Review: ‘Neues Deutschland’

OHNE MICH

OHNE MICH

(WITHOUT ME)

Produced by Mark Schlichter, Micha Terjung. Directed, written by Dani Levy. Camera (color), Charly F. Koschnik; editors, Levy, Andreas Herder; music, Bobby McFerrin, Klaus Wagner.

Simon Rosenthal … Dani Levy

Girlfriend … Maria Schrader

Also with: Wim Wenders, Joachim Krol, Georg Tryphon.

EIN ORT, EIN SELBSTMORD

(A PLACE, A SUICIDE)

(DOCU)

Produced by Micha Terjung. Directed, written by Maris Pfeiffer, from the diary of Gunter Schirmer. Camera (color), Gerhard Hirsch, Iris Weber; editors, Ueli Christen, Elena Bromund.

KURZSCHLUSS

(SHORT CIRCUIT)

Produced by Sabine Lenkeit, Uwe K. Schade, Micha Terjung. Directed, written by Gerd Kroske. Camera (b&w), Sebastian Richter; editor, Ingeborg Marszalek.

With: Daniel Graf, Steffen Schult.

OPFER. ZEUGEN

(VICTIMS, WITNESSES)

(DOCU)

Produced by Micha Terjung, Hubertus Siegert. Directed, written by Philip Groning. Camera (color), Hito Steyerl, Benedict Neuenfels; editor, Alexandra Pohlmeier.

HEILIGE KUHE

(SACRED COWS)

Produced by Micha Terjung, Ulrike Hauff. Directed by Uwe Janson. Screenplay, Oliver Szeslik. Camera (color), Jurgen Jurges, Hagen Bogdanski; editors, Patricia Rommel, Hansjorg Weisdbrich.

With: Ulrich Muhe, Heino Ferch, Dorte Lyssewski.

“New Germany” is a five-episode, five-director trip through a nightmare. Though segments are uneven in technical work and highly diverse in style, seen together they create one scary portrait of contemporary Germany. The unifying theme is the revival of Nazi violence. Though as heavy as bratwurst, it’s a powerful, if not a pretty, picture, and accessible to TV auds everywhere.

Dani Levy wields an effective cudgel of self-irony in “Without Me,” directing himself as “a little Jew with short legs” (his girlfriend’s description) who lives in squalor while he attends film school (Wim Wenders cameos as a prof who falls asleep during screenings.) Levy’s docu on skinheads fire-bombing Turkish houses goes unappreciated. Meanwhile, his mounting paranoia about his own safety leads him to literally move to the moon.

“Short Circuit” skillfully uses archival footage from Helmut Kohl’s triumphal visit to Leipzig at the time the two Germanies reunited. By cutting this repertory material into a fanciful account of what was going on behind the scenes, director Gerd Kroske shows a heroic little man systematically sabotaging the wiring to interrupt Kohl’s speech twice before he’s caught. The effect is a comical presage of the problems to come.

Less clever and more overtly fictional is Uwe Janson’s “Sacred Cows.” He imagines a famed documaker kidnapped by a Hitler-loving couple who force him to film them while they do nasty things like mutilate his foot. The episode’s bizarre tone of black comedy leaves the viewer scratching his head.

Two docu segments are the most powerful, because their ghastly non-fiction is the hardest to write off. Both suffer from heavy-handed treatment and are stuffed with repetition. Maris Pfeiffer’s “A Place, a Suicide” is a sad elegy to Gunter Schirmer, a happy, bearlike man who struggled to pick up his life after losing a leg in a car accident. After some boys spit on him in his wheelchair, shouting that Hitler would have had him gassed, he kills himself. In Philip Groning’s “Victims, Witnesses,” an unseen interviewer talks to a young factory hand and his buddy, both punk rockers, who were attacked and nearly killed by neo-Nazi skinheads.

Technically, episodes vary from wobbly 8mm blown up to 35mm to the more refined lensing and staging of Janson’s “Sacred Cows.”

Neues Deutschland

Production

A Colon Filmproduktion/WDR Cologne with Fool Filmproduktion/Neue Sentimental Film/Dokfilm Babelsberg/Philip Groning Filmproduktion co-production. (In color, b&w.) Reviewed at Alpe Adria Cinema festival, Trieste, Italy, Jan. 21, 1994. (Also in Rotterdam fest.) Running time: 100 MIN.
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