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My Heart Is Mine Alone

Helma Sanders-Brahms' "My Heart Is Mine Alone" is the kind of film that's given German cinema a bad name for the past 30 years. Flat, posey and uninflected, this tribute to the works and love affair of poets Else Lasker-Schueler and Gottfried Benn assumes rather than reaches out for an audience; worse, it fails to make a convincing case for the stature of either artist, key figures in the lyrical expressionist movement of the '20s. Cultural webs look like the only outlet for this one, which got a general thumbs-down at Berlin. Film starts off interestingly, with re-enacted scenes and docu footage sketching Lasker-Schueler's Jewish upbringing and Benn's Protestant one among the Brandenburg gentry of the late 19th century. She marries and has a son, later running away with him; Benn goes on to study medicine, forming a close friendship with a "blood brother" from childhood.

With:
Else Lasker-Schueler ..... Lena Stolze Gottfried Benn ..... Cornelius Obonya Pastor Benn ..... Oliver Grice Bertold Lasker ..... Thomas Ruffer Peter Hille ..... Lothar von Versen

The poets’ paths finally cross — and the pic starts its slow, wearisome decline — when he sees her performing an exotic routine with a flute in a nightclub and becomes enamored of her art. Hereon, the film has them reciting yards of their poetry to the camera or to each other (“I am the brink of your abyss that brushes against you,” etc.), between documenting Lasker-Schueler’s persecution by the Nazis and eventual exile, and Benn’s initial support of the jackbooters and later disillusionment. She eventually died in Jerusalem in 1945, and he a decade later.

Actress Lena Stolze does her utmost to breathe some life into the dryly realized character of the eccentric poet, and the best that can be said about her perf is that the pic would be unbearable without her charm and energy. Cornelius Obonya is vapid as Benn.

Film was shot in 12 days, mostly on a soundstage, and Angelika Flacke’s improvised score, mixing free jazz and Tibetan ritual music, only adds to the impression of cloying pretentiousness. For the record, Lasker-Schueler was also one of the subjects of Amos Gitai’s equally stagy “Berlin Jerusalem” (1989).

My Heart Is Mine Alone

German

Production: A Helmer Sanders production, in association with Arte/WDR. (International sales: Futura Film, Munich.) Produced by Helma Sanders-Brahms. Co-producers, Ute Casper, Christhart Burgmann. Directed, written by Helma Sanders-Brahms.

Crew: Camera (color), Roland Dressel; editors, Monika Schindler, Nadine Schulze, Sanders-Brahms; music, Peter Kowald, Eckard Koltermann, Angelika Flacke; production design, Kerstin Drechsel; costume design, Saskia Richter; sound, Joseph Poerzchen, Bernhard Joest, Thomas Erkelenz. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (noncompeting), Feb. 17, 1997. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: Else Lasker-Schueler ..... Lena Stolze Gottfried Benn ..... Cornelius Obonya Pastor Benn ..... Oliver Grice Bertold Lasker ..... Thomas Ruffer Peter Hille ..... Lothar von VersenWith: Stefan Ostertag, Christian Schlemmer, Nicolai Albrecht, Klaus Bunk, Sabine Panzer, Rene Schubert, Anna Sanders, Leonard Schnitman.

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