On Wednesday at 2pm in the Taliesin Arts Centre (Swansea University) we will be showing Dresen’s most popular film to date, Sommer vorm Balkonfrom 2006 (released in English as Summer in Berlin), followed by discussion chaired by PhD students, Luke Edwards and Jenny Watson. This screening is open to all, including leaners of German and Film from local schools through the Think German Wales Network. The film has English sub-titles and the post-screening discussion will be in English. Prior booking is advised.
Sommer vorm Balkon follows three main characters over the course of a summer: Nike, a nurse and home help for the elderly, her best friend Katrin, who is between jobs, and Katrin’s 11-year old son Max, who sometimes seems to spend more time looking after his mother than she does him. We follow each as they go about their daily routines. The three old people who Nike visits every day are the film’s friendliest characters because they have time for others, but they live mainly in the past, talking about the war or referring to the ‘old days’ when life was better. Their wistfulness contributes to the bitter-sweet comedy which characterises the whole film. The two women are looking for love and Nike believes she finds it in the shape of a hunky truck-driver she meets when he nearly runs over Katrin. This is not the best start to a romance and Nike’s failure to remember whether he is called ‘Roland’ or ‘Ronald’ is surely not a good sign either. Katrin meanwhile lurches towards a crisis which engulfs all the characters, as Max has fallen for a classmate called Charly who in the end dumps him for his rival.
Sommer vorm Balkon was filmed on location in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district. Many of the minor characters are played by non-professional actors, which gives the film a real feeling. It is fast paced, with running gags and an upbeat sound track. At the end, the three main characters are apparently back where they started, reconciled with each other and ready to carry on. ‘So ist das Leben’ are the last words. Yet somewhere in between the film has hinted at a world which is out of control, in which jobs are near impossible to come by, the generations have little time for each other, and family relationships are imperilled.