The best German films at this year's Berlin film festival came from the former East Germany. They tell simple, sometimes tragic tales of everyday life. Sarah Gellner fears that they could be the last gasp of a great traditionby Sarah Gellner / April 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
Published in April 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
There’s no difference,” declared Frau Kleinert, “between films by directors from the former East Germany, and those from the former West Germany. It is all one now.” She is a publicity agent for Progress Film Verleih and, of course, what she says is the official version. Perhaps it had been a bit of a faux pas on my part to bring up the distinction at all.
“But surely,” I persisted, “the diversity of experiences, the different histories, will find expression in the work of directors, script writers and so on?” And, warming to my theme, “I have seen a couple of films from former east German directors here at the Berlin film festival, and on the contrary, I think there is still a difference in style. Lange nach der Schlacht, for instance.”
Lange nach der Schlacht takes three and a half hours to chart five years in the lives of a handful of former Soviet officers and their wives in a small village in Brandenburg, eastern Germany. During that time the collapse of the Soviet Union transforms this group of people from respected officers of a military superpower to citizens of an empire in ruins, with no resources, and no real home. The pathos of their situation is made gradually and agonisingly clear with a bare minimum of words. The protagonists flirt with the camera, show us around their pitifully humble homes, display their family snapshots and collections of bric-? -brac with stoicism, simplicity and candour. An affectionately revealing angle, a self-deprecating joke, is never far away; nor, one suspects, is utter despair.