Your 10th Audi Festival of German Films primer!

Guten Tag! The 10th Audi Festival of German Films officially opened on April 6th in Sydney and will run in all major cities during April. As with most foreign film festivals it can be hard to decide what to see in such a limited time frame, but fear not because we’ve got a sneak preview to help you out.

Vincent Wants to Sea (directed by Ralf Huettner) is a drama with a twist of comedy. Vincent suffers from Tourette’s syndrome and after the death of his mother his father sends him to an institution, the idea of caring for him not even an option. At the institution Vincent meets Marie, a young girl suffering from Anorexia; and he shares a room with Alex, an obsessive compulsive who provides the majority of the film’s laughs. Together the three steal a therapist’s car and escape in the night; their goal being to drive to Italy to see the sea.

This is an interesting film, starting out as a drama, moving into comedy and ending again as a drama. The film explores what it is to live as a young person with a mental or physical disorder and the barriers society creates for you as well as the barriers you create for yourself. At first refreshing, the film soon sways into familiar territory and while the lead performances are all enchanting, it’s not quite enough for the film to be consistently engaging.

Single by Contract was originally called Groupies Don’t Stay for Breakfast when released in Germany. Lila has just returned to Berlin from a year long exchange in America and has no idea who Berlin Mitte – the hottest band of the moment – are or why teenage girls are going crazy for them. When Lila meets Chriz she doesn’t know he is the lead singer of Berlin Mitte or that he’s contractually obligated to be seen as single. This doesn’t stop the two falling in love, though the course of true love, and a rockstar’s life, never does run smooth.

Single by Contract is a film for teenagers, or, for the young at heart. If made as an American film (and there are many similar films that come to mind) the protagonist could easily be played by the likes of Miley Cyrus or Amanda Bynes. Warning: only those who truly love their cheesy romantic comedies need apply. Still, you might be pleasantly surprised by this sugary treat.

Where did the bikini get its name? Sure, you could Google this and find out promptly but you’ll have much more fun watching the documentary Bikini Revolution (directed by Albert Knechtel, Kiko Ribeiro). Though the style of this documentary is something you would expect to see playing on SBS, it is an intriguing exploration into the itsy bitsy swimwear that revolutionised beach culture and marked a leap forward in women’s liberation.

From early century beach wear, to the invention of the bikini in 1946, to how pop culture welcomed and boosted the pint sized swimsuit, Bikini Revolution is a surprising film and one that should be sought out.

The Poll Diaries is a sweeping drama set just before the outbreak of the First World War. Based on the actual diaries of Oda Scheafer, a famed German writer and journalist, it sees 14-year-old Oda returning to her father in Poll, her family’s home on the Baltic Coast in Estonia. She brings with her the body of her mother and a jar filled with the foetuses of twins, a gift for her eccentric scientist father. While Russian military are cracking down on Estonian rebels, Oda soon meets Schnaps, a wounded Estonian anarchist, and secretly nurses him back to health.

This coming of age story by director Chris Kraus is as much an historical piece as it is an exploration of Oda’s relationship with her father; one that the two come to realise relies on their mutual interest in medicine and death. This is a visually arresting film, from the landscapes to the neoclassical family manor that sits atop stilts in the ocean; and it has many standout performances, though none quite as impressive as the young Paula Beer as Oda (a performance worthy of comparison to Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, or Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone). While there are some pacing issues and an indecisive director’s hand when it comes to the ending, The Poll Diaries is an engrossing and rewarding film.

Lastly, for the thrill seeker in you, Nanga Parbat (directed by Joseph Vilsmaier) journals the true story of brothers Reinhold and Günther Messner, who in 1970 set out to climb Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain. The expedition ended in tragedy when only one brother, Reinhold, returned; and the controversy of whether Günther died in an avalanche, or whether Reinhold abandoned him with altitude sickness, remains to this day a highly debated topic.

The film is as much a documentation of their extraordinary climb as it is a reflection on their childhood, shown through flashback sequences, and is a visual ode to the stunning landscape and unrelenting mountain. Unfortunately the striking scenery and tragic basis for this film is not carried through dramatically and the film falls flat continually, proving to be sluggish and disappointing. The film has also garnered criticism for the representation of several now-deceased climbers on the expedition, as well as the general poorness of the acting on show.

This is merely a taste test of the many and varied films showing during the festival, from current films to a retrospective selection covering 2001 – 2011 and also Radical Docs; the Audi Festival of German Films offers you something different for your night out at the movies.

Dates and session times can be found at the festival’s website and we’d love to hear your thoughts on any films you see during the festival.

Discuss: Any of these tickle your fancy?

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