Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

Currently browsing the "German" category.

Toni Erdmann

This father-daughter dramedy/farce from German director Maren Ade may clock in at 162 minutes, but I never got bored and it certainly didn’t drag. The film starts with a familiar premise, but doesn’t go to the sentimental or obvious places you’re expecting. It pits Ines (Sandra Hüller), an über-focused young corporate consultant, against her semi-retired dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek) who just loves a good gag or practical joke. He drops in for an unannounced visit with Ines and tries to get her to loosen up and have a life, and all she wants is for him to go home so she can get back to business. Though it does lead to a happy ending, the journey is full of absurd scenes and uncomfortable moments.

Frantz

French writer/director François Ozon has made some of my favorite films these last few years. With The New Girlfriend, In the House,  and Potiche he’s shown himself to be very adept with comedy and unusual situations. But with his new film Frantz, he enters the realm of historical drama and shows he is equally skilled in more serious films. A semi-remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby, it’s set just after the first World War, in a small German town. It’s the story of Anna (Paula Beer), a beautiful, young German woman whose fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke) died in the war and Adrien (Pierre Niney), a sad young Frenchman, who comes to town having been close friends with Frantz in Paris before the war. She discovers him as he is laying flowers on Frantz’s grave, and he becomes a source of happy memories for her and for Frantz’s grieving parents.

Barbara

East Germany in 1980 really must have been a dystopian hell on earth. In the film Barbara, a doctor is exiled from Berlin for a minor offense and forced to work in a small town in the hinterlands. She’s subjected to round the clock conspicuous surveillance, and the not so secret police also search her apartment and force her to submit to cavity searches on a regular basis. So it is understandable that she is not all that open and trusting. Anyone she meets could turn her in and have her sent to an even worse place. One of her patients, a young girl named Stella is from one of those places that she fears, a forced labor prison Barbara refers to as a death camp. She doesn’t want to release the girl who is pregnant, to send her and her baby to their certain deaths, but she is forced to let her go.

The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the 2010 Golden Globe for best foreign film and seemed to have a lock on winning the Academy Award as well, but was surprisingly bested by The Secret in their Eyes. And now, having seen both, I understand why. The Golden Globes are voted on by a small group of foreign journalists, while the Academy Awards are decided by mostly American viewers. The sensibilities could not be more different.

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)

This first feature won Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck the Oscar in 2007 for Best Foreign Film and I can see why. What a wonderful film! It takes place in East Germany in 1980s and concerns a successful playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his gorgeous actress girlfriend (Martina Gedeck) who are put under surveillance by Stasi, the secret police, in order to find something to use against the writer because a high ranking minister has a thing for the actress and wants him out of the way. Their apartment is bugged and an agent is set up in the attic listening to their every conversation, taking notes, making reports. Friends come and go and anything they say may be used against them without any court of law. But it is mostly just regular old boring conversation. Then a dear friend, a talented but blacklisted director, kills himself and the writer feels compelled to say something. So he decides to write a piece for Der Spiegel in West Germany, thereby putting himself directly in the police state’s sights if they find out who wrote the piece. The article is about how the East Germans decided to stop keeping statistics on suicides.