Westler: East of the Wall
I acquired this on a rare impulse in 2015 via Ebay.com after deciding that I really did want to see it again some 20 years after Id first watched it. To do so with the internet and its tools now available to help me put in context the locations in East Berlin that were utilized in the films largely silent middle section, for instance, held a tantalizing appeal of improving on the original viewing.
Upon rewatching it all these years later, I found I liked it, although its definitely not a polished affairlow-budget but not at all amateurish, as I noted in my one-line review. The aforementioned middle sections silence was much more striking this time around, however, as it underscored just how restrictive East Berlin was at the time, necessitating the surreptitious filming of those scenes (thus without mics). It certainly gives the whole show-the-visiting-American-the-East scenario an appropriately disturbing and surreal quality that further enhances the strange and seemingly fated encounter of Felix and Thomas which unexpectedly results and the curious, almost childlike simplicity of the afternoon the three share.
Engelbert Rehms music during most of the film is pretty dreadful early-synth-days renderings of what sound like corny Communist-approved pop music of the 1950s and 1960sbut perhaps that was intentional. It certainly captures an interesting aspect of the disjointed East Berlin realities of the day, whether on purpose or not. But its Rehms main musical theme for the film that has haunted my aural memory all this time: a fairly simplistic but persistent half-lilting tune atop a classic 1980esque Krautpop rhythm track but one that shifts back and forth between a cloud-flawed sunny sky scene and one of night and/or shadow and the uncertainties (both good and bad) that lurk within. And it all sounds like George Bensons excellent live recording of On Broadway as it might have sounded if done by Bronski Beat or maybe Pet Shop Boys.
As for the plot, the acting, etc.well, its not great, but its not actually bad, either. I found myself noticing more about the context and its implications throughoutincluding the opening, which takes place in Los Angeles and includes an unexpectedly effective and entrancing long pan across the classic nighttime LA view during a characters musings about modern culture and world historythan about the quality of the story or the performances. In that sense, it actually seemed terribly real to meand I dont do that suspension-of-disbelief disconnect easily, so I suppose that says a fair amount to the films credit.
One last nod to the sound/music design of this film: the moment when the Westerners enter the East, and when the filmed audio is truncated, theres a bit of backwards-played synth music that in itself rather encapsulates the sort of backwards time travel into illogic that would have been part of that experience at the time.
Wait till you see the king!
Comments © 2015 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lines.