German film: yet again searching for its raison d’être
In 1993, the promising director Tom Tykwer hit the scene: his feature debut DIE TÖDLICHE MARIA (DEADLY MARIA) impressed audiences as a wilfully composed and taciturn, intimate play. But that was about it. ‘The new German film’, one critic snubbed, ‘is a disappointment through and through.’
1994 wasn’t any better. Films by Tim Burton (BATMAN) and Australian splatter-fan Peter Jackson – in the meantime world-famous through LORD OF THE RINGS – were showcased.
1995: Graf and Rödl made television thrillers, Schlingensief and Praunheim flipped the audience a bird – Germany remained, as one newspaper wrote, ‘an underdeveloped cinematic trouble zone.’
No wonder, then, that everyone recollected on yesteryear’s successes. In 1996, Bernd Eichinger showed up with two ‘German Classics’: one – DAS MÄDCHEN ROSEMARIE (A GIRL CALLED ROSEMARIE) – he directed himself, the other – DIE HALBSTARKEN (‘Yobs’) – he ‘merely’ produced. More important than the remakes was GEFÄHRLICHE FREUNDIN (‘A dangerous woman friend’), a female film noir by Hermine Huntgeburth. But it didn’t escape notice that, although Germany might not have any great directors, it certainly did have great actors – ‘faces to rely on’, ‘star movies’ even.
In 1997 Schlingensief showed, under the title DIE 120 TAGE VON BOTTROP (120 DAYS OF BOTTROP), the last ‘New German Film’: an eerie Punch and Judy show. But there was also – really new and really good – WINTERSCHLÄFER (WINTER SLEEPERS) from Tykwer. The international program enthused with LIVE FLESH by Almodóvar and THE FULL MONTY by Peter Cattaneo from Great Britain.
The following year, again nothing very exciting from Germany. None the less, the Frankfurter Allgemeine confirmed that the festival ‘is and remains the most important showcase for young German filmmakers.’ The Award of the City of Hof went to Tom Tykwer who in the meantime had come to international attention with LOLA RENNT (RUN LOLA RUN). And with HAPPINESS, Todd Solondz from the USA contributed a fantastic and touching film.