Sunday, 6 March 2011

Berlin, Teil zwei

As interesting as the Berlinale was, there was a great deal of interesting films playing that were not limited to the festival. Berlin has always been a true cinema city. I visited two unique events that were not limited to the festival, so I thought to take the time to tell a little bit about them.

Berlinale has recently been under attack for having a set of rules which ask for independent films to cough up money to even be considered for the festival. This doesn't of course apply for bigger films, such as this year's opener, The Coen Brothers' True Grit. One look at the programme can also tell anyone that not only the best and brightest films get shown at the festival. So there may be a level of corruption involved.

Uwe Boll - not a controversial director as everyone agrees he's not very good.
One of the biggest critics of the festival management has been "director" Uwe Boll, maker of such video game shitfests as BloodRayne, FarCry and Alone in the Dark. Boll has tried to get his films screened at Berlinale multiple times, yet has always failed. This time, with his latest film, Auschwitz he didn't even try. Instead, he held a public press conference and a world premiere for the film. And filed for a lawsuit for the entrance fee of his previous films, which he never got back even though the films were never screened at Berlinale. The event was loads more fun for the Q&A sessions than for the film itself.

I would have thought that Auschwitz the film was just another occasion where Boll attempts to provoce the media's attention to his crap films. Boll's genius is manipulating the media and getting funding to films no one wants to see. But after hearing him talk about Auschwitz it really does seem that he really does have a misled illusion of grandeur. His claims of doing the first concentration camp film that's not an adventure, but rather a representation of what "actually happened" are full of holes themselves, but Boll does say it very convincingly. The only time he breaks his face is when someone from the audience asks how does he dare to shoot the film at the same set as BloodRayne 3. Boll's another recent film apparently takes the holocaust quite lightly and has Joseph Mengele as a nasty vampire. Boll shouts that he could do whatever the other directors do and shoot formulatic crap and walk the red carpet to Berlinale with his skills, but instead he chooses to be a rebel and create his own vision. This vision has never really convinced me before, but I was willing to give Auschwitz the benefit of doubt. After all, apparently some vague jewish organizations had hailed as a masterpiece (according to Boll).

Auschwitz (Germany, 2011)
Director: Uwe Boll

After hearing the über-confident Boll blab about his film for 45 minutes, it is almost funny to see him begin his latest film with him explaining the film to the camera. "Hello, I'm Uwe Boll and I'm responsible for this film." Even Boll admits, that his latest creation can scarcely be called a film - he calls it a "study". He struggles to gather together enough material for 70 minutes through the whole film, which is revealed when he repeats his opening statement in german (no subtitles for ol' Uwe!). After this, we get to see interviews with Germany's most ignorant teenagers, who apparently don't know much about the holocaust. He's edited all the student's right answers to the film's end, so the film works with a TV Shop logic: Once Boll has showed how things were in Auschwitz, everyone will have wide factual knowledge of the subject.

Boll proudly claims that his film is based on facts, and that's thanks to a single BBC documentary he saw. The depiction of Auscwitz, aiming to be naturalistic, itself resembles B-grade documentary filler-material itself. Boll doesn't have a story, he just marches a group of jews into the camp and then to gas chambers or to be shot at the yard. Dialogue is few and Boll concentrates on mundane things and repeating the same horrors over and over again. The germans and nazis themselves are portrayed indifferent to the point of clichés. Boll himself plays an officer that stuffs his face with a roll as the jews take their clothes off to walk into the "showers" where they will be killed with gas.

That being said, Boll has actually evolved as a director. By keeping fhis film focused, he does generate a certain threatening athmosphere and the docudrama portion is easy enough to follow, even though he uses way too much tasteless flash-cuts and cross-editing. By using repetition for shock value (such as when babies are shot to the head in the yard) again and again, he has a functional reminder that these essentially were murder factories. I'll give Boll an extra star for at least trying this time around. Who knows, maybe one day he'll be good enough to make films so bad they're funny. Now they remain just bad.


Another fine experience was to see the composer Max Steiner lead an orchestra to play his film music along with the film "Waltz with Bashir". Unfortunatelly, the electronic and rock instrument portions of the film were not emulated, but nevertheless this kind of film concert was unlike anything I had seen before. The film's score is actually pretty terrific itself. The film was less like a documentary than I remembered, so I removed it from the list of the best documentaries of the 2000s, and paste what I said about it to the end here.

Waltz with Bashir (Vals im Bashir, 2008)
Director: Ari Folman

Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman (as himself) goes to talk to his old war comrades from the Lebanon war. They explain to him the dreams they had regarding the war and the fleeting memories, which have started to vanish in their old age. The film mixes a fictional narrative with some authentic and some acted audio tapes.

Nowadays it is quite rare that one sees something something altogether new in the world of cinema. This film was one of the most original ones I saw during the whole decade. Folman's idea to do an animated documentary  isn't just an artificial trick designed to create interest in the film. As the movie is about dreams and the subconscious, it is simply put the best way to create the imagery for this fact-based film. It is striking and memorable, touching and horrifying. There is a bit too much scenes running idly for it to be a masterpiece. Yet it is still an extremely good film, which looks at the effects of war in the human mind, subconscious and world-view. And does it from an unique point of view. "Pray and shoot!"


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