Master of Directing: Small Films With a Big Heart

  • Andreas DresenNumerous are the reasons why this year’s Cinema City International Film Festival is organizing a retrospective, presenting the Ibis Award for Contribution to European Cinema and paying homage to German film director Andreas Dresen, once again joined by critics – members of FEDEORA, the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. In this manner we wish once again to draw the attention of the world-wide film public to this great master director who has managed, at every moment and in each one of his films, to remain true to himself, to his own ethics and aesthetics in his perception of the world, of human existence and everyday life.

    Our desire is to draw attention to one of the best contemporary European auteurs who, away from the noisy film world of festival red carpets, managed so quietly and almost modestly to impose his topics, his small films, with a big heart and with important messages of life. Also, to impose himself, as a director who elevated himself above the East German cinematographic cradle in which he was raised as a member of the last or lost generation of filmmakers in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

    Even though he has been present on the German and European film scene for more than three decades, even though his films keep winning the main awards, critics’ awards and audiences’ awards wherever they go, it seems as if Dresen still prefers to act in the background, almost subversively. He always miraculously manages to give difficult subjects a dimension of unexpected ease. To place a melodrama where it does not belong, to use a combination of bitterness, humor and endless affinity towards film heroes, to present complicated stories in such a simple and realistic manner.

    All of Dresen’s films, with his filmography being truly large, have a perfect feeling for ordinary life. They have an extremely open attitude to the everyday, on such problems as loneliness, unemployment, rejection, sickness, love and sex at an elderly age, alcoholism, and the inability to adapt to the prevailing rules of living… That is why audiences easily accept and like them, because they understand these films and feel them as their own since they are direct, clear, without artificial additions and without lies. It is for this reason that they are somehow semi-documentary, which have a maximal level of authenticity, achieved by Dresen with his special system of improvisation with actors.

    However, if you ask Andreas Dresen about the secret of the great success of his films among audiences and film critics, he will always refer to the support he has within the circle of his faithful friends-associates: screenwriters, directors of photography, actors and for many years his reliable and faithful producer Peter Rommel.
    Stopped on Track (Halt auf freier Strecke), dir. Andreas Dresen
    Personally, I like many of Dresen’s films: Nightshapes (Nachtgestalten), Grill Point (Halbe Treppe), Willenbrock, Summer in Berlin (Sommer vorm Balkon), Whiskey with Vodka (Whisky mit Wodka), but I must admit that my favorites are Cloud 9 (Wolke 9) and Dresen’s latest feature film Stopped on Track (Halt auf freier Strecke), which the Association of German film critics proclaimed, at this year’s Berlinale, the best German film in 2011 – even better than Wenders’ Pina.

    It is possible that Cloud 9 and Stopped on Track especially touched me because I am entering a certain age which, not so long ago, seemed so distant and so impossible. I admit that the possibility of such passionate physical love at an elderly age, as Dresen bravely and uncompromisingly presents to us in Cloud 9, gives me hope and fills me with optimism. Just as, after watching his latest film Stopped on Track, I view even death itself in a brighter light, because, quite miraculously, Dresen made parting from life fuller than life itself.

    This is something only a master of directing can do, and Adreas Dresen is truly a master.

    Dubravka Lakić
    film critic and film selector of CCIFF, Serbia