FILM: Rebuilding the metropolis

Millions are now being invested in revitalising and expanding the Babelsberg Film Studios near Berlin, making it Europe‘s only credible rival for Hollywood‘s movie dominance. it was the stage that provided Fritz Lang. Louise Brooks and Marlene Dietrich with the Opportunity to build careers. This time the intention is to hold onto talent.

The studios were created over 80 years ago when German film company Bioscope was looking to expand. its pioneering cameraman Guido Seeber. responsible for many revolutionary techniques, found Babelsberg, a site big enough and close enough to Berlin.

Now the DMSlO million (£210 million) six-year modernisation programme. already under way. will rejuvenate studios that were for 40 years under East German control. There are plans for a media city costing about DMZ billion. a place for moving picture artists to live and work.

The man in charge is Volker Sehléndorff, the director who adapted Gunter Grass' 'li'n Drum and

became the first German to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes. before heading to America.

‘Schléndorff knows his career is on the line.‘ according to a Babelsberg press spokesman. ‘He says it cannot go on like this, with 95 per cent of entertainment coming from just one city. as far as movies are concerned. Babelsberg is Europe‘s big ehancef

Since its privatisation in 1992. Babelsberg has made more than twenty movies with top European directors like Regis Wargnier (director of Indochine) and performers such as Anthony Hopkins, lsabella Rossellini and Gerard Depardieu.

Babelsberg became the stage that developed the artistic and technical expertise that we take for granted today, films like Fritz Lang‘s futuristic Metropolis and Golem, with the expressive Paul Wegener as the giant. Since those days. European filmmaking has become dwarfed by its American cousin; Babelsberg’s task is to slay, or at least maim, Goliath.

( Pqu Rowinski)

Volker Schliindorff: challenging Hollywood


Achtung Baby: Bono’s Berlin

MUSIC: First we take Manhattan . ..

By the mid 705, if Berlin stood for anything, it was sickness. Falling from its position as Europe’s decadent, intellectual capital in the 20s to become the crucible from which the greatest evils of the century emerged, the city lay there, abutting the Iron Curtain in a cold, evil hangover. No wonder Lou Reed used it as a metaphor for love gone sour, estrangement, moral deterioration, mental illness and suicide.

In 1976, schizoid, sick, haunted by the past and seeking physical and spiritual restoration, David Bowie needed an anonymous refuge in which to recuperate. lie and soulmate Iggy Pop bunkered down in Berlin. They were fascinated by the dark European heritage of expressionism and the murder theatre of Brecht and Weill, Germany’s clean, new Autobahn sound pioneered by Kraftwerk, and the city’s history of disillusioned radicalism. Besides, their cocaine and sulphate diet demanded a hard punk setting, and Berlin was the punk-drug centre of Europe.

ART: Occupied territory

in February 1990, as the GDR tottered its way into the scrapyard of history, a group of squatters from East and West Germany moved into a derelict tum— of—the-century department store just a stone’s throw from a border checkpoint station in East Berlin. They sprayed the facade with a line from the discredited East German national anthem that became the group’s own manifesto: ‘Auferstanden aus Ruinen' (Resurrected from the ruins).

Tacheles was born Berlin’s most prized ruin. Taking its name from a Yiddish word meaning ‘straight talk’. Tacheles has become Berlin’s most talked about arts venue. The crumbling sandstone edifice with its srcap metal statues, beckons you into a post-apocalyptic Mad Max sculpture garden, until recently the domain ofthe scrap-metal artists, Mutoid Waste Company. They made a celebrated exit in March, taking with them their two customised Soviet MiG 21 fighter planes and accompanied by UK techno-heads Spiral Tribe, who had been in brief residence there.

The five-storey interior houses more than two dozen functioning rooms. including a theatre, cinema. concert space, cafe and bar, gallery space, a

multitude of artists' studios and workshops. Down in the bowels of the building, between the pipes and dripping water, one of Europe’s most atmospheric dance venues. The central core of around 30 artists and administrators who run Tacheles must now be the most eosseted squatters in Europe. They receive an annual subsidy from the local authority of DM30.()O() (£12,500). many staff positions are now waged from the public purse, and the city‘s parliament recently passed a bill protecting the squatters against a future investor buying the building. it remains to be seen whether this offers real protection against the commercial interests who see the area as a good investment. Tacheles sits on the corner of OraniennburgerstraBe. Berlin‘s hippest street. Traversing the old proletarian Jewish quarter of the Scheunenviertel. the rickety tram ride from the Tacheles down OraniennburgerstraBe towards the Alexander Platz, takes you past the gold-domed splendour of the restored synagogue, a multitude of new bars. restaurants. galleries and a spectacular line of prostitutes straight out of the pages of a Batman comic. (Darren Nolan)

Sucking on Gitanes in crumbling tenements, they absorbed the jaded urban decay of their surroundings, and their first Berlin recordings - Bowie’s Low and Iggy’s The Idiot— informed by the intense, doom-laden paranoia of the city still sound like the last music created by a society in slow- motion collapse.

Emerging after Bowie’s slightly lighter Heroes and Iggy’s wildly celebratory Lust for life, it appeared that, creatively and personally, the city had effected a cathartic cure on them. Soon the trail they had blazed was being followed by musicians from Japan to flick Cave, Depeche Mode to 02 in search of salvation, reinvention or credibility.

‘It became a cliché,’ says Michael Bracewell, creator of a Late Show special on the city’s rock connections. ‘If you’re on drugs, your career’s in tatters and you’ve lost yourself by becoming a rock messiah - you go Berlin, have a crisis, become very thin and make your seminal album.’

(Damien Love)

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The List 21 October—3 November 199413