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October 2000 - Nr. 10


The Editor
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German Film - A History Lesson

German Film had strong presence in Toronto

Right at the beginning of the festival, on the first day, in fact the very first presentation was like a prelude of what was to come. Volker Schloendorff’s film "The Legends of Rita" offered a highly overdue look at the cold war and all the terror that came with it. The German title is much more loaded and immediately reveals the overall subtext: Die Stille nach dem Schuss, the quiet after the shot. Anyone expecting a docudrama must have been disappointed. Just taking the crass facts is not Schloendorrfs way. He prefers to paint in more subtle hues. The political wranglings are the backdrop to real lives, real people, and real emotions. The question this movie asks is not "Why cold war?" It is "Why terrorism?"

The last movie we saw here by this filmmaker was "The Ogre", a monumental WWII film of epic proportions, beautifully filmed, at times breathtaking, sometimes funny, certainly sad, but ultimately satirical. What the master of German film had concocted this time was of big interest for more than one reason. What would he do next? After having rebuild Berlin’s old UfA Studios he decided to make a truly German film. His timing could not have been more impeccable. Obviously he feels that the trauma of the last big war should have been digested by now. It was time to move on to the next drama, the aftermath of a world in upheaval, desperately trying to establish a balance of power. And like a historian interested in chronicling the passing of time he chose to make an all-German movie, with German sensibilities, eastern and western.

How Rita and her friends become terrorists is a lesson about misguided emotions, about betrayed ideals, about justifying ones actions after realization has set in that the choices might have been wrong. It is a film about survival in a regime that disregards life as so much flotsam and jetsam, about a political order that forces its people to their happiness and, of course, it does not work. It is an analogy of continuations, of sliding from one way of life into the next on a wave of political current. And it is about paying the price. The losers are as always the idealists, misguided as they might have been.

In this movie no one wins and still it is not a downer. Schloendorrf’s strong poetic hand makes us understand the intricacies of life, shows us the error of our ways, helps us realize that being free takes more than a political structure that allows uninhibited movement, explains human nature in terms we can understand easily. This film sets the stage for the next chapter in Germany’s history. It ends with the fall of the wall and leaves us in anticipation of the next ten years, those years we just lived through with a united Germany in the cast. They are still close to us, just under the skin. The question now is "Have we redeemed ourselves?"

It should be interesting to see what Schloendorff has to say about the next chapter of German history. - SFR

Comments to: sfr@echoworld.com

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