Sunday, February 28, 2010

Werner Herzog's Dark Corners

I had a pleasant return to Berlin. The Berlinale celebrated its 60th birthday. I had collaborated on the script and was one of the main protagonists of “New York Memories,” a documentary by Rosa von Praunheim, shown in the Berlinale’s Panorama section. Despite the rigorous selection process, the film was one of 50 selected from a pool of 3,000. Next to Cannes, the Berlinale is the most important European film festival. This year 300,000 tickets were sold.
Twenty-six prizes were awarded. In an interview published in “Die Zeit,” Werner Herzog, the jury president, explained the difference between great and mediocre art, taking an anti-psychoanalytic stance. “Today every dark corner of the soul has to be exposed at all cost, but an apartment where every corner is lit up is unlivable.”
Good films like good books don’t explain and they don’t reveal everything. They leave spaces that come to life in the imagination of the viewer. Good films and books irritate us by what they leave out, what they allude to. They inspire our own interpretations.
This year’ Berlinale honored films that allowed dark corners which Herzog believes are so essential. Some examples are: “How I Ended this Summer” a Russian film directed by Alexj Popogrebskiwon that won two Silver Bears for camera work and acting. It’s the story of two men who live in the Arctic solitude and work on a rundown meteorological station. The director uses a minimalist approach to chronicle an extreme emotional drama. Nothing is narrated to its conclusion; everything is disclosed through images, movement, and gestures. Another example is the Turkish film “Bal,” directed by Semih Kaplanoglu and the winner of the Golden Bear. The film is about a six-year-old boy’s catastrophic loss of his father. It surprises by its tranquility; there is no music, only the sounds of nature. The turbulent world of Eastern Europe was predicted in the Romanian prison drama “If I want to Whistle, I Whistle” directed by Florin Serban. The film won a Silver Bear. The leitmotifs in most Eastern European films were lonely men, neglected women, children who feel lost, and the family as refuge.
All these films raise questions without providing any answers. They leave room for our imagination; they allow us to come to our own conclusions. They aren’t politically correct, message-driven, not all dark corners are illuminated They simply are.
Collaborating on the script of “New York Memories” was a great experience as was attending the Berlinale, with its applause, parties, accolades, and drinks at the Hotel Savoy. I’m back to working ALONE at my desk, away from the hustle and bustle of New York and Berlin. Here in Görlitz, Germany’s Eastern most city, I started to work on a novel. It’s my first week and so far I have written 10,249 words. By the end of April, I will be back in New York City, hopefully with the first hundred pages in my suitcase.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Absinthe 13 and Romanian Lit

Coming in April:

Absinthe 13, a special issue on Romanian fiction with work by Dumitru Ţepeneag, Adriana Bittel, Bogdan Suceavă, Mircea Cărtărescu, Gheorghe Crăciun, Dan Lungu, Lucian Dan Teodorovici, Ştefan Bănulescu, Nora Iuga, Stelian Tănase, and Ştefan Agopian.

The cover features a painting by Mircea Suciu and his art also appears in an 8-page portfolio.