Manchester horror looms over Kruger movie at Cannes

Hollywood actress Diane Kruger said on Friday she took her new film role as a mother who loses her family in a terror attack to show how survivors are often left alone with their suffering.

Manchester horror looms over Kruger movie at Cannes
Actress Diane Kruger in Cannes. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

Kruger, who drew glowing reviews for her part in “In the Fade” by German-Turkish director Fatih Akin, said the cast and crew in Cannes for the film's premiere were haunted by the 22 victims of the Manchester bombing and the fate of their families.

“I haven't slept in days thinking about what happened, not just in Manchester but (in other attacks) all around the world,” Kruger told reporters.

“We live at a time when such horrors are occurring almost daily. You read about 22, 23, 100 dead but you never see a film about the people who are left behind. How do you continue to live after experiencing something horrible like that, how can you come to grips with such injustice?”

The star of “Troy” and “Inglourious Basterds” appears in her first movie role in her native German as Katja, a woman living in Hamburg who is married to a former Kurdish drug dealer who has put his life back on track (Numan Acar of “Homeland”).

When a bomb rips through her husband's office, killing him and their young son, the police initially suspect a gangland killing or a dispute within the German port city's large Turkish community.

It soon emerges, however, that neo-Nazis were behind the atrocity and Katja, covered in tattoos and black leather, launches a crusade for justice.

“It was terrible to live with, really upsetting… the film almost killed me,” Kruger said.

“I haven't worked since… I haven't read a script since. The film really changed me, it changed my life.”

'Anger is a gift'

Akin wrote the screenplay based on one of Germany's biggest post-war scandals: the discovery in 2011 of a group calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU) which carried out a series of racist murders over the course of a decade.

The country was shocked to discover that the killings – long blamed by police and media on migrant crime gangs and dubbed the “doner (kebab) murders” – were in fact hate crimes.

“A lot of people in Germany don't know much about the National Socialist Underground, even educated people who read newspapers — they don't know that they were involved in bomb attacks and things like this,” he told AFP.

“There is a lot of anger behind this film — anger is a gift for an artist. One of the NSU victims was from Hamburg, the person they killed was somebody my brother knew so it hit very close to home.”

Akin, who won the Golden Bear prize at the Berlin film festival in 2004 for “Head-On” and best screenplay at Cannes in 2007 for “The Edge of Heaven”, is the most prominent cultural representative of Germany's three-million strong Turkish community.

He expressed sympathy to the families who lost loved ones in the Manchester attack and said their agony was shared around the world.

“When I was writing this, there was the attack at the Bataclan (in Paris), there was Nice, there was Berlin, Istanbul, Pakistan…” he said.

“We live in the days of war. It's an asymmetrical war, it's a brutal war, it's an unfair war, but it's a war and I'm a film-maker of this period.

“People may get disturbed but they shouldn't get disturbed about my film, they should get disturbed about the world we're living in.”

The Cannes festival ends Sunday when its Palme d'Or top prize will be awarded.

By Deborah Cole


7 ground-breaking German movies made by female filmmakers

To celebrate the works of women in the German film industry, and at the conclusion of this year's special outdoor Berlinale, we have compiled a list of seven must-watch German films directed by women. 

7 ground-breaking German movies made by female filmmakers
A scene from System Crasher. credit: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Peter Hartwig

This year’s Oscars marked the first time in its almost 100-year history that two female filmmakers – Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell – were nominated in the Best Director category. Only five women have ever been nominated for this award. Zhao took home the gong, becoming just the second woman ever to do so.

In 2021’s Berlinale Festival, 60 percent of the films in the Generation category were directed by women — with 75 percent of female filmmakers making up the Kplus selection (a category for younger audiences).

Here is a look at seven films by some of the most influential female directors in German cinema.

Never Sleep Again (1992) — Pia Frankenberg

Featured in Berlinale’s Retrospective series, meant to showcase female filmmakers, this film is written, directed and produced by Cologne-born filmmaker, Pia Frankenberg.

The film follows three female friends through post-unification Berlin, who are making their way to a wedding when their car breaks down. They wander through the streets of former East Berlin, roaming in and out of bars meeting men. 

The dilapidated sites of the former Cold War frontier city, still scarred by World War II, become a place for sheer endless personal experimentation where the women begin to reconfigure their lives and loves.

Frankenberg’s impressionistic portrait of three women in the city reflects on the state of the newly unified Germany, where for a moment all possibilities seemed radically open. (Available on Mubi, Binged)

The German Sisters (1981) — Margarethe Von Trotta 

Considered one of the classics of the New German Cinema movement, The German Sisters tells an intimate story of Germany. 

Based on the real-life story of the Enslein sisters, it is an expression of director Margarethe Von Trotta’s combination of the personal and the political. It’s the story of Juliane, a feminist journalist and her sister, Marianne, who is a terrorist revolutionary. The film, which won six awards at the Venice Film Festival including the Golden Lion, was Margarethe Von Trotta’s third film and first collaboration with Barbara Sukowa. The director-actor duo went on to do six more films together. (Available on Mubi, Prime)

Margarethe Von Trotta on set in 1975. Photo: dpa | Bertram

Toni Erdmann (2016) — Maren Ade 

Toni Erdmann is a German-Austrian comedy which was directed, written and co-produced by Maren Ade. The film, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, was named the best film of 2016. 

Meant to showcase the intricacies of a father-daughter relationship, the film pairs carefully constructed, three-dimensional characters in a tenderly funny character study. A hard-working woman reluctantly agrees to spend time with her estranged father when he unexpectedly arrives.

As a practical joker, the father does his best to reconnect by pretending to be her CEO’s life coach. (Available on Mubi, Kanopy, Prime, Vudu)

I Was at Home, But (2019) — Angela Schanelec 

I was at home, but (Ich war zuhause, aber) is a 2019 German drama film directed by Angela Schanelec. At the Berlinale that year, Schanelec won the Silver Bear for Best Director. 

The film is a story about a 13-year-old student, Phillip, who disappears without a trace for a week and suddenly reappears. 

It maps the existential crises his mother and teachers are confronted with that change their whole view of life. The film features several plots, which tell the stories of several people who are all connected to Phillip in some way. It has scenes with long silences, to contrast ones with heavy dialogue, which critics believe makes this film a cinematic masterpiece. (Available on Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, or rent on YouTube).

The Audition (2019) — Ina Weisse

This film has been described as a symphonic study of human behaviour. It’s the story of a violin teacher, who takes great interest in mentoring a student for an audition. Anna, the violinist and teacher played by Nina Hoss, shows plenty of compassion toward the boy at first, but their relationship becomes much more strained as the date of Alexander’s audition nears and Anna begins to put him through musical torture. Come the day of the exam, events take a tragic turn. (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

Pelican Blood (2019) — Katrin Gebbe 

Pelican Blood is written and directed by Katrin Gebbe, who won the 2014 Preis der Deutschen Filmkritik (German Film Critics’ Prize) for her first film.

It tells the story of a woman who trains police horses. She adopts her second child, a severely traumatised five-year-old girl. When the girl shows violent and anti-social behaviour, her new mother becomes determined to help her.

The film has been described as raising fascinating questions – how do you draw boundaries for a child who seems to ignore them or even takes a perverse pleasure in overstepping them? What can you do as a parent when you realize that your love and protection aren’t enough? (Available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime)

System Crasher (2019) — Nora Fingscheidt

Another film about a rebellious child, System Crasher picked up a whopping eight German Film Awards after its release in 2019.

The film has a powerful political message about the inadequacies of the universal child care system. The protagonist, Benni, is a violent nine-year-old girl who suffers from psychotic episodes. Her key social worker, Frau Bafané, tries to get Benni into special schools or facilities; dozens turn her down and Benni is too young to be effectively sectioned as an inpatient.

In an interview with The Guardian, Fingscheidt says, “There’s a very German dimension to the film in the obsession with bureaucracy, with rules that need to be adhered to. Rules like, ‘this child cannot stay in this home because they are getting too emotionally attached,’ when that institution may be the first place where a child has begun to open up.”

The film has received an incredible amount of international recognition, garnering 45 international awards. (Available on Netflix)