Special Report By Andrea Chase
The third "Berlin and Beyond" film festival showcases a variety of films with little more in common than the German language. Here are some highlights.
If filmmaker Monica Treut had made only a narrative of the many lives and times of Eva Norwind, that alone would have made quite a film. Norwind, a robust Norwegian beauty, became both a Jayne Mansfield-style star and courtesan to the rich and powerful in Mexico during the sixties, a photographer and journalist in the seventies and in the eighties, she became New York's leading dominatrix. But Treut also delves into Norwind's complex inner life using candid interviews with her, her family, and their friends. The whys are every bit as fascinating as the whats in this graphic, enlightening and occasionally disturbing documentary.
The cultural differences between Switzerland and India are nothing compared to the culture shock experienced by a free thinking nineteenth century Swiss heiress and a hardy band of fundamentalists in "Fire in Paradise." She's fleeing a loveless marriage by trading places with a mail-order bride bound for the subcontinent. It's a fun adventure-romance with more trenchant social commentary than the genre usually supports.
The piece de resistance is a meticulously restored print of F.W. Murnau's 1926 silent masterpiece, "Faust." Working from several sources, Filmoteca EspaŅola has recreated Murnau's original mythic vision.
The story freely adapts Goethe's play and captures all the supernatural hi-jinks of Faust selling his soul to the devil in return for wisdom and youth. The special effects were spectacular for the time, but Emil Jannings as a zaftig, giddy Satan steals the show looking like a hybrid of a deranged teddy bear and a cockroach. It's an odd incarnation for the infernal trickster, but it works as he taunts, tempts, and whips up wicked cocktails on his mission of mayhem.
This being German expressionist cinema, Jannings is aided and abetted by looming shadows and bizarre lighting angles that set the eerie stage for this battle between Heaven and Hell.
"Berlin and Beyond" runs January 9 through the 15th. For more information, call the Goethe Institute at (415) 391-0370 or log on to the Goethe Institute homepage at www.goethe.de.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 1/7/98
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