Exquisite German movies not to miss at Durban's International Film Festival

14 July 2017 - 01:03 By Tymon Smith
Carla Juri plays the title character in 'Paula' which tells the life story of renowned German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker.
Carla Juri plays the title character in 'Paula' which tells the life story of renowned German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker.
Image: Martin Valentin Menke

The Germans are coming to this year's Durban International Film Festival thanks to the Goethe Institute.

Several recent German films will be screened at the festival, with some of the directors in attendance.

Here are four films on the menu that reflect the current state of one of the world's seemingly more well-adjusted countries and its relationship to its own history and the rest of the world.

1) PAULA

Paula Modersohn-Becker has become recognised as one of her generation's most important painters, often credited as being the first female painter to paint female nudes.

Christian Schwochow's lovingly rendered biopic is a lushly executed portrait of the many different faces of its subject. Moving comfortably from the comic to the tragic, the film, thanks in no small part to the performance of Carla Juri in the lead, makes for entertaining and dramatically viewing.

WATCH the trailer for Paula

2) THE PEOPLE VS FRITZ BAUER

Lars Kraume's film tells the true story of attorney-general Fritz Bauer, a Jew who fought to bring Adolf Eichmann to trial after learning of the former SS commander's location in Argentina. The problem, however, is the German government's unwillingness to confront its Nazi past.

Determined to ensure Eichmann's prosecution, Bauer turns to Mossad for assistance, thereby committing treason and setting himself down a destructive path of recrimination and isolation from his countrymen.

It's solidly executed and thanks to a compelling central performance from Burghart Klaussner it paints an engaging picture of one man's courage in the face of adversity from a society unwilling to acknowledge its dark past.

WATCH the trailer for The People VS Fritz Bauer

3) GREETINGS FROM FUKUSHIMA

Described by one reviewer as "a post-disaster traumedy", Doris Doerrie's quirky odd couple tale is set in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Marie, a woman dissatisfied by the humdrum of her normal life, quits Germany and signs up as part of a clown troupe sent to entertain refugees from Fukushima who live just outside the no-safe zone.

There she meets a crotchety and stubborn old lady, Satomi, who insists on living in what remains of her old house. Dissatisfied with her clowning, Marie moves in and the two develop an unlikely friendship.

Shot in black and white with a sure eye for the absurdities of its premise, there are definite shades of Fellini in Doerrie's enjoyable but nuanced attempt to break down stereotypes and understand the limits of empathy for those whose fates are worse than our own.

WATCH the trailer for Greetings from Fukushima

4) FADO

Set in Lisbon, Jonas Rothlaender's eerily uncomfortable and raw examination of jealousy and obsession creeps up slowly before it delivers its final gut-wrenching punches to the solar plexus.

Fabian, a doctor in Berlin, is overcome with regret when he loses a patient who reminds him of his ex-girlfriend. He relocates to Lisbon where he tracks down Doro. As the couple attempt to rekindle their romance Fabian's intense jealousy will become the deciding factor in its success or failure.

It's a devastating examination of how far our inner demons can push us across lines we thought we'd never be capable of crossing.

WATCH the trailer for Fado

The Durban International Film Festival runs until July 23. For more information visit durbanfilmfest.co.za

• This article was originally published in The Times.

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