New German TV Movies
It's Time to Get Serious
THE MASTER BUTCHER
The 37th FILMFEST MÜNCHEN (June 27 – July 6, 2019) presents the most interesting new German-language TV productions in its section of New German TV Movies. This year's lineup includes 16 films that will all be celebrating their world premiere in Munich. The assorted offerings range from period content to topical subjects and cover a breadth of genres and themes. They tell of old friendships, new beginnings and last chances; they explore what happens when very different ideas about life collide. Their characters move in virtual worlds and within the criminal depths of the human soul. Their starting point and focus are often the family, with all its high and low points.
The family as the nucleus of society, the hub around which life revolves — whether we want it to or not — often leads to dramatic, but also amusing, situations. LOST IN SEPARATION, for example, takes a humorous look at the topic of divorce among the upper middle class, showing the absurd comedy that the end of a relationship can produce. Ingo Rasper's comedy MY NEIGHBOURS WITH THE FAT DOG operates in a similar vein: here, too, the story begins with a breakup. A woman left by her husband soon has the unintended company of new neighbors, a very nonchalant single mom and her insolent daughter. Worlds collide and the tolerance of everyone involved is put to the test. A small group of travelers in SUMMER AFTER GRADUATION stand in for a family unit. Laconically and nostalgically, the film deals with the pitfalls and happy moments of growing older. On a road trip, three friends make up for what they believe they missed more than 20 years ago.
Several of this year's New German TV Movies deal with the darker side of family situations. Following the death of her sister, an aloof woman with no delusions must unexpectedly care for her sister's orphaned children in I NEED YOU. At first, the responsibility is too much for the cynical businesswoman, but eventually it forces her to overcome her fear of attachment, at least partly. Meanwhile, the protagonist of NIGHT SWIMMING has her hands full with her own daughter. The extroverted rock star mama finds that her own daughter has become a stranger, so ambitious and bourgeois; the generation gap is unavoidable, but with the usual roles reversed. As a psychological profile, DEADLY SILENCE is perhaps the film that creates the most extreme testing ground. This ensemble film explores how parents deal with a hideous crime committed by their own children, raising questions of alienation and (awareness of) guilt in morally exceptional circumstances.
Crime stories are, of course, a standard ingredient in New German TV Movies. In VIENNA BLOOD, a public prosecutor investigates an alleged suicide. It soon becomes clear that the evidence leads not only to the highest economic and Islamist circles, but also extends as far as the prosecutor's own family. FATAL PLAN entangles a chief inspector of the police in a perfidious conspiracy that threatens not only his career and his family, but also his life. In WE WOULD BE DIFFERENT, the crime is of a political nature. As a teenager, Rupert witnessed the shooting death of his parents and his best friend at the hands of two police officers. The officers were never punished; in fact, they were acquitted. Thirty years later, Rupert is still affected by the trauma as he returns to the stifling milieu of the small town where he grew up. Soon afterward, the body of one of those police officers is found. Coincidence?
Several of this year's films seek and find a political dimension to people's personal lives. Here again, the starting point is the family. This is especially convincing in BECAUSE YOU'RE MINE. The divorce and the custody battle are bad enough, but then comes the real catastrophe: a seemingly caring mother reveals herself to be a skilled manipulator who systematically turns her little daughter against her desperate father. PLAY addresses a very topical subject. A young girl loses herself in the realm of a virtual reality game. The spectacular visual effects demonstrate the potential for immersion that can lead to pathological addiction and losing touch with reality. Yet even recovery from a serious illness is not necessarily the end of one's problems, as the film HEART HUNTING shows. In this film, a woman named Caroline returns to full physical health after heart surgery, but suddenly finds herself facing completely new issues as a result. Saying goodbye to a life without excitement or responsibility proves more difficult than even she herself had imagined.
Not just describing concrete issues, but formulating a structural critique of an ailing system, is something to which two films in this section aspire: A MATTER OF LIFE is the story of a young doctor whose chronic exhaustion leads to a mistake with serious consequences. Her colleagues advise her to simply move on — but her conscience won't let it go. Thus she must make a fundamental decision: to go with the flow in order to further her career or to try to change the corrupt system from within. SILENT SCREAMS is also about a young doctor, in this case one who is confronted with various cases of abused children during her residency. She experiences up close how difficult it is to protect the children and hold those responsible to account. Indignant and in the name of justice, she takes things into her own hands.
Historical settings form the backdrop of two of the films in this year's selection. THE MASTER BUTCHER is the laconic tale of a German butcher who takes his bride to the United States after World War I in the hope of starting a better life. In the New World, he establishes the local singing club, and finds happiness. In SECRET IN THE MOUNTAIN, the horrors of war are not only the backdrop, but also the focus of the story. The film depicts the growing resistance among the members of a small-town community to the Nazi regime. In this microcosm, universal matters of conscience are negotiated: matters of solidarity, of moral stances, and of the courage to take action.