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Category Archives: Germany

A “Richard” for our times

In the spectacular production of Berlin’ Schaubuhne at the BAM, Thomas Ostermeier forces us to peek into Richard’ soul. The remarkable director stated in an interview that whatever he does in his plays for sure he will not bore the audience and his “Richard III” is far from boring, keeping the audience on the edge till its final moments.

Richard, played extraordinarily by Lars Eidinger, is in a permanent confession towards the audience. Whispering in an always balancing microphone, Richard shares with the audience his darkest thoughts hidden in his abominable soul. A flashlight attached to the microphone is like piercing into his mind adding to the dramatic character of the confession. His Shakespearean body’s deformities are secondary to the deformities of his atrocious soul displayed nakedly in front of the audience for the entire play. He starts like a mischievous schoolboy plotting against his teachers, engaging the audience and making them part of his deeds; somehow funny, just mischief, playing against the all powerful ones, a man of the people. And little by little the audience buys into it and they laugh and applaud, validating in a way his deeds and with them his path to power. Without knowing, the audience became his base. But in time the mischief becomes a plot and the events play also in his favor. He climbs the ladder towards the throne slandering and scheming against people who may be in his way who do not consider him as a real challenge. He relies on some around him that think that can take advantage of his climb to power and he uses them skillfully. When he gets on the throne he whimsically discards and mocks the ones who helped him. He demands the audience, his base, to mock Buckingham, the main one who helped him to ascend to the throne: “You look like shit. Did you eat pussy today?”. And the audience follows, and Richard asks for more and louder till the entire theater joins in a chorus of mocking.

Richard’s staging in Brooklyn is not accidental. The resemblance is not so blatantly identifiable as in the Julius Cesar at the Public in Central Park but the modified text’s subtleties and the direction are present for the entire play. When needed to make a clear point the actors switch from German to English and address directly the audience: “Everybody sees what he is doing and nobody does anything to stop him.”
In the end, when it became clear that everything is lost, Richard urinates on the stage, actually symbolically on his own base. He knows that he will die the next day in battle being hanged by his leg in the end of the play like a piece of meat in a meat-locker by the same hanging microphone that witnessed his dreadful scheming to ascend to undeserved power.

(See also: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/opinion/sunday/shakespeare-explains-the-2016-election.html )

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Posted by on October 11, 2017 in Blog, Germany, USA

 

Oktoberfest

Lowenbrau tent, Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

Even if you did not know how to get there you just have to follow the parade of costumed people, all dressed in Bavarian traditional clothes. Women in red skirts and tight corseted blouses that were pushing up their bust, in knitted long socks and also knitted pullovers having on their head hats decorated with feathers were walking hand in hand with men dressed in “lederhose”, the short leather pants, checkered shirts and traditional tunic. Starting from the airport you could see some of them in the train that crossed the city and the closer you got into the city the fuller the train became of party-goers and eventually all descended to Hackerburcke and started to walk towards Theresienwiese.

Hacker-Pschorr tent, Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

Thirty years ago I was walking on the large expanse of grass that is Theresienwiese, the large meadow that hosted for many years the Oktoberfest, the Germany’ beer festival. At the time I could not be in Germany in the fall and I just heard stories about the happening; large tents, larger than anything you may encounter any other times, would cover the meadow and people were drinking beer, lots of beer and singing loudly at unison Bavarian and German songs. Some of the more critical of my German friends were commenting that this is the way Hitler came to power…Germany has a deep beer culture and is the only country that has in effect a purity law dating from 1516 promulgated by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, that allows for only hops, barley, water and, later, yeast in the beer. Also I could not live in Munich at the time without learning about the main six beer manufacturers that were emblems for the German beer: Lowenbrau, Hofbrauhaus, Augustinerbrau, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Spaten.

Paulaner Festzelt, Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

I did not have the chance in so many years to visit Munich in the fall, in spite of several visits in Southern Germany, but finally this year I could stop and drink “ein mass” around a long table with a bunch of Germans. The tents are there, as they always have been, and the atmosphere is electric with all attendees standing and jumping on the benches around the tables with the “mass” in their hand singing enthusiastically all together a mix of German and international songs in an extremely joyful atmosphere under the accords of a large band located on a podium in the middle of the tent. Most of the tables inside are reserved way in advance and the one that are not are totally packed being almost impossible to get a seat, all visitors coming here for staying most of the day.

Chilling with “ein mass”

All tents are surrounded outside by rows of tables where hostesses with a large bunch of beer “mass” in their arms navigate deftly through the crowd and youngsters dressed in Bavarian clothes offer large soft “brezen” from weaved baskets. Outside of the tent area the entire Theresienwiese is covered like a Disneyland with all sorts of games, from ball throwing ranges decorated in American kitsch to the horror train, bumper cars, whirlwind games, huge wheels and high towers that bring the visitors high upon the meadow. Stands are selling long frankfurter that hang out generously off the sandwich bread, nuts and sweets of all kinds and traditional ginger bread hearts to declare your love to your sweetheart. “Bread and circus” was what the Romans were offering millenniums ago and the offer is still valid in the same joyful atmosphere at Oktoberfest.

Bavaria statue overlooking Theresienwiese, Munich, Germany

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2017 in Blog, Germany

 

Toni Erdmann

I don’t remember writing about a movie for a while but the German comedy by Maren Ade deserved to be the darling of the last year Cannes Festival. It made such an impact that, if I understood correctly, Hollywood is planning a remake of the movie. The movie touched a painful chord, the dehumanization of people working for large and high demanding corporations, impersonal monster companies that treat people just like bodies that have to perform. The movie is shot in Bucharest, a perfect setting in a country where the “multi-national companies”, as they call there the corporations, make the law facing a series of corrupt governments and muscle flexing policies of Brussels or Berlin.  Ines, a consultant for a large global marketing consulting firm, does not smile the entire movie because her life is so focused on the job and screwed up chasing an elusive career, in meeting with boring executives, living alone in impersonal hotel rooms or apartments, incapable of having sex, with no time for herself while accompanying  boring diplomats’ wives to the “one of the best malls in Europe where no Romanian affords to buy anything”. Ines’ life so well resembles the life of a Manhattan employee in high demanding job, living in luxury apartments but with no life of their own, except going to bar at night, so well portrait also in “margin call”. They work just to be thrown out as a rotten tooth when the company does not need them anymore or they get burned out. However in the movie, the relentless pursue of her father, Toni Erdmann, eventually soften her, breaking her insane bubble, realizing her conundrum and decides to quit just to get hired by the competition.

Of course, watching the movie from the New York’s perspective, is hard to avoid thinking of the American Republican politics that try as much as possible to disposes the middle class, lowering the taxes for the rich and eliminating a well fought medical insurance. The spineless Republicans, fully responsible for the conundrum of the current Administration, in bed with large corporate donors who hate even the idea of portable medical insurance, are the main architects of blocking all the measures that would empower the middle class in America, a country where the taxes that you pay are buying exclusively more planes and bombs to kill people around the world.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2017 in Blog, Germany, USA

 

Die Himmel uber Berlin…

Berlin

Berlin, Germany

I am not one of the fallen angels but I felt so much for this sky landing in Berlin, so dearly remembered from the Wim Wenders movie translated into English as “Wings of Desire”. I looked towards Berlin from the sky over a city that last time when I visited it was divided and I remembered standing two blocks away from the wall and trying to figure out myself, what many Germans tried for generations, how to grow wings and fly over the infamous wall toward the much desired freedom. On the road in front of me the Stasi patrols on fast motorbikes were zipping to and fro trying to deflect people like me who were thinking about escaping.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Blog, Germany

 

Merkel

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“Ms. Merkel, we have lots of refugees at the border”
“From Siria? Let them in”
“No, there are Germans. They want out”

The Sunday elections in Germany spelled out what for many months most of us born in Europe were expecting: the electoral sign of the demise of the only European leader who was able to lead and rule Europe in the recent years. Because in spite of her major flaw in the migrant crisis Angela Merkel stands out in Europe as a real leader, a person that fought for a unified Europe even if according to her detractors this fight was more about the German’s interests control of Europe. Her stature is even more imposing when compared with its counterparts, a French President who would be more appropriate as a cheese supermarket manager, his English colleague who wants to have as little as possible with Continental Europe or the other European leaders who are either bland and insignificant or are perfect copies of the old Communist apparatchiks we were used with in Eastern Europe, fearful of losing their jobs and speaking only in slogans in what we used to call in Romania the “wood tongue:”. However Merkel was always different, in spite of being accused of ex-Communist links or as being a good friend of Putin, she was a leader whose staunch approach was able to keep somehow glued the EU, a marriage of loose interests with no love whatsoever.
But the migrant crisis changed everything and with it came tumbling down the foundation of her statue. Long hidden under the rug by the controlled German media, the migrant “problem” became a real migrant “crisis” funneled mainly by her irrational and irresponsible attitude of inviting all migrants to come to Germany. So besides the Syrians who came as war refugees an entire horde of Africans, South Asians and Afghans decided to risk their life and savings to follow the invitations of “Muti”, that never thought in her German organized mind what it means to have a real MultiKulti on your hands and refusing to accept that people are different, culturally, socially and even intellectually. The communists and now the post-communist of various flavors were always zesting of mixing people and create the masonic ideal of a diversified society exemplifying the success of the United States but ignoring the 250 years of “melting pot” making as well as the fact that no white CEO would live on the same street with an African poor Muslim anywhere in the States. The money would keep them worlds apart.
For many Europeans who already considered Merkel to be too bossy, her request to invite people and after that to force other countries to take them in was the last straw. The opposition started first by the Eastern European countries where people lived for 50 years under regimes that forced words in their mouths and now they refused to accept this anymore, and followed by the Scandinavians, the Brits and in the end the French. A process that left Merkel not only alone in Europe but left with few supporters in Germany with many in her party and coalition sister parties deserting her position. The upcoming success of Pegida and AFD is no “new” news for the Europeans who knew that right wing is very healthy in spite of years of communism or out-casting. So Merkel’s acts not only that created a mess that would be hardly manageable in the ordered Germany, with one more million unemployed and most of them unemployable, but also gave a good pretext for the rise of these groups that otherwise stayed silent in their corners drinking German beer. It’s sad how a apparently innocuous gesture, gracious at it may have looked to be, brought so much dissatisfaction to the Germans.
Of course, with thousands of people at the border and a haunting history, Angela had to do something and the right way to do it would have been to accept the already moving migrants in small chunks in Germany. But Europe never acted like fully grown ups. When the iron curtain fell in 1989, the sense we, the Eastern European, got talking with people in the west was that they looked like a coddled group of people blessed by history and protected by the Americans forces that forgot their role and acted only by some kind of inherited rights that the entire world should know to respect and accept. Handling conflict in the fledgling union and around its borders or the protection of their own borders was never a concern, like no bad thing would ever happen to them. Europe signed the convention of the refugees but they never created camps, outside or inside their border, to screen the migrants like the Americans were doing for more than 50 years. And as usually when something major happens everybody is taken by surprise and nobody had any clue what to do and how to handle the crisis so the old reflex went into effect and the Germans  started to censor the media on anything that involved migrants, only one example being the Cologne New Year mass molestation. It was an American paper that wrote first about the events that triggered the media coverage and the fallout outrage that followed.
Out of options and humiliated Merkel bent over in front of the loathed dictatorial Sultan taking a deal everybody hates that would bring more aggravation politically for her in Germany and in Europe. Luckily she was helped by the always dismissed East Europeans, this time Macedonians, who took upon themselves to solve the problem and close the migration route, a thing the politically-correct-left-wing-West-Europeans would never have done.
In the end Merkel would leave the political arena, a good and capable leader who was not wise enough to keep her mouth shut when she had to. Unfortunately what she unleashed may stay with Europe for a while and we know how it looks; we had another similar wave in Europe just about 80 years ago.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2016 in Blog, Germany

 

Munich, Germany

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Hofbrauhaus Band. Munich

Somehow we never made it to Germany to have a long shooting session. Maybe because I have been living there for quite a while and possible because we ended up many times on layovers in German cities from other shoots. But we finally put together a long delayed demo clip with the footage we shot during numerous short visits and we posted an album of frames from the short shoot in Munich, unfortunately curtailed by dim daylight of January.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Blog, Germany

 

Munich, Germany

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Rathaus in Marien Platz Munich

Munich, twenty six after. I lived here toward the end of the Cold War when an escape from behind the Iron Curtain was guaranteeing a safe passage to the world of the free. The communism was less dictatorial than it was stupid, a prison type utopia developed by sick minds who were looking how to enslave their subjects obliged to hail their nonexistent freedom. A system of non-believers in the society’s values and rulers.
I lived in Munich waiting for this passage and enjoying a city that was and still is part of the engine of this great country.
I found Munich very much the same as I left it. Newer and fresher, way more cosmopolitan and maybe less conservative but still classy and very neat. Hard working and tidy, the German love order and here is the key to the amazing success of the totally defeated nation of the Second World War that leads Europe nowadays. Few old things remained in Munich after the bombardments and what was built in a rush after the war was ugly and very utilitarian but even those buildings were modernized and cleaned up and the center of the city looks today like a jewel taken from a gilded case. I met my very dear friends with whom I shared great moments there and they told me more about their life in Germany about which I knew just bits and pieces, I found the story very comforting, the same story of a comfortable life similar with the one I heard living there years ago. They think like all Europeans that life has to be equitable for all, all with their insurance, with some money at the retirement, all enjoying a safe even maybe not so affluent life. They were content and very appreciative at the entire system over all, understanding also the needs of a flexible job market, a process that was initiated years ago in Germany and is swiping the entire continent. For them and the Europeans in general, America is still as remote in understanding as it was 50 years ago. The amazing earning opportunities are perceived as shadowed by the lack of personal life that in Europe still exist in spite of the intense work schedule and commute time. The lack of medical insurance and the the prevalence of guns are issues that are completely inconceivable to most Europeans. But what I felt the most is that the Germany I knew, flexible and refreshed after these years, is the same as the one I lived in, the same Germany of a secure life and stability that confer to the European model a viability even today in spite of the sirens singing its demise. Of course the European social model is perceived with caution especially when the Germans have to pour money in countries that are obviously bankrupt first in mentality more than in finance.

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Hofbrauhaus, Munich

Munich pedestrian area was decorated for winter holidays, all buildings being covered in lights and a skating ring being very alive in Staccus Square. The churches and all buildings around were looking sparkling new and Hofbrauhaus was bustling with people. Marien Platz had its best Christmas tree in years right near the Rathaus Building and people dressed elegantly were promenading the exclusive Maximilien Strasse  going to the Opera to see Traviatta.
Munich was same as I left it 25 years ago. Maybe I just woke up after a long sleep…

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2014 in Blog, Germany