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Fatherland

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    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Fatherland



    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: November 10, 2015
    Director: Ken Loach
    Cast: Gerulf Pannach, Fabienne Babe, Sigfrit Steiner, Cristine Rose
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    In a film that must surely be considered for "Bummer Release of the Year", Ken Loach's Fatherland (Singing The Blues In Red) tells the depressing story of political dissidence in Germany, and the unusual hardships that come with it. Klaus Drittemann (Gerulf Pannach) is a German folk singer known for his government protest songs, which go over well with the youth of East Berlin, but not so much with the oppressively authoritative Stasi. Despite his fans, Klaus' mother regularly criticizes him for not showing respect to his country, and urges him to settle down and work a real job. After being investigated for crimes against the state, Klaus makes the decision to leave his family and friends for West Berlin, home of capitalism and more lenient attitudes.

    Fortunately for Klaus, he has a support system in place in the west, in the form of Taube Records, who are thrilled to be getting such a popular and controversial star. The drabness of the East and its "Actual Socialism" are replaced by parties with artsy, creative types and cocaine, and a large apartment with the promise of a lot of cash once he commits to signing a contract with the company. Klaus' determination to walk the line between being oppressed and selling out are not appreciated by his record company, and he quickly realizes that he's traded in one set of undesirable living conditions for another.

    An attempt to get Klaus back in line with Taube comes in the form of a French journalist named Emma, brought in by Taube to help Klaus find his exiled father; a journey that takes Klaus even further west to England. Amidst dreams of being chased by Stasi, his father playing piano on the beach, and state slogans, Klaus gets closer to seeing his father for the first time in decades, while getting closer still to Emma. But Emma has ulterior motives, and by the time they're finished, Klaus will be forced to re-evaluate himself and everything that he's ever believed.

    It's very difficult to be critical of Fatherland. Clearly a labour of love, it's certainly a well-made film that projects all of the despair and desolation of Eastern Europe before the fall of the wall, and the hope symbolized by moving west. And in the 80's when the film was released, prior to the information age, the film was one of the few accurate portraits that people were able to see of the situation in Germany. The making of the film was a political statement in and of itself. (You can read more about that in Julie Kirgo's liner notes). Today, however, Fatherland is...boring. The cast are all excellent in their roles, and the direction is appropriate; minimal and seemingly non-intrusive. The dream sequences are a little hokey in their artiness, but that's a small stumbling point. There's just not a lot going on. It's a dreary story told in a largely drab setting that takes a long time to get where it's going. The result waiting at the end of the journey has the potential to be powerful, but by the time the film gets there, the payoff has minimal impact. There's nothing to actively dislike about Fatherland; it's just not that interesting.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time brings Fatherland to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks sharp with a decent amount of grain presented; perfectly presenting the bleakness of the picture. Colours are intentionally drab in the first act of the film, growing more luxuriant as Klaus moves west, and the picture does a great job of conveying that with no artifacting or flaws in the transfer.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is adequate for the presentation, though dialogue falls a little short of the clarity that's expected, a likely limitation of the source material and not the transfer. It's a mix of German and English, with English subs popping up during the German portions, and the lack of English subtitles during the other portions doesn't help shed any light on the more inaudible dialogue.

    An Isolated Music and Effects Track, the Twilight Time Catalogue, and Liner Notes by Julie Kirgo are the only supplements available.

    The Final Word:

    Fatherland is not the film that you're going to watch to brighten your day. It's depressing and antisocial, and will add dreariness to your life for its 110 minute running time. Even the brighter moments are drab. But if that's your thing, then the Twilight Time Blu-ray is the way to go.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















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