Berlinale Blog What price the world?

“Als wir träumten” by Andreas Dresen
“Als wir träumten” by Andreas Dresen | Photo: Peter Hartwig © Rommel Film

“Als wir träumten” (As We Were Dreaming) is Andreas Dresen’s film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Clemens Meyer about the wild years of a gang of youths in the Leipzig of post-reunification Germany. Rico, Mark, Paul and Daniel drink and steal, joy-ride and write-off stolen cars and establish a techno underground club. They reach for the stars and fall to the earth.

The big fights

Dani (Merlin Rose) is running. Fast. And ever faster. Through dingy streets, across railway tracks, past front doors. But it is all for nothing, for sooner or later the Nazis will catch him – all ten or fifteen of them – and will beat him up until he lies completely shattered on the ground, and all because of Estrelita (Ruby O. Fee) or “Sternchen” (i.e. Starlet), as they all call her. Dani will only see his one-time great love again much later when he has just been released from prison and calls in on his best mate Rico (Julius Nitschkoff), a boxer. The two friends spend one last evening together in a table dancing bar, where one of the girls writhing provocatively around the pole is Sternchen.

Excess and removal of boundaries

In Clemens Meyer’s novel the characters were already battling brutally and tenderly for something akin to happiness and turning the outskirts of Leipzig into the centre of the universe. Andreas Dresen underscores this yearning for excess and the removal of boundaries with the dry ice, stroboscope flashes and thumping techno beats of a disco. It is a beautiful film, albeit a melancholy one of course, which Dresen also punctuates with funny situations, moments full of lightness and happiness, like in the flashbacks which – as in the novel – focus on childhood. Wolfgang Kohlhaase, who wrote the screenplay, explains why he felt it was important to portray specifically this irrepressible strength that is to be found in childhood and above all in adolescence. “This wonderful moment of anarchy. One asks oneself: what price the world? And sooner or later one realizes that the world has already been sold.”