Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fernsehfilme: Vorhersehbar, aber viele der schönen Menschen (German TV: Predictable but a lot of Beautiful People)

Typical Scenic Landscape from a Fernsehfilm
Germany TV reminds me of 1970s American television: most of it mediocre, but, at least, there was something for everybody. Sadly, American TV has become a wasteland for reality TV, talk shows, and schlock. I avoid it. Nevertheless, with the Internet and HDMI, I'm able to follow German TV in the USA.

Each day, I watch the German evening news (Der Tagesschau); and, if time permits, a made-for-TV movie (Fernsehfilm) -- preferably a sentimental, romantic drama (something I usually don't watch otherwise). Strangely, I find this kind of mindless entertainment relaxing and comforting. The scenery is breathtaking, the actors good-looking and the plots completely predictable, even when they are far fetched. These Fernsehfilme follow the standard formula: man meets woman, man falls in love with woman, man and woman break up, and lastly, man and woman are reunited.

Here are a few examples of what I've recently seen on DasErste:

Plötzlich ist es Liebe (Suddenly, it's Love)

Ralf Bauer
Filmed in the beautiful German countryside and on the Italian seacoast, this story involves, Barbara, a beautiful orphaned girl living in Italy. It seems Barbara's mother was discredited by her wealthy family because of an “undesirable affair” with Barbara's rakish and good-looking Italian father. After the death of her parents, Barbara is invited to Germany by her wealthy uncle. Of course, Barbara lacks the social graces of her wealthy relatives, but soon her natural charms delight the men, especially her hunky and very good-looking neighbor Christian (Ralf Bauer). Plot spoiler:

Barbara and Christian fall in love.

Zwei Herzen und ein Edelweiß (Two Hearts and an Edelweiß Flower)

Scene from Zwei Herzen
After her divorce, Bettina Finke has only one wish: to forget her marriage and take a vacation with her children to Italy. However, on route to Italy, she decides to visit to her great-uncle Gustav who she hasn't seen since childhood. Of course, Uncle Gustav lives on an idyllic farm in the Bavarian Alps; but sadly by the time Bettina reaches Bavaria, Uncle Gustav is dead. After the funeral, Bettina learns that uncle Gustav has left his entire estate to her!!

At first, Bettina and her children want nothing to do with this picture postcard farm. It seems Bettina and the children long for the dirt, congestion, and high-speed Internet of the big city. Then Bettina meets Martin, a handsome man who owns the auto repair shop in the village. Plot Spoiler:

Bettina and Martin fall in love, the children forget they lack high-speed Internet, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Auf der anderen Seite (On the Other Hand)
English title: The Edge of Heaven

This movie is the exception to the usual Fernsehfilm. (It was originally a theatrical release.) There's no beautiful scenery, no handsome actors, and no happy ending (my kind of movie). The film involves a son traveling to Istanbul to look for the daughter of his father's girlfriend. Missed connections, tragic murders, and a bittersweet ending contribute to this “arty” European film. (BTW: it won lots of film awards).

It stars some well-known actors, including Hanna Schygulla (The Marriage of Maria Braun, Berlin Alexanderplatz). I remember Ms. Schygulla from the 1970s as the sensually erotic actress who starred in a number of Fassbinder films (which, by the way, are the opposite of these soothing, unremarkable Fernsehfilme).

Hanna Schygulla
Unlike most American actors, Ms. Schygulla doesn't appear to have had plastic surgery. She looks her age, an attractive and matronly woman in her 60s. And while I didn't recognize her at first, Ms. Schygulla still has those radiant eyes that convey deep emotion. Looking at her today, she reminds me of Hillary Clinton.

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