“Vergangen, vergessen, vorüber” screens at German Museum of History (DHM)

“Vergangen, vergessen, vorüber” (“Long-lost and Lay-Me-Down“) to be shown at the German Musuem of History (DHM) on November 8th, for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. On November 9th, 1989 the Berlin Wall ceased to be the border between East/West that it once was.
As a hiccup in the continuation of West Germany’s culture of “negative” celebration (see earlier post) the Deutsches Historisches Museum will show my film with Bruno S. (of Werner Herzog fame), shot during the period shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The series, “Borderland Berlin”, also includes films by Gordon Matta Clark, Ross McElwee, Helga Reidemeister… Currently the program’s website is only in German, at http://www.borderland.berlin
My text there is also available in english – see post/link at bottom of page.

Here is a 2-minute excerpt from the film:

p.s. For the nighthawks, the film will also be showing at Ex’ n’ Pop, Potsdamerstr. 157, Berlin on October 29th at 10 p.m. in the “redux” version (2013).

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Text for VVV: “Borderland Berlin”1989 Film Series at DHM

You could call the fall of the Berlin Wall a “peaceful revolution”, but you could also describe it as the result of an 80-year old war against the Soviet Union. The 9th of November, the Fall of the Wall, was a dark day for Bruno S. for personal reasons: he considered the GDR as the unloved child he himself once was. A perspective which is not so different from Heiner Müller’s statement that the GDR was nothing more than “a nursing home for former concentration camp victims and Communists”: no longer needed by the baby-boom generation.

In 1993, the year “Vergangen, vergessen, vorüber “ was made, criticism of German re-unification was considered tabu. For many foreigners living in Germany at the time, the suddenly re-discovered German national pride had an unsettling effect: a day, when the Germans tearfully embrace each other in joy on a historic occasion, usually was never a good day for world history.

Bruno S., an eternal outsider, artist, musician and actor always had a very critical, first-hand view of recent German history. So it was possible for me to quickly reach agreement with him, to make a film with this critical attitude in mind. Bruno had only one condition: his former experiences as an actor for Werner Herzog made him very distrusful of “film people”: he would appear in the film only if I did too. With this pre-condition, I found inspiration for the form of the film in Pasolini’s “Uccelacci e uccelini” (Hawks and Sparrows): an expedition of a teacher/pupil duo to the social/historical front-lines. The no-man’s-land of the former Berlin Wall would be our home ground. It was astonishing how quickly things were changing, how quickly history was frantically being erased: the huge Lenin statue was demolished, the center of the former GDR government, the “People’s Palace” was destroyed, to be replaced with a duplicate of an aristocatic castle. Dozens of streets were re-named because certain personalities had to vanish from new Berlin’s city map. We tried to find the logic behind this changing landscape.

Raven: Wouldn’t you like to speak like the others, to wear the same clothes
as them, eat the same food, drive the same car?
Ninetto: Sure! Do I look dumber than the others?

“Uccelacci e uccelini” Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1967

When the film was finished, it was invited only to festivals outside of Germany.The serious joyfulness of re-unified Germany was not inclined to appreciate the humour or critical aspects of Bruno’s lectures. So now the film is simply a historical document: the green fields of Potsdamerplatz with no shopping malls, the drama/traum(a) of a “New Germany”. And sadly, Bruno himself is no longer around.

(c) Jan Ralske 2014

ORIGNAL TEXT and SERIES PROGRAM available HERE.

Deutsche Version:

Man kann den Fall der Berliner Mauer am 9. November 1989 als “friedliche Revolution” bezeichnen, man könnte ihn aber auch als Ergebnis des 70-jährigen Krieges gegen die Sowjetunion interpretieren. Für Bruno S., ein ausgestoßenes Heimkind, war der 9. November aus anderen Gründen ein schwarzer Tag: er sah die DDR als ungeliebtes Kind, ähnlich wie Heiner Müller sie einmal beschrieben hatte, als “ein Pflegeheim ehemaliger KZ-Insassen und Kommunisten”, das für eine neue Generation ausgedient hätte.
Im Jahr 1993, als dieser Film entstand, war Kritik an der Wiedervereinigung unerwünscht. Für viele hier lebende Ausländer hatte der neue deutsche (National)Stolz etwas Beunruhigendes; ein Tag, an dem sich die Deutschen vor Freude in die Arme fielen, war nie ein guter Tag für die Weltgeschichte gewesen. Bruno S., der ewige Außenseiter, Künstler, Musiker und Schauspieler, hatte auch einen sehr kritischen Blick auf die jüngste deutsche Geschichte. Und so wurden wir uns schnell einig, darüber gemeinsam einen Film zu machen. Die einzige Bedingung von Bruno war, dass auch ich vor die Kamera treten müsse, denn inzwischen hatte Bruno wenig Vertrauen zu „Filmleuten”. Inspiration für die Form des Films fand ich in Pasolinis Uccellacci e uccelini: eine Expedition eines Lehrer-Studenten-Paares zur Erkundung der gesellschaftspolitischen Frontlinien. Das noch vorhandene Niemandsland in Berlin wurde zu unserer Heimat. Es war atemberaubend, wie schnell sich alles veränderte, wie schnell die Geschichte ausradiert wurde; der große Lenin am Leninplatz wurde zu einem Haufen Steine am “Platz der Vereinten Nationen”, der Palast der Republik wurde gesperrt und später abgerissen, dutzende Straßen umbenannt. In dieser Landschaft versuchten wir mit Bruno als Wegweiser eine Logik, ein Muster in den Ereignissen zu erkennen.

Rabe: Würde es dir denn Spaß machen, genauso zu reden wie die anderen, dieselben Kleider zu tragen, dasselbe zu essen und dasselbe Auto zu fahren?

Ninetto: Na sicher! Bin ich blöder als die anderen?

Uccellacci e uccelini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1967

Als der Film fertig war, wurde er fast ausschließlich zu Festivals im Ausland eingeladen. Im vereinten Deutschland dagegen passte er nicht ins (Selbst)Bild. Nun ist er zu einem historischen Dokument geworden, vom unbebauten Potsdamer Platz und vom Traum(a) eines „Neuen Deutschland“. Und auch Bruno gibt es nicht mehr.

65th Birthday and 25th Death-day for the German Democratic Republic

WEST GERMANY – a culture of negative celebrations

Recommended reading: a concise philosphical look at the motivation behind the never-ending demonization of the GDR, published in JUNGE WELT by Hagen Bonn. (original German)

He writes that the history of West Germany is the history of negative celebrations. Every year, we are reminded of June 17th (defeat of “rebellion” in GDR), then August 13th (division of Germany), then the 9th of November, as the Fall of the Berliner Wall but much more quietly that day is also the anniversary of the Nazi “Reichskristallnacht”…

We are supposed to associate the 3rd Reich and the GDR as equal negatives according to West German official history. The unasked question : is state-sanctioned facism really as dead (since May 8th,1945) as GDR socialism is supposed to be dead (since November 9th, 1989)?

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