Saturday, March 14, 2009

After the War, Before the Wall

Still from Fanfaren der LiebeAs the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches this autumn, much cultural introspection is taking place. The Berlinale recently showed a strand of films which presaged the fall of the wall, while the TV and Film Museum in Berlin will be exhibiting photos and films from 1989.

Now the Goethe Institut in London is running a film season looking at an underanalysed period before the New German Cinema. Running from March through June, After the War, Before the Wall is a selection of 20 films from West Germany which offers a real insight into that difficult time as Germany confronted the war and its aftermath. Giving something of an insight into fluctuating identity, the films are variously attributed to Germany (West), Germany (East), FRG, BRD and Germany.

Running pretty much chronologically from 1946 to 1960, the genres include social satire, war drama and romantic comedy. Opening the programme on 17 March, Die Mörder sind unter uns [The Murderers Are Among Us] (1946, dir. Wolfgang Staudte) is the only East German entry (and it would be marvellous to contrast the East and West German output from this period) and features Hildegard Knef's first screen appearance, as a doctor plots revenge on a war criminal in 1945 Berlin.

Subsequent screenings include a couple by expats who returned to the homeland to make films: Peter Lorre's only directorial effort Der Verlorene [The Lost One], from 1951, as well as cinematic titan Fritz Lang's Die tausend Augen des Dr. Mabuse [The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse] from 1960.

Social dramas are prevalent in the programme. In jenen Tagen [In those days] (1947, dir. Helmut Käutner), which uses a car and its owners to tell the turbulent history of the previous twelve years. The mixed race title character of Toxi (1952, dir. Robert A. Stemmle), confronts prejudices that existed against the children of German women and black American GIs.

Here's a familiar-sounding plot: two jobless male musicians go undercover in a women's band. Originally a French film, Fanfaren der Liebe [Fanfares of Love] (1951, dir. Kurt Hoffmann) [see pic] was re-made by Billy Wilder as Some Like It Hot.

And, finally, a tale of cross-border forbidden love flourishing among ruins. Himmel ohne Sterne [Sky Without Stars] (1955, dir. Helmut Käutner) is set in the no-man's land between east and west.

After the War, Before the Wall runs 17 March to 30 June at the Goethe Institut, London.

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