System Crasher (2019)
Written & Directed by Nora Fingschedit
This is a difficult movie to write about because it touches so close to the things I encounter in my daily life. I am a public school teacher in the United States, licensed for elementary education. I have taught 3rd grade for the last five years out of the nine I’ve been a teacher. Before that, I worked as an AmeriCorps reading tutor, substitute teacher, and student-teacher since 2006. No matter what public school you enter in this country, there is a very high chance you will encounter at least one student the breaks all the supports in place, a child that feels wholly broken. This is almost always a result of abuse that stems from the parent’s psychological condition, poverty conditions, or a mix of both. System Crasher is the story of this student.
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Written & Directed by Lukas Feigelfeld
The first film most viewers will compare Hagazussa to is Robert Eggers’ The Witch. While both pictures do tell period stories about witches, they are very different when it comes to their tone & pacing. The Witch is a tightly structured film with clear character development and themes about family. Hagasuzza is more akin to the work of Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow, Mandy) with its creeping crawl and slow psychedelic horror burn. Ultimately, I found myself often frustrated with Hagazussa because its narrative is so fluid and ill-defined. It’s all mood without a compelling main character with a clear arc.
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Wings of Desire (1987)
Written by Wim Wenders, Peter Handke, & Richard Reitinger
Directed by Wim Wenders
In the late 1980s, the city of Berlin was divided, split down the center by the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Soviets in 1961. This wall served as a physical representation of the ideological rift that existed in the world during the Cold War. While Wings of Desire is not about this wall, it is ever-present in the background, a reminder that West Berlin was once part of a whole and in 1987 a fragment. Our first scene puts the audience above the city, through the eyes of the angel, that is the film’s protagonist. We see the complexity and beauty of this place through the perspective of one who loves it and the people dearly.
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Son of Saul (2015)
Written & Directed by László Nemes
In the midst of the obscene and the profane does it make sense to eke out some small piece of the sacred? What value do rituals and beliefs have when confronted when the horrific abomination of humanity’s darkest hour? Do we need to shield these artifacts of faith, these dying flames from decimation? First-time feature director László Nemes chooses to film the story with an impressionistic style, almost every single scene so tightly focused on Saul, a Hungarian Jew imprisoned at Auschwitz. The background is nearly abstracted in nearly every scene, our protagonist being shoved along through a seemingly never-ending series of atrocities against humanity. Saul reaches out clinging to a practically useless ritual as a means to disconnect from what is happening around and to him.
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Written Christian Petzold & Harun Farocki
Directed by Christian Petzold
The post-World War II period in Germany has proven to, when used as a setting, provide some of the most atmospheric and rich stories in cinema. You have this sliver of time after the defeat of the Nazis and before the nation was cleaved in half by the Cold War where society was attempting to redefine its identity in the wake of cultural horrors. There were survivors of the Holocaust re-entering Berlin, some with a desire to move past what that had experienced and others never forgetting which of their neighbors betrayed their trust. This is the landscape of mature, nuanced thrillers where each interaction can be dealt with a delicate touch, and shocking reveals are as gentle as a feather yet devastate people to their cores.
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Morris From America (2016)
Written & Directed by Chad Hartigan
13-year-old Morris is an African-American young man living in Germany. His dad is a soccer coach, former player, and his mom passed away a few years prior. Morris did not grow up in Germany, and he is having trouble adjusting to the different culture. His Germany teacher, Inka, suggests he spend time at a community center practicing his language skills and meeting kids his age. Morris reluctantly agrees and immediately becomes infatuated with Katrin, an older girl who teasingly befriends him. Morris doesn’t seem to be meshing with the culture around him, despite his best efforts to explore and absorb. His father also struggles in determining where the line between discipline and freedom lies for his son.
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Dark (2017, Netflix)
Written by Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese, Martin Behnke, Ronny Schalk, and Marc O. Seng
Directed by Baran bo Odar
In 2019, a local teenager goes missing in the small town of Winden, Germany. Police officer Ulrich Nielsen is reminded of his own brother’s unsolved disappearance in 1986 and keeps promising the parents he will find their son. Then Ulrich’s youngest, Mikkel vanishes in the night and the next morning turns up the body of a third boy, dressed out of the 1980s. Meanwhile, Jonas Kahnwald is dealing the suicide of his father two months prior. He returns to school but finds the girl he liked is dating his best friend. Police Charlotte Doppler senses history repeating itself with not only the disappearances but also flocks of birds falling from the sky dead, just like they did in 1986. As characters travel down this winding path of secrets and mysteries, they uncover a profound and shocking truth about Winden that transcends the laws of time and space.
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