Berlin and Beyond Film Fest shows changed focus

Dec. 13, 2013 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Four German movies will be showcased in the Honolulu Museum's Berlin and Beyond Honolulu film festival. Closing the festival will be 'Ludwig II.' --Courtesy photo

Four German movies will be showcased in the Honolulu Museum’s Berlin and Beyond Honolulu film festival. Closing the festival will be “Ludwig II.” (Courtesy photo)

BY CHRISTINA GERHARDT / Special to the Star-Advertiser

The four movies in Honolulu Museum’s Berlin and Beyond Honolulu film festival offer a sneak peek at films chosen for San Francisco’s Berlin and Beyond festival, now in its 18th year, which takes place Jan. 15 to 21.

BERLIN AND BEYOND HONOLULU FILM FESTIVAL

» Where: Honolulu Museum of Art, Doris Duke Theatre
» When: Monday, Dec. 16, through Friday, Dec. 20
» Cost: $8-$10
» Info: 532-8700, honolulumuseum.org
» Note: Closing night reception Friday, Dec. 20, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the courtyard

The lineup reveals an interesting development in German cinema: Recent top films are not necessarily thrillers, horror or romance. Moreover, have nothing to do with Hitler. Instead, they often engage the 19th century.

German cinema made after East and West Germany reunited in 1990 tended to look back on the Nazi era and the Holocaust, East Germany and its repressive Ministry of State of Security, or West Germany and terrorism. Contemporary German cinema has shifted its attention to earlier periods, as these films show.

The period pieces, rich in a focus on mis-en-scene, especially historical accuracy in props, costumes, set design and music, offer viewers lush flights of fancy or transportations to another place and time.

“Measuring the World” (“Die Vermessung der Welt,” 2012), a historical comedic drama directed by Detlev Buck, opens the film festival Monday.

Based on a best-selling novel by Austrian-German author Daniel Kehlmann, the film follows the life and work of Alexander von Humboldt, a 19th-century geographer, botanist and explorer of looming stature in Germany, and Carl Friedrich Gauss, a mathematician.

The subject might sound dry, but satire and upbeat humor permeate the film, while ironic jabs at stereotypes of Germans abound.

Closing the film festival on Dec. 20, “Ludwig II” (2012), directed by Peter Sehr (who died earlier this year) and Marie Noelle, likewise indicates this temporal shift. The beautifully shot period film features the story of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a patron of the arts who particularly favored the compositions of Richard Wagner.

Shot by Austrian cinematographer Christian Berger, best known for his work with German director Michael Haneke on “The White Ribbon” (2009), “Cache” (2005) and “The Piano Teacher” (2001), the biopic features lush shots of the Bavarian landscape and of the opulent castle Ludwig built, now a popular tourist attraction.

'Lullaby Ride' will screen Thursday. --Courtesy photo

“Lullaby Ride” will screen Thursday, Dec. 19. (Courtesy photo)

Back in the contemporary era, the Swiss documentary “More Than Honey” (2012) screens Tuesday. Directed by Swiss filmmaker Markus Imhoof, it examines the plight of endangered honeybees. If bees were to disappear from the globe, the films tells us, mankind would have four years to live.

This documentary explores the situation of bees in sites ranging from Australia, California and China to the Swiss Alps. Potential reasons for the decline are offered and explored by beekeepers and scientists, as agribusiness practices are contrasted with those of small beekeepers.

Cinematic techniques open up the world of bees to viewers: Some shots show the inside of honeycombs, and others show flight from a bee’s perspective. “More Than Honey” is Switzerland’s Oscar contender for best foreign language film.

“Lullaby Ride” (“Nachtlarm,” 2012), directed by Christoph Schaub, screens Dec. 19. It’s a gripping caper, bittersweet and at times hilarious, about the floundering relationship of two young parents and their newborn son, who only stops crying when they take him for a drive. One night, the car is stolen and their baby kidnapped as they stop at a convenience store.

In the ensuing caper, the parents set out to steal back their child in this modern-day German version of the Coen brothers’ “Raising Arizona” (1987). The film is produced by X Film Creative Pool, which has released the internationally engaging German hits “Goodbye Lenin” (2003) and “Run Lola Run” (1998).

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Christina Gerhardt is a freelance film writer and assistant professor of German at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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