I enjoy watching foreign films and occasionally writing about them; my previous posts about favourite film actresses, British actresses and French films have been popular. Today’s post is about German films (or films in German, as one is Austrian). I found the program of this year’s Festival of German films underwhelming and did not attend, but some of the films from previous years have been outstanding.

sommer04 existentialism for beginners - German films that changed my life

Summer 04 (Sommer 04, 2006) stars Martina Gedeck as Miriam, a sensuous woman, a wife and mother, who leaves her husband and starts a new relationship with a man she met during a holiday that ended when she accidentally became responsible for the death of her son’s girlfriend.

The film sensitively addresses the issue of sexual maturity during adolescence. 12 year old Livia seems more mature than 15 year old Niels, and she is drawn to Bill, in his 30s, a fellow holiday maker they meet while sailing.

As Livia’s guardian, Miriam is concerned about this and monitors Livia’s contact with Bill, who seems aware of Livia’s curiosity and sensibly tries to keep his distance. Miriam also finds herself attracted to Bill. Her husband Andre remains impossibly blase and unconcerned about Livia throughout.

The trauma of Livia’s accidental death while sailing influences Miriam to leave Andre for Bill. After a couple of years Miriam and Bill are contacted by Livia’s parents, who bear Miriam no malice.

They have a letter, written to them by Livia shortly before her death, to show Miriam and Bill. In it, Livia writes about how she thinks Miriam and Bill would make a better couple than Miriam and Andre, and she wanted to bring them together.

This revelation at the very end of the film is devastating and forces the viewer to reconsider everything they have seen. The irony is that it was Livia’s death that brought Miriam and Bill together.

After seeing it at MIFF 2006 I was thankful of being able to see it again at the Festival of German films 2007. It’s available on NTSC DVD with English subtitles. The trailer is below.

venusfalle existentialism for beginners - German films that changed my life

I saw Venus Trap (Die Venusfalle, 1988) on SBS television c1990 and thankfully recorded it. 20 years later my fuzzy VHS cassette is about to crumble into dust. It may survive one more rewind and play. I’m obsessed with this film.

Max, a doctor, lives or dreams his way through a sequence of encounters with beautiful women, including girlfriend Coco and a random stranger, Marie. The whole film is basically voyeuristic soft porn for the hetero male gaze, with the unlikely premise that all women want to assertively pursue the flaneur / voyeur Max.

It’s also vaguely like a German Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown – a superficial, glossy, satirical, sexy, amusing and very 1980s observation about contemporary sexual attitudes. It gets quite surreal and confusing.

It is a delightfully obscure film for English speaking audiences, but I am not alone in being obsessed with it. A DVD with English subtitles is not available. The opening sequence of the film (in German) is below (there’s another two parts from the same contributor).

I also like this part.


slumming existentialism for beginners - German films that changed my life

Slumming (2006, official site) was on the Festival of German films program in 2008. Yuppie idiot Sebastian spends his time cruising working class areas of Vienna in search of dodgy bars to hang out in and dodgy people to amuse himself with.

He also makes inadequate efforts to form relationships women he meets over the internet. He attempts to seduce with a combination of charm and quirkiness. On one date with teacher Mia, he makes such a poor effort at taking discrete upskirt photos of her under the cafe table that she not only notices, but grabs his phone in exasperation and takes an upskirt photo of herself.

Out late one night with his friend Alex they pick up drunk homeless poet, Kallmann, put him in the boot of their BMW, drive him over the border into the Czech Republic, and leave him on a bench outside a train station similar to the one they found him on in Vienna. WhenKallmann wakes up, confused and disoriented, his life begins to change radically for the better.

An edited sequence of scenes from the film is below.


existentialism for beginners – German films that changed my life

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