Cinema Screening Dominik Graf: Fabian – Going to the Dogs

Pietà-Motiv-Bild © Beta Cinema

Wed, 26.01.2022

19:00

Goethe-Institut London

Goethe-Kino

We are in a street in contemporary Berlin, enter the underground, walk through its tunnels, along platforms and as we emerge we find ourselves in 1931 and encounter a man bent over a railing, obviously unwell: It is Jakob Fabian assailed by a spectre from the First World War which he was just about old enough to take part in. Now at thirty-two he is a graduated germanist who ekes a living as a copy writer for a cigarette company. He has some literary aspirations but little ambition. At night he drifts through clubs, bars and brothels, a nightmarish world that disgust him more than it gives him pleasure. He likes to observe and not get too involved – until he meets Cornelia and falls in love. Going swimming with her and his best friend Labude, a love-sick socialist from a rich family, offers a respite from past traumas and the signs of the disastrous times to come. Two years before the Nazis take power, their presence and influence are becoming increasingly manifest, while in the aftermath of the word economic crisis unemployment is rampant and also catches up with Fabian. Yet, he still manages to stay afloat, even when more blows follow and test his faith in people.

Dominik Graf’s daring adaption of Erich Kästner’s popular novel published 1931 gets off to a frenzied start and sends us scrambling through Berlin’s underworld alongside its protagonist. There are split screens, times jumps backwards and forwards. “I had the impression of continuous turmoil in the novel, a fractured world for everyone, created by the First World War, which was far from over in 1931,” Graf explains. But the film will settle into a calmer pace; a male and a female narrator alternate, introducing Kästner’s detached and ironic voice into the film. Tom Schilling (Coffee in Berlin/ Oh Boy) plays Fabian with this very detachment and irony, but also lets his desperation and fragility shine through as well as his sense of loss in the face of cruel times.

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Germany 2021, colour, 176 mins. With English subtitles.
Directed by Dominik Graf.  With Tom Schilling, Saskia Rosendahl, Albrecht Schuch, Meret Becker, Michael Wittenborn, Petra Kalkutschke, Elmar Gutmann, Aljoscha Stadelmann, Anne Bennent, Eva Medusa Gühne.

Dominik Graf

Born in Munich, Germany in 1952, he studied at the city’s University of Film and Television from 1974 to 1980. In the course of his career as a director and writer he has won many prizes including the German Film Award, the Bavarian Film and Television award, the German Television Award and numerous Grimme Awards. His best-known works include the films Die Katze, Die Sieger, Hotte im Paradies and Die geliebten Schwestern; the series Der Fahnder and Im Angesicht des Verbrechens, and several episodes of “Polizeiruf 110” and “Tatort”. In 2010, he published a book of essays on film. (Berlinale)

Erich Kästner

Erich Kästner was born in Dresden in 1899, the son of a saddle maker and a maidservant. He was drafted into the army in 1917, and his experiences there were to influence his later pacifism and are reflected in the semi-autobiographical novel Fabian published in 1931 to great success. Kästner was best known for his children’s books. He published Emil and the Detectives in 1928 to great success. A sequel, Emil and the Three Twins, appeared in 1933, but soon afterwards his books were labelled "contrary to the German spirit" and burned in public by the Nazis. He was interviewed by the Gestapo several times, but remained in Berlin until 1945, when he fled the city to avoid the Soviet assault. After the war he continued to write and remained committed to anti-war movements until his death in 1974. (Penguin, with some additions)

 

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