I declared this weekend Gedeck-Fest! I wound up having an impromptu marathon of Martina Gedeck movies the other day. Who is Martina Gedeck? She’s the first German actor or actress I could name (truth be told, the total number has grown to a whopping two–I can also name Sibylle Canonica*. I’d have 3 if I could ever remember the name of the chick from Run Lola Run–she’s been in plenty of other stuff, including The Bourne Identity, but I can never remember her name for more than about 5 minutes. No commentary on her skill, only on my crappy memory).
Out of the 5 of you here, I’m sure at least 3 of you have seen Mostly Martha. This means you’ve seen Martina Gedeck. She’s Martha.
Gedeck-fest did not actually start with Mostly Martha. It began by accident when I finally decided to watch Night Train to Lisbon. It looked interesting, and I recognized her name on the summary of the cast. At this point, other than Mostly Martha, I’ve only seen her in one other film, The Baader Meinhof Complex, which was disturbing, but good. Still, two movies with good performances was enough to give her street cred with me. The scales were tipped and I opted to give it a shot.
I was not led astray. I loved Night Train to Lisbon, perhaps more than I should have. I hesitate to recommend it because it’s definitely slow paced, and very subtle. If you are looking for high adventure, or simplistic romance, or raucous comedy, you are barking up the wrong tree. But, if you’re patient, thoughtful, willing to absorb it all and want to see some gorgeous scenery (Note to Mary: I have located two additional Fortress of Solitude locations: Lisbon and the coast of Spain are in). I definitely have to read the book on this one. If the movie was this layered, I can only imagine what the book is going to be like. You get a nice story within a story set up, a device I enjoy. It also focuses on a literary mystery–a man encounters a woman about to jump from a Swiss bridge. He stops her from jumping, and in a twist of events, winds up with her coat. In a pocket of that coat was a book, with a train ticket to Lisbon tucked inside. And with that, a very ordinary sort of teacher sets off to find out answers about that book. With that kind of set up, I’m like a junky being tempted with a free hit. It’s got flashbacks, political resistance movements, romance, drinking, friendships…. Martina Gedeck had a relatively small part, but I enjoyed her performance (her character was one of my favorites–hope she’s in the book….). Bonus points go out since I can totally Kevin-Bacon Mostly Martha and Lord of the Rings because Christopher Lee was also in the film.
After adding Night Train to Lisbon to my “need-to-put-in-my-library” list, I moved on. I opted to employ IMDB and find out if there were any other Martina Gedeck titles available for streaming. I was more than a little surprised to find that The Wall, a film I’d been saving for a time when I felt in the mood for sci-fi/fantasy (for so it has been billed online), was also a Gedeck film. So, The Wall it was.
The Wall (or Die Wand for those of you wanting to rock your Deutsch) was definitely a thought-provoker. Far more so than even Night Train to Lisbon. A woman finds herself trapped alone in a remote part of the Alps, captive behind an invisible wall. But this is not your typical Cabin-in-the-Woods horror film. Oh no. This is European cinema, and they need nothing gory or ostentatious to make people feel uncomfortable (well, there is a slightly gory bit at the end, but not typically gory). Forcing you into an examination of human behavior when alone with only animals for companions is way more effective than zombie killing sprees. Also, it’s interesting to see a last-man-in-the-world type film that’s actually a last woman in the world film. About half-way through the film I had the thought that other than Island of the Blue Dolphin, I’ll be damned if I can think of another story that focuses on a female left alone in the wilderness.
A hint to those of you who, like me, may live alone? Yeah, The Wall is thought provoking, but it may provoke you right into a blue funk of loneliness. Hell, even if you don’t live alone, the movie is designed to make you face the kind of deep thoughts that make you feel NOT warm and fuzzy. And this is why we have Mostly Martha.
We also have it to remind ourselves that Martina Gedeck is German How I managed to find two Gedeck films in a row that were in English (well, The Wall had a few phrases in German here and there, but 95% of it was in English), I’ll never known. I was gunning for some more German, but alas (seriously, globalization my flabby American ass–trying to get more than a handful of German movies is like pulling teeth and don’t even get me started on TV shows).
Mostly Martha is one of my favorite films in any language. If you haven’t seen it, do. Yes, you have to read subtitles, but the story is easy to follow. It’s got depth (and heart!), but it’s totally accessible (no need to warn you about patience and layering and thought provoking questions on the nature of man). It’s a romantic comedy about Martha Klein, a work-a-holic chef whose life is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of her young niece. Know that it is way better than the American remake with Catherine Zeta Jones. It may have had the same writer-director, but he American version lacked gravity and subtlety, and had the typical US problem of everything being shiny, glossy and pretty. That’s not to say the German version is ugly or a downer, but it feels more real, and the people don’t look plastic, and the kid seems like a normal brat, rather than an overly precocious brat. Also, as I recall (I’ve seen the US version once, the German version at least a half dozen times) you have better music in the German version (I kind of love the “Chips Chips” song). Oh, and fair warning, watching this movie makes me hungry. Without fail. I had to get up and make a three bean salad in the middle of watching the other day, just to avoid wasting away (because, clearly, I’m mere calories away from just being a skeleton–Ja. Richtig.)
Thus concluded my Gedeck-fest. I’d like to see some of her other films, but getting German media is difficult. A few of her other movies are relatively easy to get hold of, like the award winning The Lives of Others which is on my list of things to view, Summer of ’04, and Un Ami Parfait. Others that actually sound more interesting to me are nearly impossible to get, like Bastard, which also has Sibylle Canonica, The Door, which also stars Helen Mirren and is set in Hungary**, and Geliebte Clara, a historic bio-pic about Clara Schumann. Of course all this is going to involve more searching, hoping some streaming service licenses one of these, or DVDs become available in this region (or I score a region free DVD player–have I mentioned lately that I fuckin’ hate region encoding?).
*Actually she’s Swiss. I guess German Speaking is the more accurate way to say it.
**Hungary is awesome. Helen Mirren is awesome. Martina Gedeck is awesome. WHY am I being denied this intersection in the Venn Diagram of Awesomeness?!?!?