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German Films
by Kirsten Greco

It’s not surprising that a German film festival would feature quite a few German films. Two film categories were entirely devoted to German films: Perspektive Deutsches Kino and German Cinema. Films in the Perspektive category were chosen because they were young, different, and current in Germany. German Cinema offered Berlinale visitors the opportunity to become informed about the current state of German film production. Here are reviews of two of the films we screened:

For his first feature-length film after several shorts, director Nicolai Albrecht chose a subject close to his heart – ride-sharing. Mitfahrer (Traffic Affairs) presents three cars of people, all heading for Berlin on a hot Friday evening. One car is owned by Peter, a swimwear salesman who is always on the road and who often offers his car to car-sharing agencies. On this evening the agency places Carolin, a quiet student, and Hilal, an African immigrant, with him for the drive to Berlin. The second car is owned by Katharina, who is traveling to Berlin to audition for acting school. The car-sharing agency places Fabian, a teenager looking to party in Berlin for the weekend, and Sylvester, a drifter who owes money to someone in Berlin, with her. The final car contains Loubelle and her daughter, who are driving to Berlin to return the car to Loubelle’s boyfriend. As the night progresses, all three cars cross paths, and by the end of the weekend, surprising pairings end up making the trip back together . . .

Director Albrecht chose this subject because he often hitchhiked or participated in car shares between his hometown of Munich and Berlin, where he studied. He found that these long drives can be quite exciting and intimate because total strangers are thrown together in such close quarters for such long periods of time. Because they know they will never see each other again, they often reveal very private details about themselves – making the ride a bit like being in a confessional. He tried to capture that phenomenon in Mitfahrer by having the three separate stories all written by different authors, who then came together to mix and match their characters. I think he succeeded to a certain extent – throughout the film, you do feel like you’re listening in on very private conversations. However, many of the characters were quite unlikeable, making it difficult for the audience to get engaged in their problems. And I would have liked a bit more resolution at the end of the story – almost all of the plotlines are left open-ended. Perhaps Albrecht is hoping to make a sequel!

Director Marcus Mittermeier presents an often funny and sometimes shocking take on the present state of German society in Muxmäuschenstill. Actor/screenwriter Jan Henrik Stahlberg plays Mux, a modern-day philosopher who believes it is his mission to combat the growth of petty crime in Germany. Mux and his trusty sidekick Gerd prowl the streets in search of jaywalkers, litterers, speeders, etc., who they videotape, chastise, and then fine for their crimes. They even have to take on more staff and open “Operation More Justice” offices in other cities when they realize how widespread the problems are. But things start to fall apart when Mux falls in love with Kira, a young girl who can’t live up to Mux’s far-too-high expectations.

I found Muxmäuschenstill to be very entertaining, even if I didn’t get all of the jokes and allusions to German politics and pop culture figures. It is certainly a very black comedy, and the ending got a bit too bleak for me, but it is a very interesting commentary on Germans and German society.