Audi German Film Festival
April 24 – May 2
I’m not going to review Michael Haneke’s White Ribbon or Fatih Akin’s Soul Kitchen, two films that film junkies will have pounced on as soon as the program dropped. They are both getting proper cinema releases after the Festival – but if you want to see them first, this is your chance! If you want to understand Turkish/German filmmaker Fatih Akin – and if you’ve seen Head On and Edge of Heaven, then how can you not? – you should see Crossing the Bridge (2005), his documentary set amongst the street musicians of Istanbul and Thrace. Mixing politics, music and a bunch of real characters, this film is a peek into the city’s teeming cultural life – and the things that move Akin most. Also showing is his debut feature, Short Sharp Shock (1998).
Opening night film Whisky with Vodka is directed by Andreas Dresen, whose Cloud 9 played at last year’s festival. Both films deal charmingly with aging – Dresen’s is a humanist vision. In this latest film, however, the issue that makes the film so poignant is somewhat obscured by the period drama dressings, and the film-about-a-film narrative structure. It’s a clever idea, but I preferred the ultra-realism of Cloud 9 – the sense that you were seeing real, old, imperfect human bodies; people refusing to relinquish lust, refusing to go quietly into their twilight years.
Coming up in week two of the festival is Hans-Christian Schmid’s Storm, which has been on my hit list for a while – he made Requiem (2004), the lo-fi version of the “Haunting of Emily Rose” exorcism story. Storm tackles evil in its more tangible form: war criminals. The drama of this restrained thriller revolves around the trial of a Bosnian Army commander, in the United Nationals Court of the Hague. It’s a lot more self-righteous than Requiem, for understandable reasons, but the subtlety of performances by Aussie actress Kerry Fox and Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days) make up for the occasionally clunky scripting.
Anno Saul is definitely not a one-trick pony – Kebab Connection and The Door (both showing at the fest) could not be further apart. My main interest in The Door was lead actor Mads Mikkelsen, who I love in anything – and the tantalising program note, that compared it to Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. To my dismay, no malevolent midgets. As far as I can tell, the comparison is fairy liberal, based on the opening scenes which set up the emotional premise for the film – and of course, the freaky factor. Mads plays a middle-aged man who, after failing in his husbandly and fatherly duties, discovers a door to a better reality. But of course, there’s a catch. It’s good for sci-fi-heads and anyone who likes Mads. Style-wise, it reminded me of Hitchcock – or for a modern comparison, Lemming – genre-happy and psycho-dramatic to the point of being camp. Awesome.