Dir: Cheol-Mean Whang
88 min., 16mm, 1:1.37, b/w
Produktion: Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin. Buch: Cheol-Mean Whang. Kamera: Roland Bertram. Schnitt: Yvonne Loquens. Ausstattung: Isabel Ott. Ton: Jörg Höhne.
Darsteller: Till Sarrach, Marion Bordat, Oliver Marlo.
Uraufführung: 28. September 1996, Filmkunst 66, Berlin.
Weltvertrieb: Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin GmbH, Heerstr. 18-20, 14052 Berlin. Tel. (49-30) 300 90 40. Fax (49-30) 300 90 461.
Fri 14.02. 22:15 Akademie der Künste
Berlin, six years after the fall of the wall. The city as a permanent building site has long lost its symbolic power to suggest coming prosperity. People out of work and homeless beggars are now a familiar part of the Berlin landscape. 'Cuts' has become the magic word. Culture in this city has been hardest hit by these cuts.
Till is an out-of-work actor and gets up every day before sunrise to repeat the same ritual: he recites Hamlet's soliloquy on the roof of his house. Will this daily ritual help him to get work in the end?
I often asked myself why there are so few new films in which the city of Berlin really plays a leading role. Because Berlin Symphony of a City is really interesting and attractive at the moment, and deserves much more attention. Naturally, there are films which have been shot in Berlin, but the city in these films isn't much more than a backdrop. The characteristics of the city have hardly been shown. That's the reason why, in my film, Berlin got the opportunity to play a leading role.
Berlin was my last stop in Germany. This film is my good-bye to this country and to a very important part of my life.
This is the reason why in my film Berlin is the synthesis of many other, personal impressions of Germany, which I have collected in 15 years. I lived in three cities, worked in five places and witnessed two major changes. From one big change to the other, the impressions of everyday life changed too. The first big change was that the German national anthem was played on TV, at the beginning and at the end of broadcast time. The second change I witnessed myself here in Berlin, at Alexanderplatz. I'll never forget the hateful look a passer-by gave me after having pushed me suddenly. But my Berlin impressions are also a synthesis of the faces of my friends and good neighbours, to whom I bid good-bye.
When I was shooting this film, it wasn't only the last period of my stay in Germany, I was also at the end of my tether. The observant audience will surely be able to feel this. Friends often told me, how German I became. It is true that my years in Germany have left their traces. But I still haven't mastered the German perfectionism in this film. (Cheol-Mean Wang)
Everyday life shows how things are in a particular world; and no medium can express everyday life as well as the cinema.
But everyday life loses its character at first when it is filmed, and in order for it to be newly re-constructed by the film we need, to quote Rivette 'the confused evidence of a sign'. We also need craft, sensibility, determination, visual sense (not only when choosing locations, but all the time), memory, a sense for sound, experience and art.
This particular filmmaker has an even sharper visual sense, and his sensibility is also heightened, because he knows he will soon leave this foreign country - which was, for a time, perhaps his own. This film, therefore, always includes, both in the personal and public moments, images of a city, its past and its present, and the people who live and move within its boundaries. So we can see, experience, how the people in this country become alienated from themselves and from each other, without even realising what is happening. And, to quote Rosa Luxemburg, the course of history, even the revolution itself, has the same weight as the life of a single butterfly in China.
It is no coincidence that the filmmaker, who has worked with Peter Nestler and Michael Klier, has achieved on top of all of this something very difficult, which has been rarely mastered: he has told a story out of the fragments of his everyday observations, precise as a social parable and at the same time as inconspicuous; nearly as inconspicuous as the material which surrounds the story of which it is made. This social parable comes from the GDR, from a village near Leipzig, and concerns the life of a typical German artist, like Anton Reiser, Wilhelm Meister, Büchner's Lenz and the poor Bertolt Brecht. This film becomes something of a revocation of the German Bildungsroman - or could it be the exact opposite, that the filmmaker is continuing this tradition? And this in a country, which is re-united, but hasn't given itself a joint name.
For a time this film and its plot move through Berlin, through the streets, in trains, on squares and among crowds, with nearly the same ease as the films of the Nouvelle Vague moved - and one can feel that the film would have liked to move on like this. But Berlin in 1996 is not Paris in 1960, and really, every film about this country 'since Lang and Murnau', is about ghosts, invisible but present in these empty, new rooms, which are already ruins - one can see them for a second in the mirror.
And always the noises from the building sites; the pneumatic drills, circular saws, the buzz of the cranes, the sledge-hammers. (A great man once thought he heard building site noises, but they were really different noises.)
Films made in Germany, about Germany, in Berlin, by filmmakers who are not German form a long and memorable tradition.
(Helmut Färber, Berlin, February 1997)
Cheol-Mean Wang was born in 1960 in Seoul, South Korea. In 1989 he took an MA in Sociology and Media Studies at the University of Osnabrück, West Germany. From 1990-1996 he was a student at the DFFB. FUCK HAMLET is his Diploma film.
Films: 1991: Love 91 or We are the people. 1992: Gulf-War. 1992: The Friend. 1993: Dog-Strip. 1994: Party;The last Train. 1995: Dear Father. 1996: FUCK HAMLET.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.