In association with FOKUS: Films from Germany
In 1978, Mark Reeder left Manchester behind and headed to West Berlin in search of his heroes, Tangerine Dream. Instead, he found an exciting, hedonistic underground scene full of artists and musicians, dreamers who had escaped conscription into the West German army by fleeing to the walled-in and heavily subsidised city. B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin follows that scene from the last days of punk to the fall of the wall and the birth of techno.
The movie is almost a documentary, following Reeder’s dabbles in the music scene and friendships with the great and good of the Berlin scene. His personal Super 8 films from the decade are mixed up with archive shots of Berlin, TV footage and newly-shot scenes featuring a Reeder lookalike. It also feels kind of like one big party, as the camera follows him and his unbearably cool and attractive friends from concerts in squats to smoky, late night bars. The Wall features heavily, as West Berlin’s “life insurance” allowing the island city to keep its special status – the artists hold a 25th birthday party with fire breathers, and Keith Haring paints on it while border police warn him of the dangers.
Naturally, the music takes centre stage here. Nick Cave gives a tour of his tiny studio flat (featuring a “bedroom” hidden behind a shower curtain), while his pal Blixa Bargeld of the industrial group Einstuerzende Neubauten gives some of the film’s funniest interview scenes. The film ends with the beginnings of the dance scene in Berlin, coinciding with the euphoria of reunification, and the excitement throughout the city is clear – the first Love Parade is shown as an impromptu party-march, but the roots of Berlin’s now-legendary dance scene are there.
B-Movie doesn’t feel like a film for those who were there and saw it all happen. Reeder’s outsider status as a wide-eyed Englishman allows viewers to explore the city and its scene with him. It’s all a bit dry and self-deprecating, and that’s probably why it feels so relatable, making it seem like you, too, could move to Berlin, start an edgy new band, and spend your nights at Berghain!
[Lauren Cummings – @_laurenC]