Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

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Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby A » Tue Dec 19, 2006 12:14 pm

Montag kommen die Fenster
(Ulrich Khler / Germany / 2005)

Are they dead?
No, they are just sleeping.
I think they are dead.

Sometimes the beginning of a film already sums up everything that is going to follow. The first moments of Windows on Monday reveal to us the world through the eyes of a child. A hospital, patients resting in their beds, and the first line of dialogue spoken by young Charlotte. An innocent question, which is nevertheless emblematic for the whole movie.
What is it here in Germany (and its not only Germany) that gives you the impression that some of the people have become the living dead when you are walking through town? That if youd try to talk to them they would probably keep on staring while realizing that they have lost the ability to speak. Something they probably havent noticed for a long time. That I am not alone in my perception of our present-day society, can be witnessed in numerous films by a new generation of German filmmakers whose films need to be seen.

Germany 2005. A normal life, a normal couple. Nina works as a doctor, her husband seems to have quit his job. They have a bright young daughter and are building a new house. Money isnt the problem. She may be getting pregnant, though.
Some movies need a second chance. When I watched Windows on Monday for the first time at the Berlinale in 2006, I was already a firm believer in the talents of Ulrich Khler, an emerging new talent, who already startled the movie world (or the ones who were paying attention) with his first feature-film in 2002. But although assured by the mastery of Khlers direction through a couple of rewatches of his masterpiece Bungalow and his earlier student film Rakete (1999) both available on an excellent subtitled DVD from the German quality label "Filmgalerie 451" I still wasnt prepared for the impact which Windows on Monday would have on me. Its not so much the possibility that Khler has changed his style (I think he hasnt) or that I didnt like the movie. Its simply the fact that you shouldnt watch certain films when you are depressed. As the film has finally been officially released into german cinemas, I decided that my initial reaction to it needed some balance. What can I say after Ive seen it again? The second viewing not only reaffirmed the qualities of the film, but was also a pleasant experience in itself. Next time I watch a film by Ulrich Khler it will hopefully be in a relaxed frame of mind.

Although his films seem to be treading the surprise formula, the biggest surprise may be that nothing much seems to be happening. People come people go, they eat, they @#%$, they talk, and more than anything else they walk. Movement is the only constant in Khlers work, where everybody seems to be connected with everybody else, but even the characters arent able to decide what it is exactly, this unseen bond between people. In this way, Khler's cinema might be related to the mysteries of Jacques Rivette. The relations between people are the focus of the films, as well as the search for meaning in their lifes. The characters arent able to figure out what they want. Having only a vague idea of their dislikes they practice rebellion. But a rebellion that seems to be related more against the self. There is the sense of being trapped in something one doesnt understand, and the world has become unfamiliar as the usual strategies of perception seem to lose their absoluteness.

What if we dont follow the rules anymore, what if we choose to ignore the structures of society? What if? Khler isnt interested in revolutions. His protagonists acts seem more as a reworking of a situation, opening up a parallel world because of an extra step which has been taken. When Nina leaves her family she simply does it. There are no grand gestures, no dramatic scenes in the usual sense. The spilling of blood happens between the images. Whats left is silence. Its hard to decipher emotions when a face appears motionless, the body only functioning in its basic routine. Still, there are moments when you notice a change, a slight adjustement to each singular situation. With the beginning of Khlers films, the movement has begun.

The camera keeps following the characters, observing them, and showing us what they are observing in return. But an explanation isnt given. Another act of rebellion, this time from the filmmaker himself. Ulrich Khler avoids simple explanations. His cinema is rational in the best sense, as he doesnt pretend to know more about the characters than they do themselves. As such, it is up to the viewer to decide - if he wants to decide at all that is.

If we ask what reality is, Khler maybe answers that it is something which happens and which we can change through our actions. But can we change ourselves? When the Windows arrive, they are the wrong ones. And as our characters follow a funeral, the question remains.
Death is not a solution.

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Dec 20, 2006 6:14 am

Good review, A. I remember this film from your Berlinale thread.

I've only yet browsed Quintn's piece on the film; I'll try to quote him soon.

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby A » Wed Dec 20, 2006 1:47 pm

That would be interesting. Did he write for Film Comment about it?

When I saw it at the Berlinale I was really not in the right mood for it. Khler was present at the screening, but he didn't say much, and there were no questions from the public. I think they were all pretty much overwhelmed by the movie and didn't know what to ask. At least this was how I felt.
But the German filmcritic who was announcing the screening and talked to Khler afterwards was completely enthusiastic about it and about Khlers way of making films. She was paying him compliments all of the time, and she was so nervous, i thought she was either going to rape him on stage or get a nervous breakdown.

You should try to see Khler's work though. I think you will like it. And besides Angela Schanelec, I can't think of a more talented young German filmmaker working today. There is so much going on here the last couple of years, that it's really exciting to live in Germany and be able to watch all of those films at the Cinema. I'll try to write more regularly about it and give you more information.
If any of you want to know something about what's going on in germany, I'll do my best to answer your questions!
And I need to write more for the two threads on German films we have.

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:40 am

"Surfacing very slowly over the last few years, what can be legitimately called the New German Cinema is finally becoming an accepted reality. Young, predominantly Berlin-based filmmakers like Valeska Grisebach, Henner Winckler, Maren Ade, Angela Shanelac, and Christoph Hochhasler constitute more than a generational coincidence and less than a movement, but they are linked to each other and, as their films emerge and receive ever greater acceptance on the festival circuit and among domestic and foreign critics, they think of themselves as bound to change German cinema. Well-wrought and ariticulate, their films are far away from the Oberhausen generation, but even farther from the mainly commercial, sentimental, and exploitative output (with some notable exceptions in the experimental field) typical of German cinema in the last 20 years, most recently represented by Downfall and The Lives of Others.

The group is large enough to linked with someone like Christian Petzold on the conventional side (who serves as a kind of mentor to many in the group) or Romuald Karmakar on the more unpredictable front, but there is a family likeness in the films of the New German Cinema. The cleanness of the shots, the precise and careful camera movements, the natural restraint in the acting, the dryness of the storytelling, the silences, the ellipses, and ambiguities, the youth of the characters, the interest in exploring intimacy, and the uneasiness of individuals in society are common characteristics of almost every film in the group.

Born in 1969, Ulrich Khler is not only a good representative of the New German Cinema, but a very personal filmmaker, as already seen in Bungalow, his remarkable first feature and the film that indicated that something serious was going on in Germany. Khler has a knack for beauty, elegance, subtlety, and virtuoso shots. He also likes to play slightly perverse games withe the spectator, jumping ahead in the story and leaving some areas of the plot unexplained or unfinished (in Bungalow there is a strange sequence where the audience is not told whether or not two characters have had sex). But perversity goes a little further in Windows on Monday, his second film, and one of the year's most important."

Eduardo Antin (Quintn) - Cinemascope.

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Jan 16, 2007 5:40 am

If Mr. Antin were to include such relatively young and extremely talented non-Berliners as Stefan Krohmer, Hans-Christian Schmid, Oskar Roehler, Fatih Akin, Achim von Borries, and numerious others, a conclusion then could've easily been made that this "new wave" will engulf Europe (Cannes must catch on first) and the rest of the world in the upcoming years. After Argentina, it's Germany!

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby A » Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:02 pm


Yes, Quintin also shouldn't dismiss all of the seemingly commercial, sentimental, and exploitative output. I think Olaf Moller would be on a different stand there.
But it's great that he has also instantly grasped the importance of Khler (like myself ).
And I do think Germany is already the "next" Argentina (while I keep my fingers crossed that the quality of the films won't regress in the coming years).

Have you seen something by Stefan Krohmer arsaib?

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Jan 18, 2007 6:51 am

Mller has also stressed concern regarding the kind of support those zeitgeist-pandering middlebrow efforts have received.

I recently watched Krohmer's promising second theatrical feature, Summer '04.

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby A » Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:13 pm

There seem to be many critical voices about "Downfall" or "The Lives of Others", but they are not as many as the supporting ones. I think it's more an issue of how they handle politics than anything else. But I haven't watched these two films yet (not really interested) so I probably shouldn't open my mouth too wide.
Nevertheless i thought Hirschbiegel's "The Experiment" (2000) to be a very good "commercial" effort. And it's abvious that films with a "hot" topic will get more viewers, than arthouse productions.
What I find most troubling, is the lack of interest among critics for films by Schanelec, Khler and company. This year the attitude seems to have changed a bit -Griesebach's "Longing" for example received mostly glowing reviews - but I'm not sure this will last.

Yes, I also thought "Summer '04) very promising, though a tad too "constructed" for my liking. Martina Gedeck was excellent though, and I love the very last scene. Hope to see it again sometime.

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:53 am

"But I haven't watched these two films yet (not really interested) so I probably shouldn't open my mouth too wide."

Good choice!

"Nevertheless i thought Hirschbiegel's "The Experiment" (2000) to be a very good "commercial" effort."

Agreed. And if it had avoided the genre cliches during the later stages, it would've been much more penetrating. Not surprisingly, Hirschbiegel is currently working on a Hollywood production, though one starring Nicole Kidman.

"What I find most troubling, is the lack of interest among critics for films by Schanelec, Khler and company. This year the attitude seems to have changed a bit, but I'm not sure this will last (Griesebach's "Longing" for example received mostly glowing reviews)."

Longing has appeared on numerous international top ten lists. I look forward to watching it.

Re: Windows on Monday (Germany / 2005)

Postby A » Fri Feb 02, 2007 2:46 pm

Quote:This year the attitude seems to have changed a bit -Griesebach's "Longing" for example received mostly glowing reviews - but I'm not sure this will last.
I've changed the syntax of the sentence a bit. Now it makes more sense.

I hope "Longing" gets distribution abroad. I'd be interested in your opinion on it.


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