– Christiane F. is the movie for the weekend. In this section every Saturday or Sunday Celluloid Dimension picks a movie for the weekend. The selections are preferably underrated movies or neglected movies that we think should get more attention. Have fun with these recommendations. –
Christiane F. (1981) Directed by Uli Edel
David Bowie’s fabulous music permeates the decadent streets of West Berlin with paradoxical bliss and feeds false hopes to the children of capitalism in this sombre, achingly realistic portrayal of the self-destruction of an innocent 14-year-old girl and her toxic infatuation with heroin. It is a painful film to contemplate; the pain is so physical and excruciating that it vividly manifests the chronicle of a real event. Indeed, the story is based on the exceptional autobiography and journalistic transcription of the book We Children from Zoo Station by Kai Hermann and Horst Rieck about Christiane Felscherinow’s experiences during her adolescence as a drug addict. A teenage Natja Brunckhorst embodies Christiane – one of the most formidable performances I have ever seen; raw and powerful, a rictus of suffering and corrupted virginity – a child who wants to explore debauched territory at a premature age, her inquisitive unruliness and the absence of parental supervision gradually lead Christiane into the abyss of drugs. Bowie is the messianic figure in the midst of the night of the living dead, yet he is not enough to save Christiane’s soul. German director Uli Edel is empathetic and didactic with his visual vérité, but always preserves an alarming severity, aiming to demystify counterculture rebellion and post-war hedonistic culture. No epic dealing with these serious themes should lean toward the romantic, and here that ethical rule is fully met by being just a prolonged, graphic and exhausting descent into the loss of innocence. The structure is repetitive, yet determinedly plausible, you can taste the textures of a real tragedy, it’s empirical realism.