This Novemeber’s German Film Festival marks two decades since the fall of the Berlin wall. BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM checks out one of the twenty post-reunification films on offer.

BERLIN has regained a reputation as one of the world’s most eclectic and electric party spots over the last decade, a sort of 1920s Weimer decadence typified by a wildly diverse artistic scene, plenty of young people attracted by the cheap rent/squatting opportunities, and the city’s spatial dynamics. And as Hannes Stöhr’s Berlin Calling shows, the heady mix of drugs, music, and artistic types has had both productive and cautionary effects on some of Berlin’s citizens. The film, while at times a hackneyed narrative of self-destruction and redemption, is aided by its pulsating techno soundtrack and its depiction of the great city.

DJ Ickarus (played by noted electronic artist Paul Kalkbrenner) seemingly has the world at his feet. About to release his self-labelled ‘magnum opus’, and with a healthy live reputation, Ickarus takes a bad pill and ends up mentally unstable and stuck in a drug rehab centre. His relationships with his girlfriend, record label and himself end up tenuous, and as the film progresses, we see whether Ickarus will grant himself hard-fought redemption, or collapse from the temptation of the drugs and artistic lifestyle.

A somewhat cautionary tale (highlighted by two irredeemable antagonists – a ‘loose’ fan and a Mephistophelean drug dealer), the film’s narrative relies on ellipsis and understatement to tell its story – a good tactic which breathes life into the story’s clichés, and allows for Ickarus’s progression to remain resonant. The film’s star is its music – the music accompanying the narrative and the city perfectly, and reasonably clichéd scenes (and to be fair, naff English title) are carried along by the propulsive music. While the acting performances are at times a little indifferent, they are carried by the energy of the music. The visuals are understated, eschewing the grungy visual trend to tell a grungy story, instead wringing moments of poetry out of the everyday (in particular, the scene where Ickarus trips is particularly hauntingly shot). The cityscape also ends up playing an integral part in Ickarus’s disintegration (and eventual rehabilitation). Berlin Calling is an interesting depiction of 2000s Berlin and its artistic scenes, and the film compellingly documents a dark tinge to the city’s incendiary art scenes.