Monday, May 23, 2011

Christiane F. - We Children of Bahnhof Zoo

Director: Uli Edel
Year: 1981
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Rated: R 18+
Genre: Biography, Drama
Rating: 4.5/5

Released in 1981 Christiane F. is the true story of 13 year old Christiane Felscherinow who lives with her mother and younger sister in a concert high rise apartment building in a dull and undesirable neighborhood on the outskirts of West Berlin during the late 1970s. She is an avid fan of David Bowie but is also board with nothing to do and is unsatisfied with her home life. She learns of a new disco night club called ‘Sound’ that is located in the city’s centre. Legally she is too young to go so she dresses herself up and goes with a girl in her class who is a couple of years older. 
This is there where she meets a group of teens who experiment with various drugs. Desperate to fit in and to be accepted she starts by only taking pills and LSD, but by the time she is 14 she has started using heroin, which draws her deeper into the terrifying abyss of drug addiction and as a result resorting to prostitution in order to maintain her habit. Much of this takes place at Berlin’s largest railway station known as Bahnhof Zoo.

My Thoughts
I’m not easily shocked but this incredible film managed to do so a number of times. Films like this appeal greatly to me as I value and appreciate realism. I like to see things how they truly are, as graphic as it may be; which this film accomplishes.

Other films that strongly cover drug addiction such as Requiem for a Dream and Trainspotting are very stylized from a cinematic standpoint, were as Christiane F. is horrifically raw. Director Uli Edel holds nothing back; the film is shot in a way that gives a real feeling of authenticity, presenting a very graphic and confronting depiction of the drug culture of that era. And capturing to great effect the bleakness and despair these young people go thorough on a daily basis trying to get their fix at whatever cost.

I’ve read many posts at IMDB from people who talk about whether or not this film glamorizes drug use. I don’t think it does, not intentionally anyway. But I can understand how teenagers perhaps now but especially from that era may find that culture appealing. For example, the scenes that take place in the Sound night club and at the David Bowie concert. There’s the style of dress, the music, joints being passed around the audience, the atmosphere and of course David Bowie performing live in all his glory. Tell me that wouldn’t be appealing to many teenagers.

Natja Brunckhorst who plays Christiane gives a very convincing performance in her first ever film role. She does appear to be a little awkward in some scene but it’s understandable given the subject matter. The young cast consists of mainly unknown actors who give fine performances which is a huge credit to them all.

One of the film’s most appealing qualities is the amazing soundtrack provided by musical icon David Bowie, who also makes a special guest appearance. It’s kind of ironic that Bowie provided the soundtrack to this film being that during the late 70s he was at the lowest point of his cocaine addiction and decided to move to Berlin kick the habit a revitalize his career, which he did with great success.

Christiane F. is such an intense and powerful film. At just over two hours long I was at no point board with the plot, I found it captivating unable to look away. This is the type of film that should be shown in high schools as part of anti-drug programs, as it’s an in depth look into a dehumanizing world that most of us can’t imagine being a part of. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this sounds really interesting. You have me intrigued! I might have to try pick this up some time and check it out.