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Truth and Lies

Simon Popek
Programme director

 

 

 

In Robert Schwentke’s The Captain, a frightened yet resourceful deserter assumes the identity of an officer during the last days of WWII, thus turning the film into a grotesque Nazi variety show. The cinematic medium loves doppelgänger motifs, a character’s capability of mimicry, distortion and pretence, double-dealing and manipulation. In adopting this leitmotif, German cinema has a crucial historical role ever since the 1920’s Caligarism. Today’s most prominent representative of this doctrine is Christian Petzold, whose films screened at Liffe within the context of the Berlin Film School retrospective eight years ago. Replicating his inclination to portray characters assuming, consciously or unconsciously, other people’s identities (e.g. Phoenix), Petzold’s films – intelligent, complexly plotted and invariably ambiguous gems that recreate classical films – tend to adopt identities of other films. Yella (2007), a film that propelled him into the cinematic big league, is an elegant remake of a B-movie classic, Carnival of Souls (1962), and Jerichow (2008) reimagines Cain’s film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934). While based on the eponymous novel by Anne Seghers, Petzold’s latest film, Transit, actually paraphrases Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942), whose storyline is – accidentally or not – set in the same year.

Liffe will devote a great deal of attention to ‘truth and lies’ this year, partly on account of Petzold and partly because of a theme retrospective that will pay tribute to the said manipulative doubles. The subject was also examined by Orson Welles, whose Truth and Lies (1974) was until recently considered to be the director’s last finished film. The famed Netflix will correct this misconception. In 2018, The Other Side of the Wind – an unedited rough cut shelved in a Paris vault – is finally approaching completion. True, nothing is as it seems.

 

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