Nachtgestalten

Germany

Synopsis

The Pope is in town and the night of his stay is anything but heavenly for some of Berlin's inhabitants.

Rich and poor, down-and-outs and policemen, street kids and taxi drivers - in their search for a little bit of happiness, they all end up on an amusing and at times harrowing odyssey through the labyrinth of the big city.

A bitter, hard-edged comedy set in contemporary Berlin.

The Pope is visiting Berlin, but for Hanna the vagrant life has nothing more to offer than an endless series of conflicts and disappointments. Her child was taken away and her friend Victor drives her mad with his unceasing fits of jealousy. Wherever she goes, she is faced with suspicion. That night she finds herself with a hundred-mark banknote and decides to fulfil a dream of long standing: to spend the night in a hotel with a real bed and a bathtub. She and Victor begin an odyssey, an endless journey through the city. He doesn't have an easy time with her, because she takes no lip from anyone and is constantly on the brink of a breakdown.

They stop a cab, but she argues with the driver because he wants his money in advance: does he think he's better than she is? In the subway, it's the ticket inspectors: what kind of a way is that to talk to a lady? At the police station, she immediately starts an argument with the officer: does he think she lives on the street for the sheer romance of it? At the church hospice, her next opponent is the bigoted woman at the reception desk: just because Victor and she aren't married, does that make her a whore? Her emotions finally drained, her strength gone and in the middle of a rainstorm, she threatens Victor that she'll have an abortion and put an end to their relationship.

But for Victor too, there's a limit to what he can put up with. He beats her and leaves her lying there in the rain. No sooner has he turned the corner, however, but he finds what they have spent half the night looking for: a cheap hotel room with TV set, bed and bathtub. Hanna is happy now, and doesn't even react in her usual violent way when the shower proves to deliver only cold water - or in the early morning, when a noisy construction crew starts work outside the window. There's still time to make love, while the Pope is addressing his congregation on TV.

Jochen is the son of a farmer from the country. On this particular night, trouble is in store for him. He has scarcely left the train when his bag is stolen. But he's not about to have his night out in the big city spoiled by such a minor incident. He's inquisitive, full of wonder and a very generous character, but in the search for love for sale he seems to have unexpected difficulties in expressing himself. That's when a Berlin cab driver comes in handy: Jochen finds himself in the street where Patty, despite her tender years, has her patch.

In the sex hotel that rents rooms by the hour, Jochen is shocked by the cold, professional approach to the whole thing. Patty offers instead to show him Berlin's night life for 500 marks. First of all they go to the movies, then to a high-class gourmet restaurant. Suddenly her withdrawal symptoms start and she drags him off to a club where she hopes to find a pusher. Desperate and starting to get the shakes, she takes Jochen with her to a house occupied by squatters so that she can give herself the desperately needed shot. But Jochen has his eyes open and explodes: she should leave the stuff alone when she's with him! This proves to be a grave mistake: two of the occupants of the house come to her aid and beat him up severely. Patty isn't entirely devoid of finer feelings, however: she cleans him up, wipes away the blood and snuggles up to him while he poetically describes life in the country and invites her to join him there. The Pope is speaking on TV in the background.

Next morning Jochen wakes up with a splitting headache – and finds Patty still beside him. He wanders off to the filth toilet, giving her an opportunity to steal the rest of his cash. Oi did he strike a chord of decency in her last night? She puts r. hundred-mark banknote back in his docket. Despite all the rough treatment he has endured in such a short time, Jochen is not entirely unhappy as he sets out on the homeward journey. He gallantly accompanies Patty to the subway and even gives her his address – which Patty immediately throws away.

Hendrik Peschke, a company employee wearing a smart tie but clearly under stress, is waiting for a businesswoman flying in from Japan. To his dismay, he realizes that his wallet has been stolen. lt must have been that small "black boy" who was sitting next to him just a few moments ago. He goes after Feliz and starts to search through his pockets. To his embarrassment, Rita appears at that moment, clutching his wallet which he left in the snack bar. Peschke's conscience troubles him; his word is his bond, and he is also a man of action. He resolves to take the "little black African" back into town with him and to deliver him to his uncle, who was supposed to collect him. He isn't exactly delighted to hear that this is in Hellersdorf, at the other end of town. But he even sum-mons up a few scraps of Portuguese he learned on his last vacation in the Algarve.

Having climbed endless flights of stairs in a run-down apartment block, the two of them discover that nobody is home, but a neighbour tells them where Uncle Ricardo works –at a bar in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. This is where Peschke's downfall is sealed: in the bar for barely two minutes (where he doesn't find Ricardo), he comes out to find a pack of youths steal his precious BMW and make off at high speed. He tries everything: he calls his own mobile phone, which was in the car, he reports the theft to the local police station – all in vain.
Disappointed, exhausted and soaking wet, the ill-matched pair catch the bus to Peschke's home, so that the boy can sleep on the couch. A disastrous night! Peschke even manages to reach Ricardo on the phone, but they decide to postpone everything until the next morning. Meanwhile the Pope is still talking on TV.
Next morning, Peschke's boss calls up and grumbles endlessly. Pessimism starts to overcome him. He calls a cab, telling Feliz to wait on the sidewalk in front of the house for his uncle to collect him. At the last moment, as a small consolation, he gives the boy a hundred-mark note and flees from his own conscience back into the everyday world.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Andreas Dresen

Written by: Andreas Dresen

Produced by: Peter Rommel

Cinematography: Andreas Höfer

Editing: Monika Schindler

Production Design: Claudia Jaffke

Costume Design: Sabine Greunig

Hair & Make-up: Grit Kosse

Original Score: Cathrin Pfeifer, Rainer Rohloff

Main Cast: Dominique Horwitz (Dominique Horwitz) (Victor), Michael Gwisdek (Peschke), Susanne Bormann (Patty), Oliver Bäßler (Jochen), Meriam Abbas (Hanna)

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Feature Film Selection 1999