berlin: sinfonie der grosstadt

Berlin Sinfonie Poster

A grey day in Berlin. One of the manies in March. After sleeping long but without really wanting to go outside I read the programme of the Arsenal and found this little jewel of a silent movie that I have been wanting to see for a long time. Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt is a film by German experimental film director Walter Ruttmann, who employed a range of new visual and editing techniques to portray one day of Berlin. The “movie-track” to Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz in a way.

The film transfers you back in time into a city that does not exist like this anymore, the scene as the train enters the then imposing Anhalter Bahnhof might stand symbolically. Now, people play football on the fields where the rails used to be. Only a piece of wall remains to remind.

But more impressive than the portray of the lively, crowded and vibrating life of the modern Berlin of the 20′s, is the atmosphere and freshness of the film. The rhythm of the images suck you in and make you live the day yourself, get you working, have lunch, cross the street when there is a little space, and dance the nights in Berlin.

Modern times were the times of greasy machine turning and producing. And the metros passing and stopping spitting out people. Machines and traffic made the world. But also entertainment: I loved the hommage to Charlie Chaplin, whose shoes can be seen shortly on the movie screen. Chaplin took up the theme in his movie Modern Times in 1936.

But Ruttmann also showed the other side of the pulsating Berlin, the poor, the beggars, the homeless kids on the streets.

After this wonderful play of light and darkness, of images composed to be felt, I left the cinema to the rainy streets of the Leipziger Platz, surrounded by skyscrapers (built as in Berlin Babylon, 2001). Constructing my own movie of my Berlin.

You can watch the movie here.

Morning in Berlin, 2008

Morning in Berlin, 2008

With a bicycle in Tanger

I have been travelling a little bit this weekend, wandering Chefchouans beautiful medina and breathing the air of the Rif mountains chain at the ruins of an old Spanish built mosque. Today I arrived at Tanger, the border tozn in the north, new economic centre. Baptised the Interzone in the 50′s, where everything was allowed. I like the word; expressing so much more, describing the feeling of transit, of beeing between the worlds. Although Tanger actually appears more Arab. Curiously, the Instituto Cervantes will be opening an exhibition of the Mexican-American border, advertised with a picture of the border fence in Tijuana; this other famous border town on the American continent; Tijuana, welcome, where… Standing at a viewpoint in the Casbah, looking over the straight of Gibraltar, thinking of all the hopes, the dreams these places bear.

But here again I found a nice and very central movie theatre, inviting to watch the 7pm function of the Moroccan movie “Le Velo”, first full time feature  by Hamid Faridi (see an interview in French with him here). The theatre was, again, empty, but I enjoyed the movie:

The movie is set-up with a basic plot of telling the story of a father and its two daughters, of which one is handicapped who are faced with their evil uncle and the superintdendent of the local police, who want to get hold of the house the family lives in and owns. When the father’s health is getting worse through a heart attack, things turn into worse as the daughters face loosing the house to the uncle, only male in the family. There seems to be no way out until the handicapped daugther disappears with the sick father and the bicycle.

The second part of the movie is the stronger part of the story, turning into a dramatic-comic road movie with the whole police force, the daughter and her best friends chasing behind the missing. Le Velo criticises machism in Moroccan society, believing women to be helpless without a men and displaying everyday machism and the constraints society places upon them. The movie portrays strong women, fighting for their place and right. An atmospheric soundtrack flickers to the takes, catching the landscape and the faces of the characters (not always well focussed). A brave little movie that deserves definitely more audience.

advent calendar day 1

I have decided to prepare a little advent calendar picturing day-to-day life and mixing German Christmas culture with my days here in Rabat. Things that I do here, things that Moroccans do, and things that you may be doing at home as well. Today, and as a little follow-up to yesterday’s post, I have chosen to show you the movie theatre tickets.

1 December - Going to the movies

1 December - Going to the movies

Adieu Mères

There are few movie theatres in Rabat. The Institute Française shows movies in their little theatre on Saturday’s and Sunday’s at 6:30pm. But then there’s the theatre 7ème Art, just in the centre of the city. A quite modern building with a Bauhausian name sign above the entrance, at one side of a plaza next to the city centre’s main avenue Mohamed V.

Adieu Mères

Since I arrived two weeks ago, they have been showing the same movie, Adieu mères (Goodbye Mothers) by Mohamed Ismail, his fourth film. If you have a look at the poster, you might not necessarily feel very attracted to go see it. But entrance is 15 Dirham (1 Euro 50), it’s part of Moroccan culture, and it deals with a topic, Jewish emigration in the 60′s, that is being discussed recently in Morocco and was on the cover of one of the main weekly magazines, TelQuel, that titled last week: The Jew in Us (story in French). So tonight was the night. Function was on at 9pm, as every night. I went with a friend and we got our ticket from the ticket counter, right next to the entrance that leads directly into the one big hall, with the hallway in the middle (where usually the best seats are). Comfortable, red, slightly run-down and squeaking seats. But it gives you this feeling of a movie theatre. Not a multiplex, but really a place to appreciate a film. Not many were there to appreciate tonight’s function though. It started of with a Moroccan short movie, called Liberé Provisoire that although with some parts in Arabic, had a nice little plot of a man who leaves prison, picks up the money he had hidden, and looses it when he goes into a bar following a woman making him eyes… and a surprising ending.

Adieu Mères is telling the story of a Jewish community in Morocco, filmed on the background of Jewish emigration to Israel in the 60s, where a thousand year long history of Jewish population exists. Today only about 2,000 remain, while in 1950 there were nearly 250,000 on 10 million Moroccans. The story turns around the impossible love between a young Jewish girl and the Muslim boy, and a father, who feels he has to leave family and his best friend behind for a better living.

The film is tragic, very tragic and touches on the deepest feelings of human nature, home (what we call in German “Heimat”), friendship, love, sorrow, and family. It is different in a sense that it doesn’t use the acting, cutting and story telling in a way we are used, and the score is somewhere between Once upon a time and Titanic, but the feelings can be understood anywhere. So I’ll be back for more, whenever the programme may change.

By the way, the movie is nominated for best foreign movie for next year’s Oscars celebration and talking about Hollywood, for Hollywood movies go to the Medina, where the latest can be found for just 10 Dirham (about 1 Euro). One might think sometimes even before they are out in the USA.