Movies About Standstill
Summer Film Series

A collage from film stills © Goethe-Institut e.V.

This summer, the Goethe-Institut brought six German movies on the topic of standstill to U.S. audiences. Karin Oehlenschläger, who manages the film and literature program at the Goethe‑Institut Boston, artfully curated this selection of films about stopping time, taking breaks, and living through the beginning of a pandemic.

Karin Oehlenschläger

Standstill in film — the creative pause in life has always fascinated filmmakers. What happens when the characters “fall out of time,” as in Relativity? When time simply stops?  In Ulrich Köhler’s In my Room, nothing is the same as before. Resting in place, not moving, taking a break: when you don’t know how to go on anymore, you just stand still — like the main characters in Bungalow, Passing Summer, and A Coffee in Berlin. Why we all think about standstill is the subject of the TV film Die Welt steht still (The World Stands Still), which describes the beginnings of the pandemic in Germany. In keeping with our new preferred way of watching movies, we streamed the series — each film was available for one week on Goethe on Demand free of charge with English subtitles.

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Films in the Series

A press photo for “The World Stands Still” Photo: © ZDF 2002 Available from July 25–31, 2022
The World Stands Still
Directed by Anno Saul
Germany 2021
90 minutes

When the pictures from Bergamo, Italy, go around the world, it quickly becomes clear even to non-medical professionals what the word “pandemic” really means. Four days later, exit restrictions also apply in Germany. For Dr. Carolin Mellau — an intensive care physician from Constance, Germany — and her family, life is turned upside down. Carolin joins the crisis response team and is on duty around the clock to prepare the clinic for the impending emergency.

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A still frame from “In My Room” Photo: © Grasshopper Films Available from August 1–7, 2022
In My Room
Directed by Ulrich Köhler
Germany 2018
120 minutes

Armin is getting too old for nightlife and the woman he likes. He’s not really happy but can’t picture living any differently. One morning, he wakes up, and the world looks the same as always — but mankind has disappeared entirely. A film about the frightening gift of maximum freedom.

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A still frame from “Bungalow” Photo: © Grasshopper Films Available from August 8–14, 2022
Directed by Ulrich Köhler
Germany 2002
85 minutes

Paul is serving in the military when he goes AWOL on the way back from a maneuver. He hides out in his parents’ bungalow in the middle of nowhere in the German state of Hessia. While his parents are on vacation, Paul becomes increasingly apathetic. Over a few summer days, he evades the responsibilities of everyday life and falls in love with his brother’s girlfriend, disrupting the lives of everyone in his circle.

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A still frame from “Relativity” Photo: © Global Screen Available from August 15–21, 2022
Directed by Mariko Minoguchi
Germany 2019
111 minutes

Have you ever had déjà vu? Have you ever met a person you thought you already knew? For Nora and Aron, it’s love at first sight when they meet in the subway on a rainy day. A complete chance meeting, Nora says. Everything is predetermined, Aron says. But then, the young couple winds up in the middle of a bank robbery. Aron is shot by one of the masked robbers and dies in Nora’s arms. Time stands still for Nora. She tries to numb her pain, spending the night with a stranger — Natan. Natan offers Nora support and stability, but she has the nagging feeling that she already knows him...

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A still frame from “Passing Summer” Photo: © Filmgalerie 451 Available from August 22–28, 2022
Passing Summer
Directed by Angela Schanelec
Germany 2000
85 minutes

An attempt to observe life from the outside — to gain distance without interfering, to simply observe. Two young women sitting in a café on a summer day, a family arriving at the airport, an older woman sitting alone on a train, adult children standing in front of the hospital room, where their father is dying. Situations that occur thousands of times, every day. But what happens when you try to depict this normality?

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A still frame from “A Coffee in Berlin” Photo: © Music Box Films Available from August 29–September 4, 2022
A Coffee in Berlin
Directed by Jan-Ole Gerster
Germany 2012
85 minutes

Niko is in his late twenties, lives in Berlin, and dropped out of law school two years ago. Since then, he has been drifting idly through life. His wealthy father, unaware that his son is a dropout, still sends Niko money every month — until now. When the ATM swallows his debit card, Niko realizes that his bank account is empty. And this just marks the start of the day, which won’t end well. He has a series of both absurd and sobering encounters with neighbors, friends, an old classmate, and, of course, his father. Over the course of the day, Niko learns that he has to get a new perspective on life.

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