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Rosa von Praunheim
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Rosa von Praunheim
In modern-day Berlin (1987), Frau Kutowski goes insane, believing herself to be the (real-life) notorious Anita Berber, a nude art dancer/drug addict/scandalous figure of post-WWI Berlin. (Berber died of tuberculosis in 1928, having achieved significant success and recognition throughout the dance world.) Frau Kutowski is placed in a mental hospital, where in her own mind she acts out Berber's final days, including in her fantasies the hospital's staff and patients, to represent Anita's friends and associates. She relives the adventures, scandals, triumphs, trials and tribulations of Anita Berber, and finally merges her own real existence with that of her imagination, until fantasy actually becomes reality. The film makes use of both color (Expressionist style) and black & white (documentary style) to draw the line between fantasy and reality, respectively. Watch how this line is crossed over! Written by
On face-value this is a film about the life of Anita Berber, as told through the thoughts and remembrance of an elderly lady (played by Lotti Huber) who is confined in a lunatic asylum and who thinks she is Anita Berber. The film is "split up" in two with all scenes of the "asylum part" shot clinicly and in black and white and the Anita Berber part shot very sensual and in beautiful colours.
This "split up" of the film is a very important aspect as I think thereby an another level is reached: Praunheim shows the life of Anita Berber, but also uses it to juxtapose the joy, passion and colorfulness of living in the 20's to the clinic and stale way of life in the 80's (as symbolized by the asylum). He shows that, though Lotti Huber may not be quite sane in the regular meaning of the word, she has a more sane attitude towards life than the people around her. But unlike Anita Berber, being in the 80's the Huber character (and much of Lotti Huber - she co-wrote - herself can be traced in this character) is no longer free to choose her own way of life, certainly as she is an elderly lady. The apotheosis is when she is told to take an example to Inge Meysel (the poor dear; a bit harsh, Mr von Praunheim!). Where Anita Berber by choice destroyed her own life using alcohol and cocaine, Lotti Huber is destroyed by the demand to behave like an elderly lady is expected to behave.
Does this sound too serious? Do not worry. The film is fast-paced, enormous fun and very funny, and a real treat as film. There is perfect cinematography by Elfi Mikesch and both Ina Blum and Lotti Huber are very good. As far as I can judge (from Berber biographies) the dances are well-performed and the details of Berber's bio are truthful. The Berber episodes are shot, directed and staged as the average expressionist film of the time, including magnificent expressionist inter titles. All in all: rewarding viewing.
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