| Berlin |
Published: February 17, 2018 6:29 pm
Apart from the richness of the cinema that’s available at the Berlinale, the awareness of just how historic the city is, lends the viewing, (and the walking around in between the movies) immense layers.
All around us, near the main film festival venue at the Potsdamer Platz are locations which have starred in a series of movies, which remind us of the turbulent times that Berlin has lived through, and its transition from a city divided between the `West’ and the ‘East’, with an impenetrable wall running through it, to what it is now—one of the most vibrant, socially and politically engaged cities in the world.
More than 30 years after the Wall came down, films continue to examine and explore the past as a way to make sense of the present. The Silent Revolution by Lars Kraume is set in the Berlin of 1956, when the cold war was setting in, and the division between those who thought that the West was evil decadence, and themselves, the champions of socialism, was cementing rapidly. The actual construction of the Wall would take place five years later, in 1961, but you could see it already, in the eyes of the officials who ran Stalinstadt, a GDR settlement.
A couple of schoolboys playing hooky catch sight of a newsreel which shows the Hungarian uprising and the brutal put-down by the Russians. Their unthinking reaction, back in the classroom, sets into motion an unthinkable chain of events. It’s not just the students who get swept up in the shocking pushback by the school authorities, their whole world is encompassed–parents and siblings and friends.
The Silent Revolution makes us think about corrosive politics, and how authoritarian mindsets know no boundaries: if you are not with them, you are against them. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, and it reunited a city. But how many walls have since arisen around the world? In our own countries, and in our neighbourhoods, as we speak?
I catch, immediately after and quite appropriately, Wim Wenders’ 1987 classic Wings Of Desire. It has been beautifully restored, and you can see just why it is one of those immortal films, in the way it marks time and place.
Two angels hover over Berlin, and observe. As celestial beings, they do not understand love or empathy, and yet, as one of them falls for a trapeze artist and descends to the level of humanity, we learn that we, the people, are capable of conquering fear and hatred, just as we, the people, are the ones who cause the most misery for ourselves. And that angels can teach us to see.
Watching Wings Of Desire, more than 30 years after it first came out, is an absolute treat. The part of Berlin where Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander (playing the angels Damiel and Cassiel) criss-cross on their quest for love is where we tramp every day from one theatre to another on our search for the perfect movie.
Afterwards, with a sense of end-game ceremony, we head to the mall for a hot bowl of soup (the spot where it is situated couldn’t be very far from where Damiel hovered). I’m sure the angels would approve.
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