As We Were Dreaming: A fast-paced East German Trainspotting
by Bénédicte Prot
- BERLIN 2015: Andreas Dresen recounts the dangerous life of five inseparable teens from the East before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A humorous coming-of-age story against a techno backdrop
After the heartrending Stopped on Track [+see also:
film profile] (2011), which recounted with remarkable sobriety a terminal cancer, superb German director Andreas Dresen rediscovers in As We Were Dreaming [+see also:
Q&A: Andreas Dresen
film profile], in competition at Berlin, the less naturalist approach found in the other focus of his filmography, and the humour that goes with it, in his fastest-paced work to date. Techno music typical of the early 1990s is so present in this coming-of-age tale that, in many respects, it could be classed as an East German Trainspotting, with gall to beat – because the five friends from the Leipzig suburb whom we follow, from their youth as young pioneers of communism to their years of explosive delinquency in a reunified Germany, really live the dangerous life.
Regrets and drugs are also present, once the communist idyll is swept away with the colourful memories of the time when the boys were ten years old and wore red scarves around their necks, once the enthusiasm for reunification ends. That’s even how the movie begins, in the semi-darkness of a closed down cinema theatre where Dani (played by the very handsome Merlin Rose) meets up with his friend Mark (Joel Basman), now a drug addict. In a desperate attempt to save him, Dani becomes our guide in the tale of their carefree adolescence and dreams.
We enter this vast flashback via a luminous portal: fevered dancers’ hands are waving in the spotlights of an underground nightclub, the history of which is explained to us afterwards. What follows is divided into chapters with hard-hitting titles that arise unexpectedly, posted in big capital letters and bright colours: Be Ready, Rivalry, Thunderstorm in the Head, Always Ready, the Lotto Fairy, the Great Fights, the Big Dipper... Episodes, which are not always told in chronological order (producing a kind of to-ing and fro-ing between the period before the fall of the Wall and after), are at times sweet, at times thrilling. In the first category, we have the combat training of the young pioneers that transforms the school into a war zone and the children into the injured (allowing them to touch the fake nurses who dress their wounds, and Mark to pretend to shoot up for the first time), as well as the moment when DJ Frog (David Berton), the trainspotter, falls in love with the young woman who sells lotto tickets, and all the scenes in which our young friends are aroused by girls (or kind to the elderly ladies living in their building, as eccentric and alcoholic as they may be). In the second, we find car chases, the regular and rough clashes with a gang of quasi neo-Nazis, Rico (Julius Nitschkoff)’s boxing matches and above all the amphetamine-fuelled nights in the techno nightclub that the five boys manage to set up in a disused factory, while they are hardly even of age, with Frog on the decks and Pitbull (Marcel Heuperman) as the bouncer.
What makes the story so moving and thrilling is the unconditional friendship that over all those brazen and off-the-wall years unites the five "brothers", their cohesion to and against everything – because that’s also youth: to be inseparable, like the five fingers of your hand. The end, where dreams crumble, corresponds undoubtedly to the exact moment when we’re torn from those with whom we grew up and, in the moment that follows, we find ourselves already looking back, full of regret and nostalgia. This chapter doesn’t bear a mighty name, it’s rather a sad, solitary one, like a whispered murmur: Abschied, "Parting".
As We Were Dreaming, written by Wolfgang Kohlhaase (who previously wrote for Dresen the scripts of Summer in Berlin [+see also:
film profile] and Whisky with Vodka [+see also:
interview: Andreas Dresen
film profile] as well as that of The Legend of Rita by Volker Schlöndorff), based on a best-seller by Clemens Meyer, was produced by Rommel Film, co-produced by Iskremas Filmproduktion and French production company Les Films du Losange, and supported by German regional channels ARD, BR, MDR and RBB, and former director of the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, Olivier Père, for ARTE. International sales are managed by The Match Factory.
(Translated from French)