A Land In An Awakened State Of Coma. Images of Work, Identity and Survival Strategies
It's cinematographic works like Hans-Christian Schmid's film "Lichter" ("Distant Lights", 2003), sounding out the country as well as it's present from the edges, that give German cinema it's strength today. This involves not only a change in trappings, but also an inner-systemic change. In times of a mega-bankruptcies, quick changing jobs and glamorous overdrawn accounts, the protagonists are questioned about their ability to take on commitments and their psycho-social network is screened for any undetected fissures.
Identity seems to be reduced to merely a question of nameplates, credit cards or various other data carriers. It can therefore be stolen like in Sören Voigt's film "Identity Kills" (2003) or held under lock and key as in Franziska Meletzky's film "Nachbarinnen" ("Wanted!", 2004), where the protagonist, an embittered package-delivery woman, hides a Russian woman, who is long sought-after by the police, for a much longer time than necessary. And indeed it is something that can also be acquired under false pretenses like in Eoin Moore's film drama "Pigs Will Fly" (2002), concerning a compulsive neurotic, the young protagonist Laxe, whose lax, clumsy but charming side cannot win out over his brutal side.
Contemporary German cinema is indeed teeming with accursed, sleepwalking figures. They are a sad reflection of today's world, self-employed one-person companies and acquisition experts, those in an awakened state of coma who let the outer hustle and bustle of life fly right past them until their own insignificance becomes a certainty. Here, work is no longer a means of therapy for already a long time. On the contrary: Over the last couple of years, a number of productions have blown the cover off the bourgeois concept of work, where paid work as a foundation for self-worth is not seldom a colossal humiliation program.Like in the film "Der Wald vor lauter Bäumen" ("Forest for the Trees", 2003), in which Maren Ade tells the story of a young teacher, who is torn asunder between her touching commitment to fulfill the demands of her profession, on the one hand, and her inner-private isolation on the other: the story of a failed and tragic assimilation. Yet, the routinised hectic often portrayed in many recent films today has something highly frightening about it. It is not the amicable saleswoman selling sausages ("Wanted!"), nor the competent boutique personnel ("Identity Kills") nor the friendly teacher colleague ("Forest for the Trees ") who are all gruesome – but rather the motionlessness with which they all function which is so deeply disturbing for the main protagonists, as they go on carrying out their work activities in a terrarium. For them, normality is the exception. Sick survival strategies like over-assimilation or the robbery of identity are the rule.
It's a similar situation for victims of the labor market. This is especially well shown in Franz Müller's film "Science Fiction" (2003), where losers under neo-liberalism are presented free for inspection. They are coached for a market in expensive seminars they no longer need. They believe they have to go through a strange standard training program of humiliation and encouragement, in which self-employment is somehow equated with self-determination at work, as if it had anything to do suddenly with entrepreneurial genius. And that you are permitted to join-in and play in an economy that has in fact already sorted you out.The valiant compensation for losses and insults suffered becomes the pathetic basis of business. Also Dominik Graf, in his film "Hotte im Paradies" (2003), ultimately plummets the existential needs of a small businessman: a pimp, whose self-worth is measured in sports cars, Rolex watches and the financial returns arising from his moody personnel. The self-employed one-person company, Hotte, also tries to maintain himself in a selected segment of the market by putting his whole arduous, high-tuned personality up for stake – so becoming the prototype of a neo-liberal captain of industry sailing onwards towards shipwreck.
Source: Christian Buß, Birgit Glombitza (Ed.): "Deutschland, revisited". (Catalogue of the similarly titled Retrospective in Kommunalen Kino Metropolis May - July 2004). Hamburg: Kinemathek Hamburg e.V., 2004.
For the film series "Deutschland, revisited", screened in the Hamburg Metropolis cinema between May and July 2004, the journalists Birgit Glombitza and Christian Buß presented 22 German film and television productions that were made over the last five years. The texts are from the accompanying catalogue of the same title. The catalogue is there to provide some orientation through the film world, which is at times often confusing in it's style and content, but whose various different protagonists exhibit an infallible sense for the phenomena of today's world.