German Film Day at the BFI

London F16

On a grey November’s day, my A-level German-language students and I met at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank to attend Der deutsche Film: an Introduction to German Cinema for A-level German Students.

As soon as everybody had gathered in Screen 1, we were challenged by an illustrative quiz in which we were encouraged to pair names of German actors with their portraits, testing our ability to distinguish a gallery of famous faces. This kicked off what was going to be an informative day on German cinema that awakened interest and taught us how to look at film in ways that made even the well-known material seem new.  The film clips were engaging in their own right, but the accompanying tasks set for the students, tackled by way of group discussion and in the target language, were very valuable exercises.

For lunch, we crossed the river for some German sausage at ‘Herman ze German’ on Villiers Street!

Back on the South Bank, the film-day resumed with a full-length viewing of Fassbinder’s Angst Essen Seele Auf [Fear Eats the Soul]. This film, unusual both in topic and artistic content as far as our students were concerned, acquainted them with the very different film language and stylised approach to film-making typical of the seventies. While the story here immediately relates to the then-recent influx of Gastarbeiter into Germany and the social problem of society’s reaction to “these people”, the topic was very relevant also to contemporary Germany and Europe at large, given the influx of immigrants in recent times.

All in all it was a thought-provoking and enjoyable day in which the students were thoroughly immersed in a very appealing introduction to a perhaps lesser-known, yet seminal part of German culture and the history of cinema at large. I am certain that this experience will motivate them to discover more about German film.                                                               

Bettina Weichert