In art we trust?
Of the 24 films presented in this year's competition or out of competition, no less than five are set in the world of the arts. Escapism? Or a sign of the times?
The main character in Wilde Maus (Wild Mouse) is a music critic on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The main character in Félicité (tickets sold out for all screenings!) is a singer from Kinshasa. Final Portrait tells the story of the friendship between Alberto Giacometti and his biographer James Lord, and Beuys is a documentary portrait of Joseph Beuys, a former scandalist in the art world, whose designs and concepts seem even more timely today than a few decades ago. In times of tension and uncertainty about the future, taking refuge in art might seem to be one of the most sensible solutions. It offers an escape from everyday life and reality. It gives an insight into beauty with a capital B. And the space where humanity appears in its most mysterious, moving and explicitly divine dimension seems to be a place of freedom, and maybe even holiness.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Art, like every sphere of human life, is influenced by politics – and by pressure, which is all the more dangerous because the individuals subjected to such pressure are exceptionally sensitive and fragile. So it would seem that the choice of Etienne Comara's Django to open the 67th Berlinale was no coincidence. It tells of the war years in the life of Django Reinhardt, one of the greatest guitarists of all time. During World War II Reinhardt, being of Sinti origin, belonged to a particularly vulnerable group of citizens. He twice attempted to flee from occupied France. Reinhardts situation became truly tragic when, in 1943, he received "an offer one cannot refuse" – a concert tour around Nazi Germany. In such a situation, can art retain its innocence? Where is the boundary between artistic freedom and propaganda? And is this boundary distinct, or fuzzy? It seems appropriate to ask such questions – especially today.