Top Five: German Films

4 08 2009

A fairly simple one today, here are my top five favourite German films.

1. Good Bye Lenin!

I have been known to be prone to Ostalgie, probably due to the fact that my early life was defined by the East/West struggle in many small ways. Anyway, this is a great feel-good film that shows the struggle of one young man to come to terms with the changing world around him and his desire to hold onto his old life in just a small way to protect his mother. The way that the iconography is replaced with the gaudy commercialism with such rapidity is startling, and is essentially what this film is about.

2. Das Leben der Anderen

The mood of The Lives of Others is the antithesis of the Ostalgie of Good Bye Lenin! Essentially a look at the state’s perverse invasion of personal privacy, and it’s ability to totally destroy lives, it highlights that the system can be thwarted from the inside, but only at great personal risk and cost.

3. M

Made in 1931, Fritz Lang thought of it as his greatest work. It was Lang’s first film with sound, and he used to great effect by using the whistling of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from “Peer Gynt” as a plot piece. The dark thriller is about the hunt for a child killer by both the police and Berlin’s criminals, and it is simply fantastic. Fritz Lang left Germany in 1934 after one of his films was banned by the Nazis, the star of the film, Peter Lorre fled in different circumstances. Lorre was Jewish and was lucky enough to escape Germany as soon as he could, and he remained an actor, learning English he featured in the Hitchcock’s original version of “The Man who Knew too Much”.

4. Der Untergang

Going from Lang and Lorre’s escape from the new Nazi regime, we move onto the death throes of said regime. The film looks at the final days of Nazi Germany from within, which had never been done in a major film before, principally from the perspective of one of Hitler’s secretaries; Tradl Junge. Alexandra Maria Lara (Junge) and Bruno Ganz (Hitler) are outstanding as the desperation and futility of the situation become apparent. The film has been criticised for portraying certain members of the SS in a positive light, particularly Wilhelm Mohnke and Ernst-Günther Schenck, and whilst this is certainly arguable, it must be remembered that the film at no point asks for sympathy or forgiveness for the Nazi regime, just for you to watch as the leaders of a disgusting regime leave ordinary people to their fate merely so they can survive only a few moments longer.

5. Metropolis

Fritz Lang again, this time it’s his silent leviathan that’s the subject here. The science-fiction film looks at a dystopian future city-state divided between the planners/thinkers who live in the city above, whilst the workers live in the city below (a metaphor for the social crisis between owners and workers in the capitalist society of the Weimar Republic). As the workers plot to overthrow their oppressors, the thinkers aim to get the workers to destroy their unity from within utilising a female robot. Personal grudges amongst the thinkers leads to devastation for all, and ultimately resolution of the schism. The film was hideously expensive due to the hyper-inflation Germany suffered from at the time, the art-deco city is visually stunning, and is well worth a watch.

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