Film Screening Christian Alvart: Free Country

view of landscape with a lake Christian Alvart: Free Country

Wed, 25.01.2023


Goethe-Institut London

Goethe-Kino (Cinema Screening)

We start the new Goethe-Kino year with a piece of genre-cinema, a thriller set in the bleak wintry landscape of Mecklenburg–West Pomerania in north East Germany in 1992. After arresting his boss‘s brother on a cocaine charge, detective Patrick Stein is sent from Hamburg to the small town of Löwitz not far from the Polish border. Two teenage girls have gone missing, and together with his East German colleague, Markus Bach, he is to find out what happened to them. Their investigation soon leads them to uncover a whole series of crimes and increasingly puts them in danger.

Free Country is a remake of the 2014 Spanish thriller La isla mínima (Marshland) by Alberto Rodriguez set in the years following Franco’s dictatorship and portraying a society stifled by the opposing forces of the old and the new system. Similarly, Christan Alvart tells his story amidst a community paralysed by disillusion and mistrust that have replaced the initial mood of new beginnings that took hold of the East just after reunification three years earlier. The older generation can hardly scrape out a living, the younger people leave to find work elsewhere. Polish migrant workers are given the blame for taking their jobs.

Alvart gives us time to get to know a range of these marginalised characters as the two detectives proceed with their investigation. At no time does he fall into a social-realist mode, but maintains a consistent level of stylisation creating an atmosphere as icy as the wintry air and as oppressive as the brown palette of the wide marshy landscape taken in by gliding drone shots. Though the two detectives both seem determined to solve the case, much of the film’s tension arises from the underlying distrust between the two men, fed on Stein’s part by Bach’s brutal questioning methods and information he receives about the latter’s Stasi past. But true the noir genre, the film also has Stein divert from his moral code, and it suggests from the start that the system that sent him east is also corrupt. 

Germany 2020, colour, 129 mins. With English subtitles.
Director: Christian Alvart. With Trystan Pütter, Felix Kramer, Ludwig Simon, Nora von Waldstätten, Leonard Kunz, Hanna Hilsdorf, Marc Limpach, Jean Denis Römer, Alva Schäfer, Uwe Dag Berlin, Asia Luna Mohmand, Alexander Radszun, Michael Specht, Hirschfeld Nurit.

Book Tickets Through Eventbrite

Christian Alvart was born in 1974 in Seeheim-Jugenheim in Hesse. During his childhood and adolescence he filmed on Super-8 and video. Together with a circle of film-loving geeks he founded the film magazine X-TRO, of which he became editor-in-chief at the age of 19. Alvart never attended a film school but taught himself the trade as an assistant in various functions. In 1997 he founded his production company Syrreal Entertainment based in Berlin and made his feature film debut in 1999 with Curiosity killed the Cat, which was nominated for the Max Ophüls Prize.

After his second feature film Antibodies (2005) he moved to Hollywood, where he directed the horror thriller Fall 39 for Paramount, starring Renée Zellweger and Bradley Cooper in 2007; and the 2008 sci-fi thriller Pandorum, starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster. Back in Germany, Alvart worked as a “Tatort” director on two highly acclaimed Borowski episodes and was commissioned as a director for the “Tatort”-episodes with Til Schweiger in 2012. His thriller Banklady was released in cinemas in 2013. The buddy comedy Halbe Brüder followed in 2015 and in 2016 the “Tatort” episode Tschiller: Off Duty.

In 2018, Christian Alvart once again demonstrated his enthusiasm for genre cinema in the film adaptation of the psychological thriller Abgeschnitten by the successful authors Sebastian Fitzek and Michael Tsokos, as well as in the direction of the thriller Steig.Nicht.Aus!. Dogs of Berlin, available on Netflix since 2018, is a dark 10-part series in which Alvart, as showrunner, has two police officers investigating the depths of Berlin's complex underworld. Two series of Sløborn followed. He is also working on a live-action adaptation of the Captain Future series, for which Alvart and his production company have acquired the worldwide rights. Christian Alvart has three sons and one daughter and lives in Berlin. (Source: film press material, edited)