The Berlin School of Observation

Ewa Wildner of the 2014 Talent Press reports from the panel discussion New German Cinema: The Berlin School at Berlinale Talents.

Maren Ade at the panel New German Cinema: The Berlin School

­Complex characters, intimate dramas, beautiful surroundings – today’s German cinema is more concerned with observation than with action. On Monday, a Berlinale Talents talk about the Berlin School introduced the main characteristics of the movement as well as some of the most well-known directors connected with it, among them, award-winning director and producer Maren Ade.

It all started in 2001. “First we just wanted a camera and a couple of female actresses”, said Christian Petzold, one of the filmmakers present at the Berlinale talk. “But then it turned out that we unconsciously started a new chapter in German cinematography.” By casting an artistic eye on the country and relationships among people, the filmmakers stand in opposition to the trend of modern cinematography that’s full of car chases and superheroes. Having made the award-winning FOREST FOR THE TREES and EVERYBODY ELSE, Maren Ade was considered part of this movement after the release of her second feature.

“Although it’s critics who decide who’s in and who’s out [of the movement], for me it was natural,” Ade said. “I’ve been friends with other directors associated with the movement. We share thoughts and have similar notions of what we want to focus on while making movies. But it’s not really what films are like at the end, it’s rather about the exchange of thoughts.” When asked about one unique quality all the Berlin School directors share, she remarked: “The reason the movement has existed for so long is that we are all very individual. What I value the most about the Berlin School films, however, is that they don’t present just one side of the truth but instead end up with various messages.”

The Berlin School may be well known, but few would associate the term with successful box-office results. “If there are any constraints about being labeled a Berlin School director it’s that there are often financial problems. Although everybody in Germany knows the name of the movement, it’s usually difficult when it comes to the audience reception – with the exception of BARBARA, by Christian Petzold, which was a huge success.”

So if you’re still unfamiliar with the Berlin School, it’s worth checking out Benjamin Heisenberg’s SUPEREGOS, premiering in this year’s Berlinale Panorama. And, of course, look forward to Ade’s upcoming movie, which deals with father-daughter relations. “The rehearsals are over, I have the whole cast – we start shooting in May,” Ade said. “Until that time there is much to be done. I work every day as much as I can. Hopefully, I will survive.”