4th German Film Week
Balloon | Ballon
FOCUS: NEW GERMAN CINEMA; 30 YEARS FALL OF BERLIN WALL
|Director Michael Herbig skilfully recreates a chilling, tense historical event.|
Based on actual events, this feature film tells the story of a spectacular escape from the GDR. In summer 1979, after two years of preparations and planning, the Strezlzyk and Wetzel families want to escape from the GDR in a self-built hot-air balloon. The Strelzyk family goes first, but has to make an emergency landing before they get to cross the border. The damaged balloon gets carried away by the wind. While the family can make if back home safely, both, the Strelzyks as well as the Wetzels know it won’t be long before the Stasi are onto them. Feverishly, they start building a new, more stable balloon to undertake another attempt to escape.
film reviewAudiences looking for a tense, nerve-wracking political thriller set in the tumultuous latter years of the Cold War in Germany will not be disappointed in Ballon, a film based on the heroic East German balloon escape on September 16, 1979, and on the two families who dared crossing the East and West border with a homemade, painstakingly constructed hot air balloon. Undeterred by one failed attempt and months of secretly preparing for the escape, the Strelzyk and Wetzel families hold on to their crazy plan of fleeing East Germany to the West, where they believe they would lead better, freer lives. Directed by Michael Herbig and led by a strong cast including Friedrich Mücke, Karoline Schuch, David Kross, and Thomas Kretschmann, Ballon is an unabashedly commercial fare that thrives, through its technical and formal orchestration, in accentuating and exhausting all the dramatic possibilities of the narrative.
The film has no pretensions of offering finer insights into the cruelty of the war. Oftentimes it resorts to the convenient and recognizable dichotomies of good and evil, with black-and-white characterizations (civilians and soldiers, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters) that dilute the complexities of living through the era. It perfectly utilizes the three-act structure to wring maximum entertainment out of its dramatic premise, making use of every useful element down to the smallest detail (such as the cigarette carton, or the Stasi neighbor, or the fabric to be used for the balloon). The mere sound of the doorbell provokes panic and simple stares from people are rendered as threats. What Ballon lacks in nuance it delivers in skillfully staged action of linear plots coming together to reach a satisfying, larger-than-life end.
- Richard Bolisay
Richard Bolisay is a writer and film critic based in Manila. His essays on cinema have appeared in various publications online and in print. He is a participant of the Berlinale Talent Press and Locarno Critics Academy, and has been part of the jury of, among others, the Hong Kong International Film Festival. He recently published a collection of essays on Filipino film entitled Break It To Me Gently. Follow him on Twitter @richardbolisay.
Germany | 2018
Director: Michael Bully Herbig
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Duration: 125 mins
SM City Manila:
November 06 | 7:00pm | Opening Film
November 11 | 9:30pm
November 07 | 9:30pm
Awards and NominationsGerman Film Awards 2019: Nominee, Best Sound
German Film Awards 2019: Nominee, Best Film Score
Washington DC Film Fest 2019: Winner, Best Feature Film