When we think of Germany, what does come to our mind? Cars, speed, beer, number of breads or sausages. Our mind places German films low on the list. But German movies have won more Oscars in a foreign language category than any other language since 2000.
This list goes on to prove that Germans can do anything that they set their minds to
1) Good Bye Lenin! (2003)
Who would have thought that the story of the fall of Berlin wall can be told in a humoristic way? Director Wolfgang Becker decided to make a ‘tragicomedy’ about the german reunification in 1990. The film became a smash hit and was nominated for Oscars.
It tells the story of a mother who fell into a coma in the old GDR (German Democratic Republic) and didn’t wake up until after the fall of berlin wall. To avoid a shock that might kill her, her son and her daughter goes to great lengths to fool her into thinking her beloved GDR is still around, TV news and food included. The film deals with the whole idea of ‘Ostalgie’ – nostalgia for East Germany.
Der Untergang (The Downfall – 2004)
This acclaimed movie was nominated for Oscars. While it did not win in its nominated category, it has been praised for its authenticity. Oliver Hirschbiegel, the director portrays the most impressive and realistic dramatic movie about the World War II. Bruno Ganz, the actor who portrays Hitler, is eerily convincing. Ian Kershaw, a renowned historian and biographer of Hitler, said that “of all screen depictions of the Hitler […] this is the only one which to me is compelling.”
Lola rennt (Run Lola Run – 1998)
You have 20 minutes to come up with 100 000 Deutsche Marks, or your boyfriend will die. What do you do? This is the dilemma which Lola is faced with in the film.The film runs through 3 different alternatives or runs. Each alternative starts in the same place, but each run is filled with different encounters and events.In the three different runs, Lola’s encounter set off a change of events in the various individual’s lives. The director, Tom Tykwer artfully explored the dynamics between the cause and the effect.
Das Leben der anderen (The lives of others – 2006)
With this 2006 film, we are back to the Oscars. It bagged Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. The framework of the story surrounds a Stasi officer (set in GDR) who is assigned to monitor a writer and his actress girlfriend. By following Stasi commissar, who submerges himself into the “the life of others”, we witness a gradual transition from loyal regime follower to human being – a transition that challenges our common understanding of good and evil.This movie is regarded as having portraited incredibly acurate picture of the life in east Germany before the fall of Berlin wall. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck managed to make an intensely gripping thriller of dramatic and psychological complexity, one that is equally demanding of our hearts and minds.
Das Experiment (The Experiment – 2001)
Oliver Hirschbiegel, the director made an engaging psycho thriller movie, based on the infamous “Stanford Prison Experiment” conducted in 1971. This movies explores the idea that – human behavior is determined to some degree by the uniforms we wear. The fact that the movie is German inspires thoughts about the Holocaust.
Nirgendwo in Africa (Nowhere in Africa – 2002)
This drama was released in 2002 and went on to win Best Foreign Language Film in the 2006 Oscars. Set mostly in remote Kenya, this beautiful classic is a truly moving piece. Made more authentic by the mixture of German, English and Swahili, the film chronicles a family of Jewish refugees that migrates to a small farm in the middle of Kenya before the outbreak of the Second World War. Focusing on the relationships between the family members and the native people, this one is guaranteed to move you.
Oh Boy (A Coffee in Berlin – 2012)
This movie revolves around an aimless university dropout attempts to make sense of life as he spends one fateful day wandering the streets of Berlin. Effortlessly charming, and with a jazz soundtrack, A Coffee in Berlin comments on an entire generation simply by watching this young man try to figure things out. This tragicomedy was a surprise success at the 2013 German Film Awards, winning six awards, including the best film and best director.
Die Welle (The wave – 2008)
This thriller is inspired by the true story of a high school teacher in California who designed an experiment to teach his students about Nazism. It powerfully portrays the horrific allure of mass movements. It asks whether fascism could still happen in the modern world. By the end you’re not so sure that it couldn’t.
M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (M – a state search a murderer – 1931)
Last on my list, is a monumental film and seriously should be watched by all. This film was created by one of the all time great directors, Fritz Lang. It is way ahead of its time. M takes a strong and original stance on an issue that we as a society have not fully resolved yet. This film may not give you THE answer on this issue but it may sway that moral compass of yours that lies inside of all of us.
Good cinema teaches you the culture and history of the nation. I hope you enjoy watching these movies. If you know some other movies, that I missed, please comment below.