BERLIN (AFP) – The Berlin film festival turned the spotlight Monday on the rise of neo-Nazis, amid the turmoil after the fall of the Wall, with the drama “As We Were Dreaming”.
The film, one of two German competition contenders looking at lost youth, is set in Saxony, the same east German region where the emergence of an anti-immigrant movement known as PEGIDA recently made international headlines.
Based on a bestselling novel by Clemens Meyer and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Andreas Dresen, it traces the lives of a group of schoolboys in Leipzig from the dying days of the communist regime until their early adulthood in the heady years after national reunification in 1990.
With factories closing and jobs in short supply, they dream of opening a techno club in one of the countless abandoned industrial spaces that became legendary around the world in the post-Berlin Wall years.
But they quickly run up against a brutal gang of far-right skinheads who aim to take over the booming drug trade that has taken hold in the city’s underground clubs.
A battle on the city’s streets ensues, with the friends trying to enlist the help of “anti-fascist” punks, mirroring a conflict that still plays out in the cities and towns of the ex-communist east.
Dresen, who grew up in East Germany, shared top honours at the Cannes film festival’s Un Certain Regard section in 2011 for his wrenching drama about terminal illness, “Stopped On Track”.
He said he was drawn to “As We Were Dreaming” for its incisive depiction of budding adulthood, as well as its unique take on a “wild, anarchic, chaotic” time in Germany when anything seemed possible.
“When I read the novel, I thought it was a universal story — growing up, saying goodbye to childhood, the time when you can crash or conquer the world, crossing boundaries — that is the privilege of youth,” Dresen, 51, told reporters after a press preview.
The second German film in competition at the 11-day festival, “Victoria”, generated strong buzz after its premiere.
Shot in a single take of two hours and 10 minutes, the film was directed by popular actor Sebastian Schipper and set in today’s Berlin, among the housing projects of the former West Germany near where the Wall once cleaved the city.
The young men in the group, like the crew in “As We Were Dreaming”, are seen rampaging through the city on a binge fuelled by alcohol and drugs.
The underclass youths have little to show for Germany’s current economic strength, and they join forces at an underground dance club with Spanish woman Victoria, one of the thousands of young people who have fled crisis countries for Berlin in recent years.
The gang owes a debt to an underworld kingpin, who uses Victoria to blackmail them into carrying out a bank heist for him that goes disastrously wrong.