Oscar fuels German pride

'Live of Others' kudo stirs up patriotic feelings

An Oscar can do wonders for a career. But who knew it could help lift the self-esteem of an entire nation?

After years of economic depression and self-flagellation, Germans are riding a wave of patriotism these days, built upon hosting the World Cup and finishing in third place last year and bolstered still further by the Academy Award for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck‘s “The Lives of Others” in the foreign-language film race.

Surprisingly, the pic didn’t make the lineups of the Cannes or Berlin film fests. But Henckel von Donnersmarck and his pic struck a chord with the Teuton press, who have increased their coverage of the local hero.

While his star is shining brightly on the Teutonic firmament, not everybody in the German film biz is happy about how he’s using his star power.

He’s publicly expressed that German law should be changed so that directors and scribes automatically become the copyright holders of their film — without having to shoulder any of the financial risk. It’s a proposal that some believe could singlehandedly reduce producers from entrepreneurs to production managers and wipe out the Teuton film industry.

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But his detractors are few. Henckel von Donnersmarck is an anti-establishment kind of guy — not a dour kraut, but someone with an international outlook and a big smile on his face. That he’s also an aristocrat and devout husband with a baby on the way makes him a tabloid dream come true.

He’s managed to capture the zeitgeist in ways other filmmakers have not.

In the last five years, Germany has been nommed for four foreign-language Oscars. After a win for Caroline Link‘s “Nowhere in Africa” in 2003, there were nominations for “Downfall” and “Sophie Scholl.”

Those successes remained largely below the radar of German public opinion. But suddenly, Henckel von Donnersmarck has become Mr. Big.

It’s no surprise then that he graced a cover of the recently launched German edition of Vanity Fair. The mag, published weekly, aims to position itself as the zeitgeist bible for the new generation of luxury-conscious “movers and shakers.”

The problem for the mag is that the German celeb pool is limited, including recent Vanity Fair cover boys Til Schweiger (“Barefoot”) and pop icon and occasional thesp Herbert Gronemeyer (“Das Boot”).

Sure, his economic theories may be controversial. But it’s OK, he’s a celeb!

For post-war Germans careful in their reverence of individuals, suddenly it’s good to have a national hero again.