Saturday, October 31, 2015

As We Were Dreaming (orig. Als wir träumten) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing

Leipziger Volkszeitung (N. Wehrstedt) review* (C. Reinhard) review*
Der Spiegel (H. Pilarczyk) review* (A. Platthaus) review (G. Hernandez) review* (A. Wilkenson) review
Hollywood Reporter (B. van Hoeij) review
Variety (J. Weissenberg) review (J. Schaaf) article about author Clemens Meyer*

As We Were Dreaming (orig. Als wir träumten) [2015] [IMDb] []*[CEu] (directed by Andreas Dresen [IMDb] []*[CEu], screenplay by Wolfgang Kohlhaase [IMDb] []*[CEu], based on the novel [GR]*[WCat]*[Amzn]* by Clemens Meyer [en.wikip] [dt.wikip]*[GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a remarkable, insightful, even at times "Happy Days [1974-84]-like" (though also often darker) reminiscence of someone who grew-up in Leipzig, in East(ern) Germany in the pivotal years around the fall of the Berlin Wall and with it Germany's reunification. The film played recently at the 2015 (51st Annual) Chicago International Film Festival.

The story is told through a fictionalized character named Dani (played as a 13-y.o. by Chiron Elias Krase [IMDb] and then four years later (how much difference the passage of four years can make...) as an 17/18-y.o. by Merlin Rose [IMDb] []*[CEu]).  Living with his mother (played by Melanie Straub [IMDb]) and growing-up in Leipzig along with his BFFs Rico, Mark, Pitbull and Paul (played as 13 y.o.s respectfully by Julius Nitschkoff [IMDb], Nico Ramon Kleemann [IMDb], Kilian Enzweiler [IMDb] and Henning Tadäus Beeck [IMDb]; and as 17-18 y.o. by Tom von Heymann [IMDb], Joel Basman [IMDb] []*[CEu], Frederic Haselon [IMDb] and Marcel Heuperman [IMDb]) when the world, his / their world, had changed so dramatically, the story is about how it was to cope with such changes.

And then, let's remember, that this was ALSO the time of their ADOLESCENCE / GROWING TO MATURITY.  So at 13, Dani had a close friend (who perhaps in other circumstances "could have become more") named Katja (played by Luna Rösner [IMDb]) and at 17-18 there was another girl named Sternchen (played by Ruby O. Fee [IMDb] []*[CEu]), who he was interested in, but always seemed "just out of his reach."

So Communism / post-Communism and hormones.  That's what the story seeks to present.  Does it?  That's for the viewer to ultimately decide.

The story begins, of course, with Dani, et al, growing up in what was still the GDR (East Germany).  Interestingly, the whole Regime is presented in a heavily paternalistic (but not necessarily Evil) sort of a way.

The various outside authority figures School Principal Singer (played by Ronald Kukulies [IMDb]), teacher Regine Siedler [IMDb] and "Pioneer leader", the 'Pioneers' being the compulsory Communist equivalent of the Scouts (played by Roman Weltzein [IMDb]) were all kind, arguably sincere but certainly _present_ in their lives in a way that would make a lot of Americans / Westerners uncomfortable:

(1) After Rico, whose "GDR military officer" father had left his mother for "some hussy in Berlin", set-afire his red pioneer sash in the bathroom "in protest" (because he was angry at his dad ...), it was DANI (Rico's best friend), who had in present to "the incident", who was brought before a very paternalistic school disciplinary board made-up of said Principal, Teacher, adult "Pioneer Leader" and Katja (star-student and probably "teacher's pet") as "pioneer / student representative", and (1) asked for his thoughts and (2) was arguably "recruited" to "look-after" Rico "for Rico's own welfare."  The incident was presented in a very hokey, paternalistic way ... but the implication was that DANI was being recruited "by the Regime" at its most "grass-roots level" to spy on his friend. 

(2) At a Civil Defense drill, a GDR Colonel (played by Andreas Keller [IMDb]) present, tells the students the importance of "mitdenken" ("thinking along" / "thinking as a team" basically "thinking the same ...")

(3) And at a school assembly held in response to the growing _silent protests_ that were famously taking place in Leipzig in the fall of 1989, the ever kind, again probably TOTALLY SINCERE Principal, flanked by the School Teacher and the adult Pioneer Leader (the latter far more visibly upset at the happenings in the city than the kindly / concerned Principal), explained to the kids that the "irresponsible marchers'" _increasing numbers_ "might cause one of the town's bridges to collapse causing many injuries" explaining why the authorities had to BLOCK OFF the bridges to the protesters, again "for their own good" ;-).  Sigh ... how much the regime of the old Communist GDR "cared ..." 

The experience though of the years that followed Communism's collapse, however, appeared to be exactly the opposite.

Yes with freedom came the possibility of acting on one's own initiative.  And so the five friends from Leipzig (being 17-18 year-olds) created a "really cool underground disco" in an abandoned factory at the edge of town near where they all lived.  Almost certainly, they didn't have the paperwork to create it to begin with.  But that wasn't really the problem.  What was the problem was that they proved "too successful" ... and so they come onto the radar of "the local mob" which _uses_ the gang led by a local loser turned now into a "freshly shaved" skinheaded / neo-Nazi thug named Kehlmann (played by Gerdy Zint [IMDb]) to try to muscle-in on the action.  The above mentioned love-interest Sternchen seems to "flutter-about" this rather primal testosterone-(and not much else)-driven milieu.  Hence Dani and his group seem to her to be rather cool, until the others come around and seem to be even cooler, even if "coolness" comes to become defined by simple / brute street strength.

Then there are also the temptations to just drink / drug oneself "into a peace" (of sorts).  And certainly a number of the Dani's friends start to peel away in that direction.

But what then to do?  All people in normal circumstances face / have to manage similar choices / temptations as they "leave the (parental) nest."  But there is a point to be made: Maturity in the 21st century ought not to be defined by being able to simply defend oneself (and one's loved ones) in a 21st century jungle of concrete and steel against crooks / mobsters and newly arisen neo-Nazi skinheaded bottom-feeders.  There ought to be more.

In any case, the film / story makes for a quite thought / discussion provoking tale.  Good job!

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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