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How Germans see themselves

Jochen Kürten / adJuly 13, 2016

One day in Germany, 10,000 video clips: Filmmaker Sönke Wortmann has compiled a film in which Germans portray themselves. The result is a rosy ode to a country otherwise said to often overlook the bright side.

Film Deutschland. Dein Selbstporträt Copyright: Warner Bros.
Image: Warner Bros.

The idea isn't really new. Back in 1979, director Robert van Ackeren called on people to send him private films that, back then, were shot with super 8 cameras. Focusing largely on eroticism, he compiled them into the film "Deutschland privat - Eine Anthologie des Volksfilms" (Germany in private - an anthology of popular films) that hit the theaters in 1980.

'Life in a Day' as a model

When Sönke Wortmann embarked on a similar venture 35 years later, he didn't follow Ackeren's example, but rather that of British producer and director Ridley Scott. Five years earlier, Scott, in collaboration with director Kevin MacDonald, came with a similar compilation film entitled "Life in a Day." People all over the world were called upon to send in footage collected on just one day: July 24, 2010.

In Sönke Wortmann's case, the big day was June 20, 2015. Talking to DW, the director explained his concept: "When writing a screenplay, you have a rough idea about how the story will end. In this case, it was totally different - and that's what I found so exciting. I thought that maybe it could be possible to sum up what makes up Germany on one particular day in one particular year, in a way that makes this country somewhat understandable."

Three questions for Germans

Wortmann posed three questions: What makes you happy? What do you fear? What does Germany mean to you? More than 10,000 people responded, sending in their mobile films, but also semi-professional recordings. After 16 assistants had revised material amounting to 300 hours of film, Wortmann and his team edited it into the final film.

Film Deutschland. Dein Selbstporträt Copyright: Warner Bros.
A beautiful country - when seen from a distance.Image: Warner Bros.

Is Sönke Wortmann happy with the result? "I believe that it reflects the diversity of Germany. A total of 10,000 clips are likely to represent a bit of everything. I'm quite positive about that," the director said.

How do Germans think?

Nevertheless, a truly comprehensive view of Germany is impossible to achieve. But "Deutschland. Made in Germany" is an interesting game, a huge potpourri with many different elements including smartphone videos, contributions filmed professionally with cameras in natural surroundings, and lots of aerial footage.

While the film tends to paint Germany in a somewhat exaggerated hue of beautiful it also offers insights into its residents' daily lives and thoughts with scenes that are moving, frightening, funny, trashy - and deeply personal. Perhaps Germans are indeed more optimistic than their reputation maintains?

Film Deutschland. Dein Selbstporträt
From the North all the way to the Alps: Sönke Wortmann has focused on the whole of Germany Copyright: Warner Bros.Image: Warner Bros.