Christian Petzold

Started by wilder, July 02, 2012, 06:35:20 PM

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Christian Petzold was born September 14, 1960, in Hilden, as the oldest of three sons. He grew up in Haan, where he went to school and finished his high school degree in 1979. After finishing civil service, Christian Petzold went to Berlin in 1981 and started to study German studies and dramatics at Freie Universität Berlin. After his graduation in 1989, Petzold continued to study at Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (dffb). During his studies, Christian Petzold worked as an assistant director for Hartmut Bitomsky and Harun Farocki – who contributed to all of Petzold's later feature films – and worked as a film critic for several newspapers and magazines.

After several short films, including Süden and Das warme Geld, Petzold finished his graduation film for dffb, Pilotinnen, in 1994. The film production company Schramm Film Koerner & Weber participated in the production of Pilotinnen and Petzold continued to collaborate with the production company.

In 2000, Petzold followed his critically praised TV movies Cuba Libre and Die Beischlafdiebin with the movie production Die innere Sicherheit (The State I Am In). Besides the German movie award in Gold for best film, the intense drama about a young adolescent and her parents who are wanted as terrorists won numerous awards and finally turned Christian Petzold into one of the most influential filmmakers of contemporary German cinema.

Theatrical Films

Transit (2018) - US Blu-ray
Phoenix (2014) - Criterion Blu-ray, UK Blu-ray
Barbara (2012) - Blu-ray from Kino
Jerichow (2008) – Cinema Guild DVD
Yella (2007)  - Cinema Guild DVD, also available from Artificial Eye (superior transfer)
Gespenter (2005) – Cinema Guild DVD
Wolfsburg (2003) – German DVD (no subtitles)
The State I Am In (2000) – Cinema Guild DVD


Polizeiruf 110 - "Tatorte" (2018)  (Season 47 Episode 8) - no official release
Polizeiruf 110 - "Wölfe" (2016) (Season 45 Episode 4) - no official release
Polizeiruf 110 - "Kreise" (2015) (Season 44 Episode 3) - no official release
Beats Being Dead (2011) – German Blu-ray (no subtitles)
Something to Remind Me (2002) – German DVD (no subtitles)
Die Beischlafdiebin (1998) – no official release
Cuba Libre (1996) – no official release
Pilotinnen (1995) – no official release

Short Films

Das warme Geld (1992) - no official release

Documentaries on Petzold

Der Filmemacher Christian Petzold AKA Kinomagazin: Passages - The Filmmaker Christian Petzold (2005) – no official release

Articles and Interviews

The Cinema of Identification Gets on my Nerves: An Interview with Christian Petzold
Passages - The Filmmaker Christian Petzold or PDF (translated)
Intensifying Life: The Cinema of the Berlin School by Marc Abel

Interview - with MMeansMovie
Interview - for Jerichow
Interview - for Jerichow with Schnitt
Interview - for Yella with TimeOut London
Interview - for Yella with Sign and Sight
Interview - Christian Petzold, Hans Fromm (DP), and Bettina Böhler (Editor) for Gespenter (PDF)

Yella Essay – German Desire in the Age of Venture Capitalism by Marc Abel
Gespenter Director's Notes

Video Interviews

Brief video interview for Jerichow

Short Video Essay – Deceptive Surfaces: The Films of Christian Petzold


Article from the Goethe Institut.

In the Realm of the Shades: Christian Petzold's Films

Christian Petzold, native son of provincial Germany, paints a very precise picture of small-town life in his films: witness his latest, "Jerichow", which hit German cinemas in early 2009.

If one had to say what's distinctive about Christian Petzold's films, it might be that he gives a more exact picture of Germany than anyone else. You can't helping feeling that, if in a hundred ears someone wanted to know what it was like here at the beginning of the millennium, all they'd have to do is watch Die innere Sicherheit or Gespenster, Yella or Jerichow. And that's like as not the reason why he's the only German director whose every motion picture has been screened at major festivals, whether at the Berlinale or the Venice Biennale, which focus more than other festivals on films that are somehow edifying, somehow revealing, about their country of origin.

Searching for his own angle on the world

So Petzold's own provenance may signify: he was born in Hilden, North Rhine-Westphalia, in 1960, and grew up in neighbouring Haan: two small towns between Düsseldorf and Solingen, in his own words "a petty-bourgeois in-between part of Germany sectioned up into terraced houses and housing estates, a dormitory suburb with a big junction box and a pond at the town library where you sit on the bench with a couple beers of an evening and tell stories." He says he's always been interested in exploring what it means to have spent his youth there and searching for his own angle on the world and on life.

At least that was reason enough for him to head off for Berlin at 20 to study at the German Academy of Film and Television (Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie, dffb), graduating in 1994 with a TV movie called Pilotinnen ("Pilots"). Had the movie reached more than just a TV audience, Petzold's exceptional talent would have been spotted back then: it tracks two travelling perfume saleswomen of different ages trying to hold on to their dreams between cheap hotels, roadhouses and small town drugstores. What was new about the picture was not the focus on the dreariness of their everyday existence, but a curiosity about living conditions that tend to get sketchy treatment, at best, in other German films. After two more pictures for television, Cuba Libre and Die Beischlafdiebin, Petzold made the breakthrough into the world of German cinema – and to the Venice Biennial with Die innere Sicherheit ("The Inner Security" aka "The State I Am In").

The ghost of terrorism

That was back in 2000, and the film did a brilliant job of bridging the chasm between the Neuer Deutscher Film (New German Cinema), which in the 1970s had made no bones of its sympathies for the RAF (Red Army Faction), and the present age, in which terrorism can be viewed in historical perspective. "The State I Am In", about a terrorist couple who go underground in Portugal, is told from the viewpoint of their daughter, who yearns for nothing more than the normal life of a teenager. Petzold was the first to call the ghost of terrorism by its proper name, something a whole generation of German filmmakers before him had shrunk from doing, and he encapsulated it in the story of a family seeking a place to call home between the legacy of Germany's past and present-day German reality in the new millennium.

In his subsequent TV feature, Toter Mann ("Dead Man" aka "Something to Remind Me"), Petzold pays homage to Helmut Käutner's forgotten masterpiece Unter den Brücken ("Under the Bridges"), which attempted a kind of flight from Nazi reality into poetic realism in the penultimate year of the war. And that Petzold's his first picture with Nina Hoss, who was to become his leading lady and his muse of sorts.

In Wolfsburg she confronts the hit-and-run driver who ran over her son, but for Petzold the drama is not more important than the setting – hence his refusal to move the story to Ingolstadt to get federal funding: he was interested in the special atmosphere in the test-tube town of Wolfsburg, its drawing-board architecture that strives to find just the right procrustean form for everyday life, which is constantly eluding it, however, whether through a tragic accident or otherwise.

Homeless spirits

The "in-between Germany" Petzold conjures up is by no means a wilful fabrication, but the real lie of the land once you get past its tourist sights. But German filmmakers generally avoid these parts of the country, where there is supposedly nothing to see: only Petzold feels at home in this "in-between" realm, which provides the ideal backdrop for his homeless spirits.

So it is in Gespenster ("Ghosts"), in which his heroines find an unlikely home in the surreal architecture of Potsdamer Platz. Or in Yella, set in depopulated Eastern Germany, whose anonymous hotel and office buildings provide a home for a woman who is no longer of this world. Or now in Jerichow, which replays the story of Visconti's Ossessione between currywurst stands and the Baltic Sea strand in the deserted town of Prignitz. Nina Hoss – in the lead once again – plays a woman who, to escape a shady past, weds an older Turkish small-time businessman – only to fall for a younger man, whom she then lures into committing murder. A drama of passion at first glance – but on closer scrutiny we find it is the landscape that tells the real story: windswept Prignitz in-between Berlin and the Baltic.

And so Christian Petzold wends his solitary way through this "in-between" land of the shades, which he treats with touching and trenchant tenderness – though it is always a matter of life and death.

Michael Althen (1962–2011)
worked as film editor for the German newspaper FAZ and directed the film "Auge in Auge - Eine deutsche Filmgeschichte" (with Hans Helmut Prinzler).

Translation: Eric Rosencrantz
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion


Match Factory rises with Petzold's Phoenix
via ScreenDaily

EXCLUSIVE: German sales outfit The Match Factory has launched sales on Phoenix, the new feature from Silver Bear winning director Christian Petzold.

The film, at financing stage and due to shoot in the autumn, will again star Petzold's regular collaborator Nina Hoss, who also appeared in Yella (2007), Jerichow (2008) and in last year's Berlinale and box-office success Barbara (2012).

The Match Factory has already sealed pre-sales for France (Diaphana), Benelux (A-Film), Italy (BIM) and Switzerland (Look Now!). Further territories are expected to be concluded in Cannes.

While Barbara was set in the German Democratic Republic of the early 1980s, Phoenix goes back to the post-Second World War era, focussing on a woman who has survived the Holocaust. Presumedly dead, she returns home under a new identity to find out if her husband betrayed her.

Hoss stars alongside Ronald Zehrfeld.

"We are looking forward to another cooperation with Florian Koerner von Gustorf and Michael Weber of Schramm Film," said Match Factory MD Michael Weber (no relation).

"We have worked with Christian Petzold on four films now are excited and confident about the reception of Phoenix on the international market."

Barbara was a big seller for The Match Factory, going to 40 territories and generating significant box-office receipts worldwide.


PDF for Gespenter containing extended interviews with Petzold, his cinematographer Hans Fromm, and his editor Bettina Böhler detailing their work process.


MoMA is doing a Berlin School retrospective this month, and along with the event they've published a great new book full of color photographs and essays by the filmmakers themselves.

I took some pictures of the introduction, as this book seems a perfect response to what Pubrick posted in the Barbara thread over a year ago.

Quote from: Pubrick on September 01, 2012, 08:48:21 PM
the interviews were fun to read, the first one was one of the most intellectual discussions I've read in promotion of a film. You'd never see an American director talk like that about movies, not outside a specialized documentary anyway, like Scorsese given free rein to talk about his favourite colours and where he got them from.

There's a trend in serious European films where they always feel like they were made for a university course.. from Burnt By The Sun, to The Lives Of Others, even with contemporary films like those of Fatih Akin that have nothing to do with the Soviet era.. anywhere you look they all have this component of political and historical context that is often very obvious and intentionally put there to be discussed.

If anyone wonders why all these "boring" European dramas always win so many awards overseas and then get crammed into the foreign film category in the Oscars, it's not cos they're boring,  just that American audiences have no idea how to approach them.


Beginning around 15 years ago, a loose affiliation of scholars, writers and filmmakers living in Berlin began presenting films that offered a new, aesthetically driven form of political cinema. Abandoning the post-totalitarian context embraced by most commercially popular German films at the time, these films pursued a stylized realism to explore and address a national crisis of identity and purpose. Films like Christian Petzold's Die Innere Sicherheit (The State I Am In) and Angela Schanelec's Mein langsames Leben (Passing Summer) marked the first movement within German cinema to push the art form forward since filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog and Margarethe von Trotta established New German Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. Published to accompany the first extensive screenings of these films in the United States, The Berlin School presents an engrossing overview of the movement. Essays by curators, film critics and filmmakers associated with the Berlin School place the movement in a larger historical context and examine the influence of collaborative communities that developed around the Berlin Film Festival. Building on MoMA's long history of research around German cinema, The Berlin School provides a foundation for new scholarship on contemporary German filmmaking.

The Berlin School: Films from the Berliner Schule - Amazon


Quote from: repeat, Criterion ForumPetzold's latest work Kreise (Circles) was aired in Germany last Sunday, it's available for viewing online with German subs (wait, see below) until next Sunday. It's a part of the long-running Polizeiruf 110 cop series, but is for all intents and purposes a stand-alone Petzold film - maybe not a major one, but with all familiar obsessions present and accounted for: work, love and money, forests, cars (the central one, of course, a red one), surveillance cameras - and even a new one: model railways! Killer needle drops (diegetic as always) too, as per usual. Also his funniest dialogue so far.

The story and dialogue is fairly easy follow with the German subs for anyone with any grasp of the language, but for those interested, I'm four-fifths through with translating the subtitles into English, should have them online tomorrow (unless they start debating Heidegger in the last 20 minutes, that is).

There's a good German-language interview in epd-Film, where he also mentions that he's already written a sequel, and mentions the reference films for both Kreise (Le Petit lieutenant, Claude Miller's Garde à vue, and Journey to Italy) and the sequel (Klute, Ferrara's Dangerous Game and Creature from the Black Lagoon - now THIS should be something to look forward to!)


Interview begins at 1:38 (in English)

There's also a new book on Petzold by Jaimey Fisher


Quote from: The Los Angeles TimesThe eerie mood and questions raised by "Phoenix" have intrigued Petzold. He said his next film will be set in the 1940s in the French town of Marseille as refugees hide and hurry to catch boats to Mexico as the German army closes in. Part of him, he said, wants to capture the aura and verve of German filmmakers, such as Fritz Lang and Max Ophüls, who fled to America to escape Hitler.

"The light from Germany went to the U.S.A. in the 1930s," he said. "We have to bring the light and style back to Germany, especially the noir which was created by Austrian and German refugees."


'Barbara' & 'Phoenix' Director Christian Petzold To Helm Refugee Drama 'Transit'
via The Playlist

Petzold will direct an adaptation Anna Seghers's classic novel, "Transit." Set at the cusp of WWII after Germany invades France, the story follows a man who escapes a Nazi concentration and flees to Marseilles, where he's tasked with an assignment that will bring him an intimate understanding of the plight of refugees. Here's the book synopsis:

Having escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in Germany in 1937, and later a camp in Rouen, the nameless twenty-seven-year-old German narrator of Seghers's multilayered masterpiece ends up in the dusty seaport of Marseille. Along the way he is asked to deliver a letter to a man named Weidel in Paris and discovers Weidel has committed suicide, leaving behind a suitcase containing letters and the manuscript of a novel. As he makes his way to Marseille to find Weidel's widow, the narrator assumes the identity of a refugee named Seidler, though the authorities think he is really Weidel. There in the giant waiting room of Marseille, the narrator converses with the refugees, listening to their stories over pizza and wine, while also gradually piecing together the story of Weidel, whose manuscript has shattered the narrator's "deathly boredom," bringing him to a deeper awareness of the transitory world the refugees inhabit as they wait and wait for that most precious of possessions: transit papers.


The first reviews of Transit, which premiered yesterday at Berlin


'Transit' Review: Christian Petzold's Beguiling Refugee Romance Is Like a Kafkaesque 'Casablanca' — Berlinale 2018
February 17, 2018
By David Ehrlich

The director of "Phoenix" rises from the ashes with another beguiling drama about the specter of fascism.

A man arrives in purgatory, eager to learn his eternal fate. The divine judgement, however, is slow to arrive. The minutes turn to hours, the hours turn to days, and the days begin to blur together in a place where time has no meaning. Eventually, after what feels to him like a hundred years, the man begs for a verdict. "What are you talking about?" comes the reply. "You've been in hell since you got here."

That grim parable is told to Georg ("Happy End" breakout Franz Rogowski) roughly halfway into Christian Petzold's "Transit," and yet the poor bastard doesn't seem to realize that it's about him. The inscrutable hero of an inscrutable film that unfolds like a remake of "Casablanca" as written by Franz Kafka, Georg has just escaped occupied Paris by the skin of his teeth, stowing away on a train to the port of Marseille. He doesn't have much left to his name, and even that has become a luxury he can't afford; in fact, Georg's only hope for safe passage to Mexico is to assume the identity of a writer named Weidel, who committed suicide and left behind his visa papers. Georg's ship is scheduled to sail in three weeks, but who knows what that means in a nightmare like Marseilles, where the only people welcome are those who can prove they're leaving, and even the year is impossible to determine.

And so we arrive at the driving conceit behind Petzold's beguiling "Transit," which the "Phoenix" director has boldly adapted from Anna Seghers' 1944 novel of the same name: The film is unstuck in history. Unlike the source material, it doesn't take place in World War II, or even establish that World War II ever happened. The Nazis are still German, but they've been re-branded as generic fascists. And yet, while it was clearly shot on the streets of modern-day France (the roads hum with electric cars, and the cinematography isn't aged in any way), Petzold's telling isn't necessarily set in the present. Digital technology is nonexistent, and the most relevant cultural reference comes when Georg mentions "The Dawn of the Dead" (and not even Zack Snyder's version, one would assume).

This temporal confusion is never explicitly addressed, Petzold regarding his premise with the blunt senselessness of a dysfunctional bureaucracy. Wedged somewhere between fact and allegory, "Transit" trains one eye on the past and one eye on the present, until — like a Magic Eye illusion — they blur together in the middle, creating a new image that belongs to both and neither. Every refugee crisis is different, and every refugee crisis is the same.

What variations there are can be hard to spot, as the greatest commonality between exiles of various eras is that all of them are made to feel invisible. The dead are buried, but the desolate are just left to rot on the street. Watching Petzold's characters mill about the sweaty visa offices and trap-like motels of Marseilles, the most crucial quote from Ai Weiwei's "Human Flow" comes to mind: "Being a refugee is the most pervasive kind of cruelty that can be exercised against a human being. You are forcibly robbing this human being of all aspects that would make this human life not just tolerable, but meaningful in many ways."

It's that stranded, existential meaninglessness that Petzold is aiming to achieve, albeit it in a roundabout way that avoids contemporary signifiers as though they would only get in the way. Little distinction is made between the various refugees; the white characters might be granted a certain hope of getting across the ocean, but everyone is ultimately in the same boat. Even the people who manage to secure a magic visa for the transatlantic voyage all seem to wind up back in the same bar, having been displaced by army officers or foiled by some other cosmic occurrence.

Inevitably, people fall in love just to pass the time, at least until they learn that time doesn't pass. A dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix (all the way down to the scar above his upper lip), Georg keeps crossing paths with a mysterious brunette named Marie (Paula Beer), who likes to tap him on his shoulder before running away. Marie is shacking up with a mustached doctor (Godehard Giese), but it's hard to parse the geometry between them, even as the characters begin to sort themselves into a halfhearted triangle. As Seghers once described the situation, this is a story in which "Two men fight over a woman, but the woman in fact loves a third man, who is already dead."

It's a predicament with no satisfying resolution, just a lot of uninterested flirtation and empty acts of sacrifice. "Transit" isn't much of a comedy, but it only gets funnier as the surreality of its premise takes hold, and every attempt at leaving Marseille ends in morbid amusement. Imagine if Ilsa and Laszlo's plane exploded on its way out of Casablanca, and the pair of them just showed up at Rick's the next day like it was the natural thing to do.

And yet, the more that Petzold's film finds its rhythm, the more you feel the absence of any greater emotional undertow. These characters never become more than ciphers for some abstract horror, their humanity only bubbling to the surface when the narrator (the local bartender, of course) begins to describe his memory of them. It's only during these brief moments that we can fully appreciate Georg's disarray or the contours of Marie's crisis.

Petzold may not care about any of that, but his version of "Transit" is made to contend with obstacles that Seghers never introduced into the source material, and the film's main gimmick — more successful than not — compounds the extent to which these characters were slippery constructs to begin with. The result is a film that lucidly traces the specter of fascism (never extinguished, always waiting to exhale), and how unreal it feels for it to cast its shadow across Europe once more. It's also a film that feels stuck between stations, so doggedly theoretical that it borders on becoming glib. Once you realize that Georg is trapped in hell, there's nowhere for his story to go.


'Transit' and the state of aimlessness
February 18, 2018
By Kareem Baholzer

Christian Petzold tells emotionally rich, often female-led stories, which he intertwines closely with the settings they are located in. But he is most of all known for the stunning conclusions of his narratives – these moments have often been considered the best parts of his work, films like Phoenix and Barbara seem to only come full circle during their last beats. The reason for that, is Petzold's way of letting the temporal and spatial aspects of the narrative fade into the background for a moment, narrowing his gaze down on the humanist, universal and timeless truths that the characters are confronted with.

With Transit, a mainly Marseille-set story about a man that gets caught up in complications of love and identity while trying to flee Europe as a refugee, it seems like he wants to reshape the way he tells these stories – the film is a logical and very bold step forward in the context of his body of work.

The film is an adaptation of Anna Segher's World War II novel with the same name, but while the narrative is similar in general plot points and dialogue, the film removes it from its original historical context and reframes it into a modern-day setting. One would expect Petzold to adjust the story to that new setting, but he doesn't. It's very strange and feels borderline kafkaesque, but it works immensely well. The narrative manages to comment on its real-life context by highlighting universality instead of being specifically descriptive – the refugees of today's Europe get a part of their story told too, even though the book template is broadly based on the experiences of refugees more than 70 years ago.

Petzold shows what a visionary auteur he truly is. Transit is a grand (and maybe all-time great) humanist elegy to the state of aimlessness and uncertainty, that manages to capture parts of the mindset of refugees in the same breath as the deeply resonant, human feeling of being in a state of limbo – there is no way back, and the future is a puzzle. This also ties into the main theme that flows through Christian Petzold's body of work, the mystery of identity. As an example: In a 2012 interview for Zeit Online about Barbara, the director linked the concept of identity to the way humans function in the system – in terms of interhuman connection, but especially related to how western women have for many years been defined through their work, since societal constructs and expectations pressured their identities into certain templates and left little room for individualism.

But in every single one of his other works too, the mystery and the essence of identity, how they shift and get lost, found and re-invented, play a huge role in the characters lives. Transit once again examines this theme, it portrays how with fleeing there also is a desire to reinvent oneself in a way that has some sort of self-owned control. The necessity of reinvention after one's life gets disrupted unwillingly is obvious. But the will for a good life in the future, a life that is not anymore controlled by chance and the cruelty of the world, but by oneself is even greater.

Petzold introduces this theme through the attendance of love, the journey these characters are going on is one that seems much easier through mutual, real love – something that is not bound to circumstances, something that exists in a vacuum and that is connected to the mentioned control. He poses the question: Is there a point in a continuation of life without a perspective of love? For the characters there isn't. A sense of security that love brings is needed as the stepping stone for a Transit in life – the next level of uncertainty in life seems pointless without a checkpoint, without a purpose. But it also means letting go of the past, of past loves, of past emotions – something that is difficult by nature. These complications accompany the story that Transit tells, and finally define it in its final act.

Marseille, a city shaped by its position close to the sea, a city that encapsulates a port atmospherically and visually (and in this case also thematically), is the perfect setting for this narrative, and Petzold manages to give it a warm and quiet texture that is permanently confronted by the urgency of the narrative. It's a visually understated film, but it looks beautiful and it also finds some beauty in that aimlessness that the narrative brings. Uncertainty is a part of the human condition and its something very natural, and thus – in its own way – beautiful. Cafés play a huge role in the setting, they are the place where people meet, where connections are made and lost, where many things happen on the inside. They portray some sort of hope for the future, since you never know who is gonna come through the door in the next moment.

In the next big role after her breakout in Francois Ozon's Frantz, Paula Beer shines as Marie, a woman clinging onto the remains of the past. The searching nature that shapes her aura, is permanently reaching through the screen. She has a face that works like a landscape, every emotion she feels can be seen and felt. Beer's acting is so accomplished, because she knows exactly how to work her expressive face, and it's hard to imagine anyone else in her place. Her presence is a part of the narrative, since it explains why Georg, played by rising star Franz Rogowski, feels so connected and fascinated by her, besides the bigger narrative-based reasons that play into their relationship. Latter captures his character to an all-encompassing extent, he fluidly transforms himself into Georg, his face and his interactions permanently radiate the uncertainty that defines his character. The casting of these leads is perfect in its complementariness, like two damaged fragments they fit together in some way, even though its not clear in which one exactly.

I feel like Transit might get the acclaim it truly deserves only over time, being a very unusual film that might be easier digestible on a rewatch – but all the same, I do think that this is an incredible work of art, one that works through strong human emotions, and an incredibly innovative attempt at storytelling, only possible within the realm of cinema. It's one of the most interesting and accomplished dramas I have seen in a long time, but it's also a monument of empathy towards the people that are currently confronted with the reality of the state of Transit, not only from an allegorical perspective, but from a literal one.


by theomac93:

Off the back of career high (and also his first film not to premiere in Germany in years) Phoenix, veteran director Christian Petzold returns to Competition at Berlinale with an anti-thriller that blends American noir sensibility with the moralising of Michael Haneke. Transit takes place in an alternate present (or maybe past) where Germany is still in power after world war 1, and is rounding up refugees and dissidents. The man with Joaquin Phoenix's mouth and Jean Paul Belmondo's nose, Franz Rogowski, plays a concentration camp survivor who stays safe with the identity of a dead writer, something like Morvern Callar, except where Lynne Ramsey takes her character into uncharted territory, Petozld plants his firmly in a circular and liminal world. Phoenix has a masterful screenplay where the protagonist returns from a concentration camp with facial reconstruction surgery and her lover does not recognise her, yet in Transit the character is anonymous, has only intentions of fleeing to Mexico, and emotion is substituted for concerns of male transience and nihilism.

Crucially, there are no attempts to change or hide the film's contemporary reality, so present-day Marseilles is depicted exactly as we know it, with Napoletana pizza on the menu and kids in polyester football shorts. The effects of this are twofold: we are reminded of humanity's rush to declare its hands as clean of the mess of human history after the war, and how in this century we have seen the treatment of immigrants and refugees in Europe revert to a similar standard of that in Nazi Germany. In this sense, Petzold's film is moralistic, although the urgency of this is perhaps tampered by the sun-bleached noir aesthetic relating to the harassed mind of Rogowski's protagonist. He is like if Robert Mitchum's masculine self-assurance dissipated into the preoccupation of rolling cigarettes. The film also features the mould of a femme fatale, Paula Beer, who as an actor is able to convey feelings of nostalgia and vulnerability, but as a character serves more as a means of supplying feeling behind the male's expressionless mask. Transit falters because its appeal to modern morality gets derailed by a love relationship already better articulated by Phil Marlowe: "to say goodbye is to die a little".


I saw transit in Berlin and I thought it was incredible. That said, all of those reviews say way too much and  over explain what they think the movie is trying to do. The ehrlich review strikes me as particularly awful.  I knew nothing going into this and I think that's how it should be!

Edit: after re reading the reviews, it's really only the ehrlich review that one should avoid.

Just Withnail

You still in Berlin JG? Let's grab coffee or drinks.


Christian Petzold: The State We Are In, the Largest U.S. Retrospective of the Acclaimed German Director, Begins November 30
By Jordan Raup
via Film Society at Lincoln Center


Quote"Petzold refuses movie clichés as strongly as he does political orthodoxy. At once regionally specific and a student of all cinema, he draws on numerous traditions and makes them his own." – Manohla Dargis

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces Christian Petzold: The State We Are In, the largest U.S. retrospective to date of the acclaimed German director, featuring his shorts, features, and rarely seen television work alongside a selection of films that have influenced him, November 30 – December 13.

A founding member of the loose movement known as the Berlin School, Christian Petzold makes films that are like no one else's. At once intricately engaged with the real world and steeped in cinema history, his works radically reimagine such genres as film noir, thriller, melodrama, and the spy drama, offering narrative mysteries, enigmatic protagonists immersed in even more enigmatic circumstances, an incomparable sense of atmosphere and style, and surprising links between Germany's turbulent past and its fragile present. The expanse of his career to date—including several inventive films made for television—affirms his status as one of contemporary cinema's premier directors, and the Film Society is honored to host Petzold in person for this retrospective.

Highlights of Christian Petzold: The State We Are In include the director's collaborations with German actress and frequent muse Nina Hoss, including Jerichow, Wolfsburg, and Something to Remind Me; Cuba Libre, a television variation on the 1945 noir Detour; the genre-bending Beats Being Dead (NYFF49), made for the miniseries Dreileben; Barbara (NYFF50), a Cold War thriller centered around a doctor planning to flee East Germany for Denmark; The State I Am In, Ghosts, and Yella, the films that make up his Ghosts trilogy; and a sneak preview of his latest masterwork, Transit (NYFF56), a haunting, conceptually daring portrait of a refugee based on German author Anna Seghers's 1944 novel Transit. In addition to his features, the retrospective will offer a selection of Petzold's short film work, including the experimental Süden, screening with his film school graduation project Pilots, and Where Are You, Christian Petzold?, screening alongside the exquisitely crafted Phoenix.

The series also includes a program dedicated to Petzold's late friend and collaborator Harun Farocki, featuring screenings of Farocki's The Interview (a source text for The Sex Thief) and Nothing Ventured (an inspiration for Yella), as well as Carte Blanche: Christian Petzold Selects, a selection of six films chosen by Petzold that have inspired his own work. Titles include Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running, François Truffaut's penultimate film The Woman Next Door, Joachim Trier's Oslo, August 31st, Xavier Beauvois's The Young Lieutenant, and John Berry's He Ran All the Way, paired with Jean Renoir's A Day in the Country.

Organized by Dennis Lim and Dan Sullivan. Presented in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, with support from German Films.

Tickets go on sale November 16, and are $15; $12 for students, seniors (62+), and persons with disabilities; and $10 for Film Society members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package or All-Access Pass.

 Austrian Filmmuseum; Judith Revault d'Allonnes — Centre Pompidou; Deutsche Kinemathek; Goethe-Institut; German Films Service + Marketing GmbH; Institut français; The Match Factory; Music Box Films; Schramm Film


All screenings will take place in the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th St.) unless otherwise noted.

Christian Petzold, Germany, 2012, 35mm, 105m

German with English subtitles

Set in 1980, the first chapter of Petzold's trilogy "Love in Times of Oppressive Systems" centers around a doctor—played by the incomparable Nina Hoss, in her fifth film with the director—exiled to a small town from East Berlin as punishment for applying for an exit visa from the GDR. Planning to flee for Denmark with her boyfriend, Barbara remains icy and withdrawn around her colleagues, particularly with the lead physician (the excellent Ronald Zehrfeld), who is hiding a secret of his own. With her patients, however, the guarded doctor is kind, warm, and protective, even risking her own safety for one of her charges. Masterfully controlled and totally absorbing, this Cold War thriller expertly details the costs of telling and withholding the truth. Courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.

Tuesday, December 11, 7:00pm

Thursday December 13, 9:00pm

Cuba Libre

Christian Petzold, Germany, 1996, 92m

German with English subtitles

Extending his fascination with genre cinema, Petzold's second feature is a made-for-television variation on the 1945 noir Detour, transposing Ulmer's Poverty Row classic from the gloomy backroads of postwar America to the drab railway stations and sunlit autobahns of 1990s Europe. Across this colorless landscape, homeless drifter Tom tracks ex-lover-turned-prostitute Tina with the questionable assistance of a slick rich guy named Jimmy, pursuing parallel paths on a desperate odyssey westward that just might lead all the way to Cuba.

Wednesday, December 12, 8:45pm*
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 W. 65th St.

Dreileben: Beats Being Dead / Dreileben: Etwas Besseres als den Tod

Christian Petzold, Germany, 2011, 88m

For the television miniseries Dreileben, Petzold, Dominik Graf (A Map of the Heart), and Christoph Hochhäusler (The City Below) each directed a feature-length film on the same general subject—the escape of a convicted criminal in a small central German town—but told from completely different points of view and in radically contrasting filmmaking styles. At the start of Petzold's genre-bending, wonderfully unpredictable Beats Being Dead, a convicted killer, released under police custody to pay his last respects to his late mother, escapes from a country hospital. But the film comes to center on two star-crossed lovers: Johannes (Jacob Matschenz), a shy young hospital orderly, and Bosnian refugee Ana (Luna Mijovic), whom Johannes nobly rescues from the clutches of her abusive biker boyfriend. In the background, a police manhunt proceeds apace, while in the foreground Petzold reminds us that nothing can be as dangerous as first love. Courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.
Thursday, December 6, 9:00pm

Ghosts / Gespenster

Christian Petzold, Germany/France, 2005, 35mm, 85m

German and French with English subtitles

The spectral figures at the center of Petzold's dark, oneiric film (the second in his "ghost trilogy") are young nomads on the margins of Europe's economy. Following a violent altercation in a Berlin park, Nina and Toni—two young women drifting between state institutions, foster homes, and menial work programs—forge an ambiguous but tender alliance. But an encounter with a well-to-do French couple convinced that Nina is their long-lost daughter, kidnapped as a toddler, reveals physical and mental scars and exposes them to the cruel indifference of the world. Courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.

Saturday, December 8, 4:30pm

Thursday, December 13, 7:00pm



Christian Petzold, Germany, 2008, 35mm, 93m

German and Turkish with English subtitles

In this unofficial adaptation of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, steely-eyed yet fragile Petzold regular Benno Fürmann plays Thomas, a hard-up Afghanistan war veteran who takes a job as a driver for Ali, a wealthy Turkish snack-bar entrepreneur. But his loyalty is tested when he meets Laura, Ali's quietly frustrated wife (Nina Hoss), and the two begin a dangerous affair. As the relationship intensifies, Ali's paranoia becomes more volatile, plunging the characters into a morass of lies and suspicion, beneath which simmer the xenophobia and economic inequities of contemporary Europe.
Friday, November 30, 9:15pm (Introduction by Christian Petzold)

Saturday, December 8, 8:30pm

Christian Petzold, Germany, 2014, 98m

German with English subtitles

Petzold's riveting film follows Nelly (Nina Hoss), a concentration camp survivor returning to Berlin in search of Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the husband she still loves, who may or may not have betrayed her to the Nazis. Set in the period immediately following the war that gave rise to the Trümmerfilm (literally "rubble film")—or "After the Camp" as Petzold puts it—Phoenix is an engrossing reflection on the postwar reconstruction of identity (as the title suggests, although it also turns out to be the name of the bar where she finds Johnny) couched as a noirish thriller of mistaken identity. Co-written with the late Harun Farocki, it is a precisely and exquisitely crafted chamber piece, resonant and gripping, softly building up to a stunning finale.

Preceded by:
Where Are You, Christian Petzold?

Christian Petzold, Germany/France, 2017, 23m

German with English subtitles

With fellow filmmaker and longtime interlocutor Christoph Hochhäusler, Petzold examines in detail a set of stills from a sequence in Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, ruminating on the nature of cinematic narration, and offering a subtle tribute to his late mentor and friend Harun Farocki.

Saturday, December 1, 6:45pm (Introduction by Christian Petzold)

Sunday, December 9, 6:30pm

Pilots / Pilotinnen

Christian Petzold, Germany, 1995, 16mm, 68m

German with English subtitles

Petzold's graduation project at film school (DFFB) is an unconventional crime thriller—which later aired on German television—that introduces a major theme of his films: the plight of women navigating a cold world of dead-end jobs and economic precarity in post-reunification Germany. Loosely adapting Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, Pilots follows two traveling cosmetic saleswomen—one nearing middle age and fighting for her job, the other a younger competitor who is also the boss's lover—who start out as enemies and become outlaw accomplices. As they share dreams and humiliations, Petzold captures mid-'90s Germany's bland highway landscapes of roadside motels and rest-stops in an economical style reminiscent of Robert Bresson. Courtesy of Austrian Filmmuseum.

Preceded by:

Christian Petzold, Germany, 1990, 16mm, 9m

German with English subtitles

Stylistically anomalous in Petzold's oeuvre, this experimental student film favors montage over character-driven continuity, but it nevertheless announces several of his trademark obsessions: American pulp and noir, film theory, and a sustained critique of the post-1989 German political economy. Courtesy of Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek.

Friday, December 7, 9:00pm*

Wednesday, December 12, 7:00pm*

*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 W. 65th St.

The State I Am In

The Sex Thief / Die Beischlafdiebin

Christian Petzold, Germany, 1998, 35mm, 85m

German with English subtitles

The third of Petzold's acclaimed television films closes his unofficial trilogy about marginalized women on the run with a tale of two sisters: Petra, a seasoned femme fatale posing as a successful hotel manager to dupe rich men around the luxury tourist resorts of Morocco, and Franziska, a failed academic desperately seeking a job in Cologne. Petzold portrays the exotic North African locale and the bright gray shops and transit zones of western Germany with the same stark equanimity, portraying a world of creepy businessmen, crippling debt, and the crushing weight of capitalism with a life of crime the only chance of escape. Courtesy of Austrian Filmmuseum.

Sunday, December 2, 6:30pm (Introduction by Christian Petzold)

Saturday, December 8, 6:30pm

Something to Remind Me / Toter Mann

Christian Petzold, Germany, 2001, 35mm, 90m

German with English subtitles

Something to Remind Me marks the first of Petzold's many collaborations with actress Nina Hoss. It's also the director's first variation on Vertigo, reshaping Hitchcock's classic story of pursuit, manipulation, and doomed obsessions via a seemingly innocent attraction between reserved attorney Thomas and Leyla, a lonely blonde woman who's new in town. But all is not what it appears to be. Dialing back Hitchcock's romantic impulse and cinematic extravagance, Petzold uses his trademark stylistic rigor and keen eye for human complexity to craft a fragile moral universe all his own. Courtesy of Austrian Filmmuseum.

Tuesday, December 4, 9:00pm

Sunday, December 9, 9:00pm

The State I Am In / Die innere Sicherheit

Christian Petzold, Germany, 2000, 35mm, 106m

German and Portuguese with English subtitles

With The State I Am In, the first entry in Petzold's "ghost trilogy," the director definitively emerged as one of contemporary German cinema's masters—and one of the preeminent chroniclers of the nation's recent history. What at first seems a normal bourgeois European family on vacation is soon revealed to be something far more complex: the couple are former Red Army Faction operatives, on the run since the 1970s. In tow is their rebellious teenage daughter, who hungers for a normal life of boys, cigarettes, and pop music. Perpetually on the lam in a modern Europe that has all but forgotten them, the family finds its old dreams of a revolutionary future fading in the bright glare of the present. Courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.

Saturday, December 1, 4:00pm (Q&A with Christian Petzold)

Friday, December 7, 6:30pm*

Sunday, December 9, 2:00pm

*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 W 65th Street

Sneak Preview:

Christian Petzold, Germany/France, 2018, 101m

German and French with English subtitles

In Petzold's brilliant and haunting adaptation of German novelist Anna Seghers's 1944 book Transit, a hollowed-out European refugee (Franz Rogowski), who has escaped from two concentration camps, arrives in Marseille assuming the identity of a dead novelist whose papers he is carrying. He enters the arid, threadbare world of the refugee community, where he becomes enmeshed in the lives of a desperate young mother and son and a mysterious woman named Marie (Paula Beer). Transit is a film told in two tenses: 1940 and right now, historic past and immediate present, like two translucent panes held up to the light and mysteriously contrasting and blending. A Music Box Films release.

Friday, November 30, 6:30pm (Q&A with Christian Petzold)


Christian Petzold, Germany, 2003, 35mm, 90m

German with English subtitles

In the titular central German factory town—once the seat of Hitler's auto industry—Philipp (Benno Fürmann), a self-absorbed luxury car salesman, flees the scene of an accident that injures a young boy. But when he meets the boy's mother, a supermarket shelf-stocker played by Nina Hoss, the guilt-ridden Philipp becomes embroiled in a melodrama of lies, romantic obsession, and simmering class conflict. With this tangle of social, moral, and narrative threads, Petzold paints a portrait of a bitter-cold society in which values of responsibility and care are dissolving, and where the connections between people become hopelessly frayed. Courtesy of Austrian Filmmuseum.

Tuesday, December 4, 7:00pm

Tuesday, December 11, 9:15pm



Christian Petzold, Germany, 2007, 35mm, 89m

Inspired by Herk Harvey's 1962 horror classic Carnival of Souls, Petzold's final entry in the "ghost trilogy" locates its chills in the cold cruelty of contemporary male-driven business culture. The title character, played with remarkable poise by Nina Hoss, is an eager businesswoman from the former East who discovers that the "good job" she's just landed in Hanover isn't as promising as it seems—and that her past life is not so easily left behind. Deftly pivoting between psychological horror and cool realism, Yella is at once an eerie reworking of genre norms and a potent rumination on neoliberal capitalism following the uneven reunification of the two Germanies.

Sunday, December 2, 4:00pm (Q&A with Christian Petzold)

Sunday, December 9, 4:15pm

Harun Farocki Program (TRT: 117m)

The following two films were influences on Petzold's work. A direct inspiration for the humiliating job interviews seen in The Sex Thief, Harun Farocki's The Interview is a darkly funny documentary on job application training courses for dropouts, recovered addicts, mid-level managers, and the long-term unemployed. In Nothing Ventured, which inspired the corporate world of Yella, Farocki trains his incisive gaze on the world of venture capital, capturing entrepreneurs and consultants as they engage in ritualistic performances of presentation and negotiation.

Thursday, December 6, 6:30pm

The Interview / Die Bewerbung

Harun Farocki, Germany, 1997, 59m

German with English subtitles

Harun Farocki's darkly funny documentary investigates job application training courses for dropouts, recovered addicts, mid-level managers, and the long-term unemployed. Shot through with the director's distinctive analytical rigor and keen irony—and scored with Neil Young's blistering guitar soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man—Farocki's film mounts a bleak exposé into the corrosive effects of management culture and self-branding, in which hopeful job applicants slowly learn that their identities are just so many commodities to be packaged and sold. The Interview was a source text for the humiliating job interviews seen in Petzold's The Sex Thief.

Screening with:
Nothing Ventured / Nicht ohne Risiko

Harun Farocki, Germany, 2004, 58m

German with English subtitles

In Nothing Ventured, Harun Farocki trains his incisive gaze on the world of venture capital. A source of inspiration for the corporate world of Petzold's Yella, Farocki's deadpan observational documentary follows, over two days, the tense rituals of presentation and negotiation of entrepreneurs and bankers as they speculate on the futures of arcane products and business ventures. What emerges is a microcosm of global financialization and corporate business culture played out as a series of masculine performances, of offers and counter-proposals, and of power struggles enacted behind a veneer of professionalism and acumen.

Some Came Running

Carte Blanche: Christian Petzold Selects

He Ran All the Way

John Berry, USA, 1951, 35mm, 77m

Before his career was cut short by the Hollywood blacklist and a fatal heart condition, John Garfield (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Body and Soul) gave his final, chilling performance as a criminal wracked with paranoia. John Berry's subtle, doom-laden noir follows a petty thief (Garfield) who takes a young, smitten girl (Shelley Winters) and her family hostage after a heist goes wrong. Garfield was a target of the House Un-American Activities Committee during its investigation of Communists in the entertainment industry, and his restive protagonist in He Ran All the Way is almost too real—a sweaty, desperate outsider masterminding his escape from the law.

Screening with:
A Day in the Country / Partie de campagne

Jean Renoir, France, 1936, 35mm, 40m

French with English subtitles

Based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant, Jean Renoir's touching featurette chronicles a single afternoon during which a mother and daughter picnic with two fishermen in the French countryside. Resplendent with idyllic images and attentive to complex internal psychology in a way that few feature-length films can manage, A Day in the Country is considered a small masterpiece in Renoir's filmography. It's a filmic poem that perfectly blends the naturalism of Maupassant's prose with the director's singular approach to impressionism. Print courtesy of the Institut Francais.
Saturday, December 1, 1:30pm

Tuesday, December 4, 4:00pm

Oslo, August 31st / Oslo, 31. august

Joachim Trier, Norway, 2011, 35mm, 95m

English and Norwegian with English subtitles

Daylight lingers at the end of August in Oslo, but the sun is no friend to Anders, a semi-recovered addict facing a new life—which may not be too appealing without his former habits. Adapted from the same novel as Louis Malle's The Fire Within (1963), this subtle, haunting film follows Anders as he tries to adjust: making love, wandering through Oslo, interviewing for a job, seeing old friends, and trying to get comfortable with his new situation. Joachim Trier's first feature, Reprise, was a breakthrough for the director, and while that antic fiction was about friendship and hope, this second film, with its traces of Robert Bresson, is something altogether different.

Sunday, December 2, 2:00pm

Some Came Running

Vincente Minnelli, USA, 1958, 35mm, 137m

Five years after his triumphant turn in the film of James Jones's novel From Here to Eternity, Frank Sinatra stars in another Jones adaptation: the 1,200-page chronicle of postwar disillusionment and small-town hypocrisy Some Came Running, shrewdly directed by Vincente Minnelli. In one of his most textured portrayals, Sinatra is Dave Hirsh, an embittered ex-GI who returns to his Midwestern hometown to write the next chapter of his life. He's torn between the "respectable" influences of his social-climbing brother (Arthur Kennedy) and schoolteacher love interest (Martha Hyer), and the decadence embodied by gambler Dean Martin (brilliant in his first pairing with Sinatra) and floozy Shirley MacLaine (in her breakout role).
Saturday, December 1, 9:15pm

Thursday, December 6, 3:30pm

The Woman Next Door / La femme d'à côté

François Truffaut, France, 1981, 35mm, 106m

French with English subtitles

The penultimate film of his directing career, François Truffaut's domestic drama of erotic ambivalence unfolds with the taut, ominous pacing of a thriller. Gérard Depardieu plays Bernard, a happily married father who becomes fatefully entangled with a former lover, Mathilde (Fanny Ardant), when she and her husband and young son become the new tenants of a neighboring house. Bolstered by the camerawork of William Lubtchansky and a brooding, atmospheric score by Georges Delerue, The Woman Next Door is an incandescent fable of amour fou wreaking havoc on seemingly staid and stable lives in a sleepy provincial town.

Sunday, December 2, 8:30pm

Friday, December 7, 4:00pm*

*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 W. 65th St.

The Young Lieutenant / Le petit lieutenant

Xavier Beauvois, France, 2005, 35mm, 110m

French, Polish, and Russian with English subtitles

Xavier Beauvois's tough, eruptive deconstruction of the police procedural follows Antoine (Jalil Lespert), a young police academy graduate from provincial Le Havre who joins a murder investigation within Paris's busiest precinct and forms a complicated mentorship with a newly sober officer, Caroline Vaudieu (Nathalie Baye). Meticulously crafted and featuring a strong ensemble, The Young Lieutenant is keenly interested in the seemingly dull and tense routines inherent to a genre that is, ultimately, sustained by violence.

Saturday, December 8, 2:00pm



Quote from: Grasshopper FilmThe acclaimed director of Phoenix, Barbara, and the forthcoming Transit lists ten favorite films from the last ten years, "directly without any reflection." Plus one caveat: "I forgot 234 other great movies."

— in chronological order —

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)

2. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)

3. Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier, 2011)

4. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2013)

5. Mommy (Xavier Dolan, 2014)

6. Being 17 (André Téchiné, 2016)

7. Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, 2016)

8. Good Time (Josh and Benny Safdie, 2017)

9. Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017)

10. Den of Thieves (Christian Gudegast, 2018)

10/10 is an ongoing series in which we ask cinephiles to name their ten favorite films from the last ten years (currently, between 2008 and 2018).


Mommy is pretty low there jk chronological