The cracks in a crumbling regime are exposed as an elite family gather in East Berlin to celebrate their failing patriarch’s 90th. Absorbing, richly detailed historical tragicomedy based on a German bestseller.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
In a handsome suburban house in East Berlin, shortly before the fall of the Wall, family, friends and party officials gather to pay effusive tribute on the 90th birthday of Wilhelm Powileit (Bruno Ganz), a veteran Communist hero and tyrannical old bastard. Behind the scenes, everybody but the old man suspects that East Germany is cracking up, and with it their place at the top of the crumbling heap. The imminent collapse of the system to which they have long submitted only deepens the resentments of Wilhelm’s long-suffering wife Charlotte and middle-aged stepson Kurt. Meanwhile, Kurt’s hard-drinking Russian wife Irina has not even turned up. Far worse, panicky officials have heard rumours that Wilhelm’s 32-year-old grandson has joined the growing numbers of young people defecting to the West. Adapted from Eugen Ruge’s semi-autobiographical 2011 bestseller, In Times of Fading Light casts this increasingly disorderly Last Supper in a tragicomic light, reactivating the decorum (and décor) of a lost era with anthropological precision. The ensemble cast, headed by Ganz (actually a mere 75), is superb.
“Featuring a host of seasoned stage and screen players, In Times of Fading Light was directed by Matti Geschonneck and adapted by Wolfgang Kohlhaase, both of whom grew up in the Communist East. There is something emphatically old-school about their shared creative approach with its lyrical language, beautifully lit interiors and forensically detailed recreation of domestic life in the old DDR...
This is an expertly crafted and emotionally stirring remembrance of things past.” — Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter