Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow

Without narration apart from an opening title card, the docu offers more contemplation than information.

With: Anselm Kiefer, Klaus Dermutz.

An art film in the literal sense of the term, English helmer Sophie Fiennes’ glorious-looking “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow” shows renowned German artist Anselm Kiefer at work at La Ribaute, his sprawling estate in the south of France, where, during the first decade of the 21st century, he began constructing a series of elaborate, large-scale installations. Without narration apart from an opening title card, the docu offers more contemplation than information. A natural for the museum and cinematheque circuit as well as specialized broadcast, it’s too long and a trifle lofty for general audiences.

Pic opens with nearly 20 minutes of the camera slowly gliding over various pieces (above ground and below, in painstakingly constructed tunnels and caves), accompanied by piercing modernist music from composers Gyorgy Ligeti and Jorg Widmann. Earth-colored and covered in debris, Kiefer’s lead-and-concrete sculptures seem as organic as the Roman ruins that dot that area of Languedoc.

The docu illustrates the enormous complexity of fabricating work on Kiefer’s monumental scale. In his vast white-walled studio from a perch atop an industrial-sized paint can, he directs as many as six assistants, taking the definition of artist into the realm of architect and engineer.

Among their many tasks, the assistants operate heavy machinery to hoist his massive canvases and weighty sculptures, grind earth and ash to pour over them and break dangerous-looking sheets of plate glass. Watching rivulets of ash and earth run down a painting as it is raised to its full height is like witnessing a beautiful waterfall.

An extensive interview with earnest German journalist Klaus Dermutz, in which Kiefer dances around the philosophy and inspiration behind his creative process, is featured twice, playing better later in the film as v.o. accompaniment to scenes of the artist at work with his assistants. In the first half, merely watching the men sit at a table talking becomes dull until Kiefer’s young sons enter the frame.

Although some viewers might prefer to learn more about the artist, “Over Your Cities” is no New Yorker profile; rather, it’s about the power of images and art. In addition to lovingly filming Kiefer’s oeuvre, Fiennes keenly observes his raw materials (lead, concrete, ash, acid, earth, glass, gold) and tools (including blowtorches, brushes, brooms, bulldozers and incinerators), to construct her own piece of cinematic art.

The sharp tech package is worthy of its subject, with special mention due Ranko Paukovic’s sound design, which contrasts modernist music with industrial and natural sounds in the pic’s various sections.

Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow


Production: An Amoeba Films, Kasander, Sciapode production, with the support of Arte France, Rotterdam Media Fund, VPRO, CNC, Procirep, Angoa, Cobo Fund. (International sales: Sciapode, Paris.) Produced by Sophie Fiennes, Kees Kasander, Emilie Blezat. Directed, written by Sophie Fiennes.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, DV-to-35mm), Remko Schnorr, Fiennes; editor, Ethel Shepherd; sound (Dolby Digital), Bram Boers, Ranko Paukovic, line producer, Natascha Teunissen.

With: With: Anselm Kiefer, Klaus Dermutz.(French, German, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Picture Tree Intl. Picks Up Carolina

    Picture Tree Intl. Picks Up Carolina Hellsgård's 'Sunburned' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Picture Tree Intl. has acquired the rights to Carolina Hellsgård’s “Sunburned,” the follow-up feature to her zombie drama “Endzeit – Ever After.” PTI will be presenting first footage from the film, currently in post-production, at this year’s German Films Previews (July 3-6). “Sunburned” follows solitary teenager Claire on a family holiday in Spain. Neglected by [...]

  • Whoopi Goldberg addresses the crowd while

    Inside World Pride's Opening Ceremony: An LGBTQ Celebration With a Tinge of Politics

    World Pride officially kicked off on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. About 8,000 people packed into the arena for a three-hour show that began with Cyndi Lauper singing her hit “True Colors.” The performance ended with a gaggle of dancing drag queens who pranced alongside Lauper as she turned the train of [...]

  • Amy Adams (left) as Lynne Cheney

    Film News Roundup: Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Sets Awards Show for Jan. 11

    In today’s film news roundup, the 2020 awards season schedule gets finalized; AFM will cover immersive content; “Murderous Trance” and “7 Days to Vegas” get acquired; and Kate Katzman has been added to “The Comeback Trail.” AWARDS DATE The Makeup Artists & Hair Stylists Guild has set Jan. 11 as the date for its seventh [...]

  • Disney Pandora World Of Avatar, Lake

    The Piano Guys Play 'Avatar' Theme in Disney World (Watch)

    The YouTube sensation The Piano Guys have taken a trip to the world of Pandora for a performance of the theme to “Avatar.” Shot in the bioluminescent floating forest in Disney World, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson and pianist Jon Schmidt put their spin on the score to James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster. The video immerses the [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Billy Drago, 'Untouchables' Star, Dies at 73

    Billy Drago, who often played harming but chilling gangster roles and appeared in Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” and Clint Eastwood’s “Pale Rider,” died Monday in Los Angeles of complications from a stroke. He was 73. The character actor played Al Capone’s henchman Frank Nitti in 1987’s “The Untouchables.” On TV series “Charmed,” he put [...]

  • Grant Sputore

    'I Am Mother' Director Tackles Margot Robbie-Produced Thriller 'Augmented'

    Warner Bros. has hired “I Am Mother” director Grant Sputore to helm the science-fiction thriller “Augmented” which Margot Robbie is producing, Variety has learned exclusively. Michael Lloyd Green is rewriting an original script by Mark Townend. Denise Di Novi and Tom Ackerley are also producing. Production companies are Robbie’s LuckyChap and Di Novi’s eponymous Di [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content