Berlin – Buenos Aires
English Title: Berlin – Buenos Aires
Original Title: Die Tränen meiner Mutter
Country of Origin: Germany, Argentina
Studio: Filmworker, Creado Film
Director: Alejandro Cardenas-Amelio
Cinematographer: Florian Schilling
Editor: Renata Salazar-Ivancan
Runtime: 91 minutes
Language: German, Spanish
Inspired by his own biographical background, Berlin – Buenos Aires is Alejandro Cardenas-Amelio’s first feature film. The Argentine director was born in Peru in 1977 and immigrated to Germany for political reasons in the 1980s. Spatially and temporally framed by images of contemporary Buenos Aires that Alex views from a taxi window, the film delves into his childhood memories. Arriving in West Berlin – depicted as an enclave of punks, squatters and other outsiders – Alex finds an extended family among a similarly odd social mixture. The outside world enters the lives of the factory loft inhabitants only occasionally through newspapers, radio and television; an aesthetic device that dates the narrative (Helmut Kohl winning the elections in 1982, AIDS becoming a concern in West Germany, the 1986 soccer World Cup championship in Mexico). In a self-reflexive manner, Berlin – Buenos Aires conceives of film-making as a dream that one follows, a passion with visual images, or simply as a source of income. At times the space resembles a film studio or transforms into a makeshift cinema: an old projector screens Weimar film classics watched by an audience sitting on kitchen chairs in front of a screen made from bed linen. Florian Schilling's fluid camerawork supports the imaginative quality of this place.
The conflict between Carlos and Lizzie is explored in spatial terms. As the breadwinner of the family Lizzie is immersed in her work as a journalist and is therefore often absent. She has cut her ties with Argentina because of the atrocities that befell her family. Carlos, on the other hand, lives like a hermit; the house becomes his protective shell from the outside world. His predicament as an unemployed immigrant and his wife's success emasculate him, triggering his affair with Anita. In its spatial symbolism, the film can be read as a counter-example to Tevfik Başer’s Forty Square Metres of Germany (1986), where a Turkish woman is locked up by her husband in a small apartment. In Cardenas-Amelio’s film the doors are open, living space is plentiful and Carlos is expected to use it. Instead of exploring the reasons for Carlos’ homesickness and his refusal to engage with his environment, the film views the condition of the exile as a self-pitying state of mind. When a grown-up Alex returns to Buenos Aires, his estranged and disconnected feelings towards Argentina reflect the film's indifference to Carlos's cultural identity. Germany has become ‘normal’ and ‘us’, while Argentina is strange and ‘Other’. By spatially dividing ‘Germans’ and ‘Argentines’, the film reinforces cultural stereotypes as valid reasons for feeling displaced.
Author of this review: Claudia Sandberg