Berlinale set to herald a new confidence in German cinema

Berlin film festival will showcase movies from veterans Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog, alongside offerings led by Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel

The opening of the 2015 edition of the Berlin film festival is set to herald a new mood of confidence in German cinema, as new films from the fabled 70s generation of auteurs such as Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog sit alongside offerings from prominent film-makers of more recent vintage, led by Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel.

It is Wenders’ return to scripted feature film-making, with the psychological drama Every Thing Will Be Fine, that is arguably the festival’s headline event.

Wenders, who acts almost as an eminence grise for the Berlinale, making regular appearances there whether or not he has a film in competition, has concentrated largely on documentary and essay films for the last decade, with only the little-seen and poorly-reviewed Palermo Shooting in 2008 breaking the pattern.

Highlights from this period includes the dance film Pina, a 3D study of the work of choreographer Pina Bausch, and The Salt of the Earth, an Oscar-nominated account of the career of famed photographer Sebastião Salgado, co-directed with Salgado’s son Juliano.

Now, however, Wenders will unveil his new English-language drama, for which he has secured an impressive cast, including James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Rachel McAdams. Franco plays a man who kills a child in a car accident, and is haunted for years afterwards; the Berlin festival says it “carefully and precisely tells a story of guilt and the search for forgiveness”.

Like Pina, and Cathedrals of Culture, the architecture film Wenders produced and contributed to, Every Thing Will Be Fine will be shot in 3D – a highly unusual move for a film that is not an action or fantasy movie.

Tim Slagman, film critic for Spiegel Online, is among those looking forward to Wenders’ return to drama. “It will be very interesting,” he says, “to see how a director, who has done great work investigating matters of architecture in Cathedrals of Culture and movement in Pina, has approached a film that is supposed to be a psychological drama. Let’s see how thoughts, feelings, words are rendered in three dimensions.” Wenders will be joined at Berlin by another prominent figure of German cinema’s establishment. Werner Herzog is bringing Queen of the Desert to Berlin, a biopic of English turn-of-the-century traveller and diplomat Gertrude Bell, who was instrumental in the creation of Iraq in the 1920s after the region gained independence from the Ottoman empire.

Like Wenders, Herzog has been able to assemble an impressive cast, including Nicole Kidman as Bell, Robert Pattinson as TE Lawrence, and Franco again as Bell’s lover Henry Cadogan.

In some ways, Wenders and Herzog’s careers have run in parallel: both leading lights of West Germany’s New Cinema movement in the 1970s, they both saw their fortunes founder in the 1990s and eventually found success in documentary-making.

However, Herzog persisted with feature film-making, largely in the US, and slowly re-established himself as a force, with films such as 2007’s Rescue Dawn (a remake of one of his own documentaries, Little Dieter Needs to Fly) and 2009’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

A younger generation is represented by Oliver Hirschbiegel, who helped kickstart a revival in the country’s interest in its wartime history with his 2004 film Downfall. After an unhappy sojourn in English-language film-making, which culminated in the poorly received Princess Diana biopic, Diana, Hirschbiegel has re-emerged with a film on what may be considered safer territory: an account of the real-life 1939 attempt by carpenter Georg Elser to assassinate Hitler. In Slagman’s opinion, “what Hirschbiegel does really well is turn history into entertainment and – in the case of Downfall – into awe-inspiring art”.

Positive critics’ judgments on these three films will be key in establishing whether German cinema is experiencing a proper revival of its fortunes, although they may well be overshadowed by a film not even competing for Berlin’s Golden Bear. Wednesday 11 February sees the unveiling of the movie adaptation of EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, assured no doubt of massive commercial impact whatever the critical verdict after its trailer was named the most viewed of 2014.

The Berlin film festival runs until 15 February.

Movie fans stand in line to buy tickets at the Berlinale box office
Movie fans stand in line to buy tickets at the Berlinale box office. Photograph: Tim Brakemeier/EPA


Andrew Pulver

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Every Thing Will Be Fine: Berlin 2015 review – Wim Wenders' 3D drama almost lost in space
Ryan Gilbey: James Franco plays a novelist haunted by a fatal car accident in Wenders’ brooding, emotional drama, which at least has sincerity going for it

Ryan Gilbey

11, Feb, 2015 @12:24 PM

Article image
Wim Wenders: 3D is like a magnifying glass
Veteran German director praises the 3D format at the Berlin film festival, which he had previously used on his dance documentary Pina, and has now employed for the harrowing drama Every Thing Will Be Fine

Kate Connolly

11, Feb, 2015 @12:44 PM

Article image
Charlotte Gainsbourg fine to join Wim Wenders' 3D drama

Actor links up with James Franco in Wenders' new attempt to utilise 3D's potential for emotionally searing drama

Andrew Pulver

13, Aug, 2013 @8:46 AM

Article image
Wim Wenders taps into 3D for documentary on Pina Bausch

First 3D arthouse film may inspire further experiments from the world of performing arts

Charlotte Higgins in Berlin

13, Feb, 2011 @9:30 PM

Article image
Bernd Eichinger
German movie mogul known for Downfall and The Baader Meinhof Complex

Ronald Bergan

30, Jan, 2011 @6:30 PM

Article image
Wim Wenders: cinema today ‘makes me nauseous’
Director who won Palme d’Or for Paris, Texas and has two films at Cannes this year bemoans lack of new stories in mainstream film

Vanessa Thorpe in Cannes

18, May, 2023 @4:00 PM

Letters: Rise and fall of Hitler

Letters: The analysis by David Cesarani and Peter Longerich (The massaging of history, April 7) of the film Downfall contains excellent research and should be read by everyone who sees Downfall.

08, Apr, 2005 @11:24 PM

Letters: Downfall's Hitler

Letters: The Downfall's depiction of Hitler's entourage and SS not as Hollywood-style foaming monsters but human beings in the grip of a collective psychosis makes the film far more visceral and unsettling than similar movies (Stormtrooper superstars, April 1).

05, Apr, 2005 @12:40 AM

Article image
‘We finished every bottle!’ Berlin's cultural legends on the night the Wall came down
It divided families, trapped half a city and symbolised the cold war. Then, 30 years ago this Saturday, the Berlin wall fell. Wim Wenders, Ute Lemper, Daniel Barenboim and more share their memories

Interviews by Simon Usborne

05, Nov, 2019 @1:10 PM

Article image
Terrence Malick rides into Berlin film festival with Knight of Cups
Elusive American director to stage world’s first screening of new film, which stars Christian Bale, at Berlin, alongside offerings from Kenneth Branagh and Peter Greenaway

Andrew Pulver

15, Dec, 2014 @4:57 PM