Berlin Wall rises again for mysterious film

| 30 Aug 2018

A massive film-art project in the German capital is set to rebuild part of the Berlin Wall to create a closed-off mini-state, complete with visa checks.

The walled-in "city within a city" will host the world premiere of the mysterious and mammoth DAU film project and social experiment of enigmatic Russian filmmaker Ilya Khrzhanovsky.

Pending approval from Berlin city authorities, organizers plan to erect 900 concrete wall slabs, each 3.6 meters tall, for the 6.6 million euro (HK$70.5 million) premiere.

Visitors to the parallel world will have to apply online for entrance "visas" and swap their cellphones for off-line digital devices with an algorithm that will suggest a personalized tour.

Set on a city block on Unter den Linden boulevard, the time-capsule project is due to launch on October 12 and end with a ritualistic tearing down of the wall on November 9, the day of the historic event in 1989.

The aim is not to create "a Disney GDR [German Democratic Republic]," said Thomas Oberender, director of Berliner Festspiele, which will host the mega-event.

"It is not a film premiere but a mixture of social experiment, artistic experiment and an impressive form of world-building," he said.

The aim is to spark "a political and social debate about freedom and totalitarianism, surveillance, co-existence and national identity."

Oberender thanked the "very many people who for months, and up to two years, didn't speak about this project - a small miracle in a city like Berlin."

A trickle of news and cryptic clues has created a buzz and sparked controversy about the project, with critics labeling it a stunt hurtful to people who lived in communist East Germany.

"Out of respect for the victims who really experienced such situations, we should step away from this," Berlin politician Sabina Bangert of the Greens party said.

Others are excited about the art event that will evoke the Cold War past of Berlin. Germany's minister of culture Monika Gruetters said she was "absolutely convinced this will be a world event."

Lending star power to the project are conductor Teodor Currentzis, composer Brian Eno, director Tom Tykwer, the band Massive Attack and legendary street artist Banksy.

Berlin's DAU-Freedom is set to kick off follow-up events in Paris in November (DAU-Equality) and London early next year (DAU-Fraternity), all organized by the London-based Phenomen Trust, co-founded by Russian millionaire Sergey Adoniev.

The epic DAU film project, more than a decade in the making, has been labeled "Apocalypse Dau : the most insane film shoot of all time" by Britain's Daily Telegraph.

Dau was the nickname of Soviet nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate Lev Landau (1908-68), one of the fathers of the Russian nuclear bomb and an advocate of free love.

The project started in 2005 as a conventional biopic but evolved into what Caravan magazine labeled a "brutal and baroque movie project and human experiment."

Hundreds of amateur actors were asked to live full-time from 2009-11 in a mock-up secret Soviet nuclear research facility dubbed The Institute that was built in Ukraine.

Participants had to dress, speak and act as if living under the Soviet regime, with penalties for using cellphones or social media. They wore scratchy underwear, ate tinned food, used rubles, carried ID cards and endured other privations of bleak Soviet life.

"They fell in love, betrayed friends, cheated on their partners, conducted experiments, were arrested, gave birth to children, grew older," says the event's press release.

Cinematographer Juergen Juerges, who spent three years on the set, said the aim was to shoot their unscripted interactions "everywhere, anytime They lived, and we filmed them."

At the end, Khrzhanovsky reportedly had neo-Nazis destroy the set.

The resulting 700 hours of footage have been edited into 13 feature films and several television series, and are due to appear in an online multimedia project.


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