Also in this program
This episode from the film NEUES DEUTSCHLAND made by German television network WDR had its world premiere at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN in 1993. It's an essay, a collage. We're driving past trees, fields, power lines, under a cloudy sky. Overlaid on these images are a series of newspaper reports about attacks by far-right extremists in eastern Germany: skinheads attacking asylum-seekers, stonings and arson attacks at refugee housing, "heated confrontations between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist groups". Images of bodies with severe burns are superimposed on the scenery rushing past. The audio track is Franz Schubert's String Quintet, opus 163, the tranquil second movement. Then comes an exemplary bit of narration as two young punk rockers tell how they were attacked by neo-Nazis. The attackers turned over the car in which they were sitting and set fire to it. The Trabi became a trap: inside it, the punks could burn to death; outside it, they could be beaten to death. The montage breaks up the young men's testimony, creating gaps in what's perceived and remembered. Palpable trauma. Interview questions and fragments of sentences are shown on the screen. One such fragment — "try it with living creatures" — keeps coming up. Violence is a testing ground. The victims become witnesses to what is being done to them. It's a wonder that the violence isn't more lethal. One of them doesn't even have any burns: "He was lucky." The neighbors don't offer any help. We see images of houses, a homey neighborhood. A small child who witnessed an attack stands with his parents at the door: "They screamed and squealed." The reports of extremist violence continue to be shown — head injuries, stab wounds, murder — as German scenery moves past. Schubert's Quintet continues to be heard during the credits. A eulogy to a Germany with little hope.
Meet the director
Born in Düsseldorf in 1959, Philip Gröning grew up both in his home town and in the United States. In 1986, he founded his own production company and directed his first feature film, SOMMER. It was his film DIE TERRORISTEN! (1992), about a planned attempt to assassinate Chancellor Helmut Kohl, that first attracted widespread attention. Kohl tried to prevent the film from being shown on television. For the film, Gröning received a Bronze Leopard in Locarno. Gröning earned the Hessischer Filmpreis for best director for LOVE, MONEY, LOVE (2000). His documentary INTO GREAT SILENCE (2005), about a silent order of Carthusian monks, was a surprise hit in German theaters and received several awards. THE POLICE OFFICER'S WIFE (2013), about a violent marriage, received the Special Award of the Jury in Venice. MY BROTHER'S NAME IS ROBERT AND HE IS AN IDIOT was shown in competition at the Berlinale in February 2018. As with nearly all of his films, Gröning was responsible for the screenplay (with Sabine Timoteo), production, camera work and some of the editing. Gröning is a regular guest lecturer at the Filmakademie Ludwigsburg, a member of the European Film Academy and the German Film Academy, as well as the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts.