Germany On Screen

25 April 2012 | 11:37 am | Anthony Carew

The 11th Festival Of German Films kicks off this week, and amidst the obligatory commercial dross (see: Men In The City 2) there’s moments of cinematic interest.

The 11th Festival Of German Films kicks off this week, and amidst the obligatory commercial dross (see: Men In The City 2) there's moments of cinematic interest. Tom Tykwer is the program's biggest auteur, and his oddball drama Three – made in between Hollywood duties on Perfume and his forthcoming Wachowskis collaboration with the can't-believe-they're-attempting-it adaptation of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas – feels, perhaps more than any of his films, like a work of auteurdom. Relishing an opportunity to shed genre's straitjacket, his oddball, elusive, mathematically-effected drama is a study in temporality, mortality and bisexuality that never submits to stereotype.

Sleeping Sickness is Ulrich Köhler's dramatically-fierce depiction of the conflicted relationship between Africa and Europe and the traffic to-and-fro, in which aid and exploitation neatly dovetail, the spectre of pharmaceutical companies hovers over a Cameroonian hospital, and two doctors weigh up the flexibility of their morals. Colour Of The Ocean is a more message-movie take on human traffic, with the Canary Islands a cross-cultural, multilingual collision between African boat-people, German tourists and Spanish authorities told in Iñarritú-esque shades of melodrama and coincidence.

Promising The Moon is a super-fruity soap opera, a twin-generation study in the ghosts of the Soviet Baltic occupation being stirred up by the 1991 revolution. It builds towards a grand revelation pulled from a telenovela with misplaced social-crusade seriousness. If Not Us, Who is another '60s-lovin', newsreel-hatcheting barney with a boner for Baader-Meinhof sedition, though it dodges the rockstar clichés usually reserved for Baby Boomer radicals and paints a sad portrait of lost souls and self-destruction. Taboo plumbs the depths of the perverse-period-piece, telling the tawdry tale of a sexy incestuous tryst between a stoned poet and obsessive pianist in an early-20th Century Vienna rendered so dank, dark and underexposed that syphilis seems to be somehow seeping through the celluloid.

Cracks In The Shell is a tawdry entrant into the charmless impressionable-young-actress-goes-crazy-while-methoding-out-on-a-role-playing-a-crazy-character sub-genre, replete with sleazy and manipulative theatre director and bitch-faced mother; let's call it an F-grade Black Swan. Combat Girls tells a tale of teenaged skinhead molls in utterly adolescent shades; its big, dumb, violent soap opera dragging me back to the painful message-movie days of the '90s.

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Hell is a dirty near-future-thriller taking place in post-environmental-collapse wastelands, a survival-horror piece as a rag-tag 'family' attempt to claw out of hell and find salvation in the hills. It's a fierce enough genre work but the twin spectres of The Road and End Of Animal hover eternal, making Hell feel mighty minor. Hans Weingartner's Hut In The Woods is a crappy tale of a crazy mathematician dropping out of society that actually plays the who's-really-crazy card. Weingartner kickstarted the Jeff-Buckley-sings-Leonard-Cohen revival with The Edukators, and now we have something else to hate him for.

One of the best films to ever randomly turn up at the GFF was Robert Thalheim's study of itinerate service industry workers in modern-day Auschwitz, And Along Came Tourists; five years on, he returns with Westwind, a nostalgia-kissed tale of twin East German sisters on a summer camp for athletes in rural Hungary in '88, who engage in teenaged flirtations with West German tourists that carry colossal social repercussions back 'home'. And Summer Window may be the highlight of this year's fest, a super-low-key, domestic-sci-fi think-piece in which a woman's life suddenly 'skips back' six months, and she's confronted by the minutia of chance, coincidence and fate; paralysed by whether to attempt to change what's happened or fastidiously re-enact every decision so as to return her life to where it once was.