanne. Although her typical teenage angst (e.g., “I don’t want to wear this stupid sweatshirt”) was taking place in such extraordinary circumstances, her actions and reactions were so normal that it made her parents seem even more unreasonable than they actually were.

On my list of films to watch are Gespenter (Ghost) (2005) and Yella (2007), which together with this film are known as director Petzold’s Gespenter trilogy.

106 min. Not rated. Adult themes.

The Lives of Others-Movie Review *** 10/28/2010

Posted by Films to consider in German language film, Movies, Suspense.

The Lives of Others (German) 2006

Winner, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards

Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Starring Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch.

A chilling look at how the Stasi (State Secret Police) functioned in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Writer Georg Dreyman (Koch) manages to stay on the right side of the Stasi, although he continues to associate with others who run into trouble. When his girlfriend Christa-Maria (Gedeck) catches the eye of a high Stasi official, however, Dreyman is put under the surveillance of Captain Gerd Weisler (Mühe), a bland lower-level Stasi operative.

After Dreyman’s good friend, a blacklisted director, commits suicide, Georg agrees to use his own writing to inform the world about the tactics of the Stasi. Captain Weisler, in turn, has become obsessed by the couple he is listening in on. He even reads some of the books in Georg’s library, which opens up a whole new world to him. He makes a bold decision that reflects the changes he himself is experiencing.

A high level of suspense is maintained throughout this lengthy movie, making it one of my highly recommended films.

137 min. Rated R.


Sophie Scholl-The Final Days-Movie Review *** 07/11/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true story, Biographical, Drama, German language film, Movies.

Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (German) 2005

Among other awards:
Nominee, Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards
Winner, Best Actress, European Film Awards
Winner, Best Actress; Audience Award, German Film Awards (LOLAS)

Starring Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs, Alexander Held

The true story of 21-year-old Sophie Scholl, a member of the White Rose student resistance group in Munich in 1943. Sophie volunteers to accompany her brother Hans to campus, carrying with her a suitcase filled with anti-Nazi flyers that they distribute. The pair (along with five others) are arrested, tried, and executed without the delay usually accorded to those accused of such crimes. Other members of the group receive harsh sentences. Later, White Rose leaflets were taken to England via Scandinavia and dropped over Germany in honor of the Munich students.

Jentsch’s striking (and award-winning) performance shows Sophie’s steadfastness to her beliefs in the face of interrogator Robert Mohr. Sophie’s last words to her brother: “The sun’s still shining.”

Highly recommended. The DVD also contains chilling footage of actual courtroom proceedings. There are also several books written about Sophie and Hans Scholl and about the White Rose student resistance.

120 min. Unrated.

A book written by Sophie’s sister, Inge:

The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943

Head-On-Movie Review 07/04/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Drama, Emotional Drama, German language film, Movies, Turkish language film.

Head-On (German/Turkish) 2004
(Gegen die Wand/Duvara Karşı)

Among other awards and honors:
Winner, Best Film; Audience Award, European Film Awards
Winner, The Golden Bear for Best Film, Berlin International Film Festival

Directed by Fatih Akin
Starring Birol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli

A contemporary love story – but certainly not a simple one. Cahit and Sibel, two suicide survivors, meet in a German psychiatric hospital where they are recovering from their attempts. Both live in Germany and are of Turkish ethnicity. They agree to enter into a marriage of convenience. There are some humorous scenes as the two adjust to their situation as a “married couple” but much of the film is a sobering commentary on the difficulties faced by the Turkish community there.

At times I found myself rooting for Cahit and Sibel, at other times rooting against them. One thing for sure – this movie isn’t boring for one second.

Graphic bloody violence and sexual content, none of which I found gratuitous because it seemed to match the couple’s personalities and lifestyles so well. Ünel and Kekilli give outstanding performances, as do several of the supporting cast members.

121 min. Rated R. Adult themes, sexual content, and violence.

The American Friend-Movie Review 06/24/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Based on a novel, German language film, Movies, Thriller.
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The American Friend (German) 1977/2003
Der Amerikanische Freund

Winner, Film Award in Gold (Wenders); Film Award in Silver (Outstanding Feature Film), German Film Awards
Winner, Best Foreign Performer (Ganz), Sant Jordi Awards
Nominated, Best Foreign Film (Wenders), César Awards, France
Nominated, Golden Palm (Wenders), Cannes Film Festival

Written and directed by Wim Wenders
Starring Bruno Ganz and Dennis Hopper

“What’s wrong with a cowboy in Hamburg?”

As my tribute to the late Dennis Hopper, I offer this post-Easy Rider film. Hopper plays Tom Ripley in a story loosely based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, Ripley’s Game.

A terminally ill man is convinced to commit a revenge murder for money, in order to provide for his family after his death. Just one murder, that’s all. I won’t tell more – the film deliciously unfolds. Hopper plays the role of the American “friend” with a mixture of charm and ruthlessness, as the ailing man (Bruno Ganz) gradually falls apart.

John Malkovich starred in a more recent version of Ripley’s Game, which I haven’t seen yet.

125 min. Unrated. Adult themes.