Kafka, German films and the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Before travelling to a new place, I like to immerse myself in popular films and books from the places. I didn’t have anything related to Bratislava or Slovakia unfortunately, but I did a ton of reading for Prague and a ton of film watching for Berlin/Germany. Here is what I saw and read: Antes de viajar a un sitio nuevo, me gusta ver las películas y leer los libros que se trata del sitio adónde voy a viajar. No tenía nada para Bratislava o Eslovoquia, pero leí mucho para Praga y ví muchas pelis relacionada con Berlín y Alemania. Aquí es lo que me leí y lo que vi, en inglés. 

Prague:

Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Kafka: Like many university students, I had read The Metamorphosis in university. In the collection I picked up at the Bilbao Alhóndiga Azkuna Zentroa, there were many other stories just as fantastic as The Metamorphosis. I was quite pleased, and The Metamorphosis remained just as great as it did in 2002.

The Castle by Kafka: I had not read this novel by Kafka though, and I enjoyed the tale of a man running a “castle” in a city that may or may not be Prague. Great reading.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera: I had asked for some recommendations on what to read to prepare myself for Prague, and someone suggested this book and film. I am over film adaptations, so I read the book and enjoyed this philosophical romance.

Berlin:

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood: The book that inspired Cabaret and introduced us to Sally Bowles is, of course, better than the film (although I did enjoy seeing the musical on stage in Broadway in 2002 with Jane Leeves as Bowles and John Stamos as the M.C.)  Several short stories about Berlin in the days just before Hitler and the Nazis took over the city.

Goodbye Lenin! I watched this film in 2005 and loved it, and I loved it just as much when I rewatched it. Daniel Brühl, son of a German father and Catalán mother, plays a son whose die-hard Communist mother has a heart attack and falls into a coma on the eve of the Berlin Wall fall and unification of Germany. When she awakes, the West has entered the East with all their commercial activities and Coca Cola products, and the son, fearful what the shock might do to his mother, tries to make believe East Germany is doing strong and well. Amazing.

Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run) Another one I had seen before, and another amazing one that holds up on rewatching. Lola (Franka Potente) has to save her boyfriend (my new fave German actor Moritz Bleibtreu) from making a big mistake by getting him a major amount of money. She has three chances to do it. Incredible rush of energy from the awesome soundtrack.

One, Two, Three Billy Wilder is one of my favourite directors, but I hadn’t even heard of this comedy from 1961. It was made in the days before the construction of the Berlin Wall, and on set they suddenly found the wall going up where they wanted to film, so production went to Munich. A Coca Cola executive is trying to get a better job while preventing the President from finding out his daughter has married an East German communist while staying in Berlin.

Das Experiment A psychological experiment to see what happens when ordinary men are placed into prison like circumstances. Of course, it goes wrong. Moritz Bleibtreu stars.

Cabaret The classic 1970s film works better on stage for me, honestly.

Die Welle (The Wave) A teacher uses unorthodox methods to teach about dictatorships and autocracies, and the school sees an uprising called “The Wave” as a result. Could Hitler happen again?

Lammbock. Germany does stoner films…starring Moritz Bleibtreu. Nothing special about it for me, but they are making a sequel.

The Edukators: Two friends try to teach the rich a lesson by breaking into their houses and rearranging furniture. When they are caught, things go out of control as they try to protect themselves.

Shout out to a Spanish film I saw last year called Perdiendo el Norte, about two Spanish friends who go to Berlin to try to find a job. They find Berlin to be cold and themselves not living the life they thought they would.

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4 thoughts on “Kafka, German films and the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

  1. I was inspired to read Isherwood’s fictional writings about Berlin after reading his non-fiction reminiscences of the city in Christopher And His Kind, when I was twenty years old. (I first became interested in Isherwood because of his connection with the poet W.H. Auden and composer Benjamin Britten.) The non-fiction account is pretty candid and sheds some interesting light on his fictional accounts in Mr. Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye To Berlin (which together comprise The Berlin Stories. At the time, I was in the third year of my undergraduate degree in music history, and I remember Prof. Bailey commenting in a lecture about how Berlin and Vienna in the 1920s were “cities of horrible depravity,” and noting that Isherwood visited Berlin “for all the wrong reasons.” (I made a cheering gesture when he described these cities as horribly depraved.)

  2. Also, thank you for recommending Goodbye Lenin! to me back in 2006. That was a great movie, and I should watch it again!

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