For someone who has never read Alfred Döblin’s classic German novel or watched the series, this modernised version of Berlin Alexanderplatz was an interesting experience. Not only does it tackle very relevant themes, it’s a saga in the life of one man, who gets used and swallowed by a climate that’s chosen the life he’s meant to live.

It tells the story of 30-year-old refugee Francis (Welket Bungué), who’s the sole survivor of a boat that illegally tried to cross the Mediterranean. Arriving in Berlin without papers pushes him towards the darker side of the city, filled with drugs, prostitution, and gangsters. He has the right intentions, but before he gets the chance to prove himself, he gets exploited to the point of literally no return.

Burhan Qurbani‘s reimagined version fully explores Francis’ character, which is an interesting ride to get on. Bungué is a very talented actor, who’s emotional stamina really carries the film on its back. The very long runtime can turn people off, but to my surprise this wasn’t boring. There’s no unnecessary scenes or characters who don’t contribute to the full picture.

Francis not only gets used by the city’s underbelly, but pushed even deeper by his so called friend Reinhold (Albrecht Schuch), who basically screws him over every chance he gets. The sociopolitical themes aren’t always as clear as the writers might’ve wanted, but this unconventional German film still does an impressive job at translating its message to the big screen.

The quality of the cinematography, the use of interesting camera angles and the mesmerising score complete the picture that looks and sounds fantastic. I think in some ways the characters could’ve been more streamlined and focused, but aren’t we all a little bit messy and all over the place? And where I didn’t mind the “chapters” in how the story gets told, it didn’t need the sappy epilogue to wrap things up, nor did it need the over explanatory voiceover.

Berlin Alexanderplatz is an emotional tale of a man struggling to survive. A solidly told drama that’s easily one of the more extraordinary films in recent German cinema history.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

German Film Festival will screen BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ from June 13 – June 20. Tickets and more information are available HERE

German Film Festival 2021 Review – Berlin Alexanderplatz

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), May 24, 2021. Rating: 18+. Running time: 183 min.

PRODUCTION: (AU) A Sommerhaus Filmproduktion, Lemming Film, ARTE, Entertainment One, Deutscher Filmförderfonds (DFFF), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Nederlands Filmfonds, Eurimages, Wild at Art production. Producers: Leif Alexis, Jochen Laube, Fabian Maubach. 

CREW: Director: Burhan Qurbani. Writers: Martin Behnke, Burhan Qurbani (based on the novel by Alfred Döblin). Cinematography: Yoshi Heimrath. Editing: Philipp Thomas. Music: Dascha Dauenhauer.

CAST: Welket Bungué, Albrecht Schuch, Jella Haase, Annabelle Mandeng, Joachim Król, Richard Fouofié Djimeli, Mira Elisa Goeres.

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