Dietrich Gabin

In French cinema Jean Gabin is a much adored person. Equally, Marlene Dietrich had, probably an even more far reaching international career. Both were accomplished and successful actors long before the 2nd world war broke out. In the U.S both fell in love and had a long lasting romance together. Their war time activities and “engagement” in fighting Nazi-Germany were extraordinary. It meant that both took active roles to use their charisma to mobilize people and soldiers to fight for freedom.
Shortly after the war then, both made a last attempt to work together in a movie production, but it could not unite the couple again. The “Deutsche Kinemathek” displays currently a page from the Diary of the “Diva” to underscore to what extent “Dietrich” was depressed about the break-up of their longer lasting love affair. Some say Gabin was the only person who quit her, all (most?) other relationships were terminated by the Diva. The junctions of biographies are hard to predict. The circumstances of the 2nd world war and internalized civic obligations to fight for freedom and democracy were wholeheartedly shared by both, but eventually they grew apart nevertheless. Tough experiences even for the much adored persons on the forefront of the stages worldwide. There seem to be many instances of repetition of the same story not only in movies, but also in real life.
Image: Deutsche Kinemathek Museum 2024-5

Image History

The archives of the history of movies and/or television show to us the multiple ways how images capture our attention and memories. Visual narratives are an own category of our personal and collective memory. The wide range of visual experiences are a powerful way to influence. Not only the movies and stories matter, but the whole range of images associated with the cinema world. Poster collections, newspapers and today the so-called social media multiply the original images. The Deutsche Kinemathek allows a special, critical understanding of image history as Germany has been using and abusing images and movies in a very manipulating manner historically. The message is: do not take images for face value. The ways and techniques to manipulate images have been widely used and are all around us today. Whereas the mass media in previous decades have dominated the collective memories we have entered into an era with many more subcultures that evolve within their own bubble of images. An original attempt to cut 65 movies of German film history into less than 4 minutes is presented in the exhibition (Milkowski and Simbeni). It focuses on gestures and “les regards”, “Blicke”, how the actresses and actors seem to look at us. Eyes capture attention, and this as soon as we open our eyes as children. Our brain works as image recorder and our memory algorithms tend to favor image recognition while processing images continuously. We do not know much about our own image sorting algorithm or algorithms yet. Research on aging of the brain gives some hints. With declining short term memory the images stored in long term memory take the upper hand. This makes an understanding of the history of images even more important.

Deutsche Kinemathek

Just in the vicinity of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin you’ll find the Deutsche Kinemathek, the museum movies, actors, actresses, directors and the history of cinema in Germany. There is a small specialized library in the Kinemathek that allows to dive not only into journals and books, but also video material, scenarios and accessories. Of course, you will find a lot of material on all sorts of movie stars (heroines) over more than a hundred years. The “Divas” of the industry take up a large part of the exhibition. “Marlene Dietrich” much more than “Hildegard Knef“, the former born and the latter lived for a long time in Berlin-Schöneberg (Berlin-Pretty-Hill as some locals call it nowadays). The 2 Divas probably caused the funny translation. Anyway, the hall in the Kinemathek which is exclusively devoted to Marlene Dietrich impresses with a lot of glamour and mirrors around.
For those with not only a biographical, but also life course interest in cinema cherish the public access to the library. The most impressive table there is the desk with access to the Ukrainian movies and about cinema in Ukraine. A list with QR-codes allows you to readily approach the recent developments before and during the Russian aggression on Ukraine (See image below). After all Potsdamer Platz in Berlin was a hot-spot of the cold war period in the divided Berlin. A little bit of a “Metropolis-atmosphere” can still be felt. The Kinemathek explains well what this is all about.

Cinema D

In terms of statistics cinemas are almost back to the pre Covid levels of spectators. The sector is worth in Germany close to 1 billion € in 2023. The price level has risen as well but many cinemas have upgraded their cinema experience as well in terms of comfort, audio and visual quality. Traditional houses provide chairs that compare well with home comfort and for a little more you can put up your feet as well after a long workday. Drinks and food may be served directly at your seats so the time to relax is guaranteed. However, this depends a lot on what type of movie you have chosen. The movie industry has adapted to modern technology and comfort. The turnover of a movie theatre is supported a lot by the consumption of beverages on site and they make huge efforts to prolong the visit beyond the screening of the movie. The competition for the time and money of the consumer is intense. The quality of the whole experience will determine the survival of the cinema. It is worth much more than a second best solution for rainy days or the cold season.

Time6

Time that has passed, is subject to evalution and re-evaluation. Our memories work continuously on various representations of time in our mind. Memory management is one such example. Artist have also coined a phrase for a particular form of time management. “The assault of the present on the rest of time”  Alexander Kluge had chosen this as the title of a movie on film-making and Katya Inozemtseva had chosen this as the title for the exhibition in Berlin 2023-24. Pieces of art may serve as evidence in court as testimony for war crimes. This is one of the challenging issues of this exhibition. The present uses evidence from the past to illustrate what happened. Re-interpretations are part of this process as well. It is not too rare, that in the present a reframing of the past may occur. Some try to alter the representation of the past (crimes committed long ago) as of minor importance. Such intentional misrepresentations represent the assault of the present on the past. It may eqaually be attempted to limit the scope of future options. The diesel engine is not the best technical solution for mobility of 8 billion people living on this planet in 2024. The reflection on time needs to take care of the “back shadow” and “forward shadow” of the present. On the individual level, today’s action might be largely determined by past events, experiences and transitions, but they pre-determine to some extent also future events.
Conditionalities shall occur and accumulate, for some more than for others. Some call this scar-effects, others the narrowing down of options. Life reviews may apply a reframing exercise, sometimes even to liberate yourself from the boundaries of the past to open up new or more future options. The time-space subject which ranges from experience to fiction is the matter of literature and cinema. Some people seem to choose to live in a fictional world for whatever reasons.  Rather than a linear concept of time, the artists appear to imagine time in some form of a spiral: from the present you turn backwards in time to project yourself into the future. Maybe, we are caught up in some unresolved narration of the past, to try another projection into a different future. We see one or many movies grow out of this fictionalisation of the present.
The study of the life course remains a formidable challenge. Testing the reliability of sources to separate fact from fiction has overriding importance. Biographies derived from facebook or instagram entries over decades have to deal with this fictionalisation of the self even more than we were used to from other data sources. The basic challenge of the representation of time throughout the life course, however, remains the same.
Source: Kluge, A., Evans, T., & Liebman, S. (1990). The Assault of the Present on the Rest of Time. New German Critique, 49, 11–22. https://doi.org/10.2307/488371 (Image: Exhibition Brücke Museum, Lea Grundig, Unterm Hakenkreuz: die Hexe 1935, Zentrum für verfolgte Künste, Solingen).

Barbie explore

The film on Barbie after more than 60 years of the first puppets to arrive on the market is a huge money spinning exercise. Hitting more than 1 billion $ is really a huge box office success. More interesting even is the banning of the film in some countries like Algeria. This gives the film an interesting subversive touch to it, which we in the Western countries no longer see as something special. Emancipated women pose a threat to authoritarian regimes.
However, we see in the stereotypes of beauty-driven dolls not that much of an emancipatory chance. To view emancipation independent of the looks of a person is another interesting twist to the role in stereotypes of beauty. It is not only fun to play around with stereotypes, that is mostly, if you are not negatively affected by them (age, gender, ethnicity, extraordinary persons). A nice task for sociology and psychology to explain the working of stereotypes in society and possible remedies. Tolerance is a competence that needs to be learned and updated continuously, from early age onwards.
Therefore, the website created by the US Design Agency Rvnway offers an entertaining way to play around and learn about stereotypes. Perceived, generalized beauty or gender roles can be explored using the tool. Maybe some see themselves differently after such explorations. Everybody is a model. This is the message. www.bairbie.me will let you explore other formats of yourself. After 3-D rendering and printing your children or grandchildren will decide what role they would like you to play in their playfull, or virtual “real” life. I suppose many of us will be up for a big surprise. Go on and imagine in 4D. In the age of selfies all around us, all the time, we believe we are very modern, but the artists of the 19th and 20th century following all great painters before, frequently started their careers with an “autoportrait” or “Selbstbildnis” or series of those as they were aging.