Reel Berlin: Introduction to a cinematic journey

The introduction to Jess Sweetman's new regular blog, Reel Berlin, exploring the history of cinema in the city through its less-obvious cinematic offerings.


A piece for Omnified by Jess Sweetman

From as far back as I can remember, I have always been a film snob. For good reason, too. Films are important. Aside from being one of the myriad ways that humans make sense of our surroundings, like it or not, film reflects how we define ourselves. Those fortunate enough to produce movies to completion have a bonafide shot at shaping the collective unconscious forever.

Berlin has a cinematic history that spans the history of film itself. To tap into Berlin’s cinema is to scrape skin and bones aside in order to stare at the beating heart of the city, groaning beneath the weight of a tapestry of histories. But, like so much of the history and culture of Berlin, where do you begin? Sure, there are the films most people have seen, from Metropolis to Wings of Desire to Christiane F – films that have been written, theorized and thought about.

But what about the rest? How does one sift through the careers and messages, from the silent era to the present? Such a task could kill a person. Luckily for you, I am here to take on the Herculean task! This series is my exploration of Berlin’s history, culture, stories, and art through film.

I could do this chronologically, start at the very beginning, it would make logical sense, but, as I am living in a city where films are constantly being made, I fear being stuck looking back while life unfurls before me. Instead, I am going to pick one movie at a time, linking movie to movie, exploring the historical context, the cast and crew, the theory, the practice, the locations and what makes them relevant today.

So, my friends, you’re invited on a journey on a well-trodden path through a wealth of worlds. It’s going to be messy and confusing, which I hate, but it’s going to be interesting and exciting, and maybe – just maybe – will lead to a greater understanding of a complex and vibrant city.

Read Reel Berlin part 1: “Menschen Am Sonntag” here

By the way – If you love our content, please consider donating to KCRW Berlin. We are a listener-funded public radio station, driven by supporters like you. Your donation supports our programming and events, feeding a flourishing English language community with local news, information and ideas.