As a director and a writer, Wolfgang Becker does not have dozens of titles to his name. His filmography is surprisingly brief. But since the German filmmaker usually co-writes his scripts, it shows just how involved he is in his projects.
For us German language learners, a smaller filmography means we can really get to know Becker’s films and use them for study. So this month, let’s do just that. Let’s learn German with the films of Wolfgang Becker!
Get to Know Wolfgang Becker
Wolfgang Becker was born on June 22, 1954, in Hemer, Germany. He grew up in the town in North Rhine-Westphalia in the western region of Germany. Following his abitur, he moved to the capital to study German, history, and American studies at the Freien Universität.
But Becker’s studies took an abrupt turn when he decided instead to enroll at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB). It turned out to be a smart move. Becker’s graduation project, a film called Schmetterlinge (or “Butterflies”), received acclaim both in the university and internationally.
And so a career was born. Although that is not to suggest it was a straight line to directing. Becker has credits to his name as an actor, cinematographer, editor, and more. There is no doubt that varied experience in filmmaking has helped inform his projects.
Today, as a director and screenwriter, Becker calls the shots. Part of this is due to a move he made in 1994, co-founding X Filme Creative Pool production company with Tom Tykwer, Stefan Arndt, and Dani Levy.
Das Leben ist eine Baustelle (Life Is All You Get)
The film stars Jürgen Vogel as Jan, a man from Berlin whose life is falling apart. First, he loses his job at a factory and his father dies. Then Jan finds out his ex-girlfriend is HIV-positive and has potentially exposed him. Jan is at a low point in his life.
Things change when he meets the unique Vera (portrayed by Christiane Paul), a musician and artist. Jan lands himself in jail when he attacks two cops in an attempt to defend Vera. Life continues to be a struggle for Jan.
Good Bye, Lenin!
Undoubtedly Becker’s most well-known film is the internationally respected Good Bye, Lenin! It’s a comedy with heart and realism plus a few dark moments.
As Alex Kerner (portrayed by Daniel Brühl) tries to get his life together as a young man in East Germany, it isn’t easy. It does not help that he is not a supporter of the communist government but his mother is an active party member. But fate intervenes when Alex’s mother falls into a coma after a near-fatal heart attack just as Germany reunites.
When she awakes, doctors tell Alex and his sister that any shock to their mother could be fatal. Fearful that news of the DDR’s demise could be the end for his mother, Alex concocts a plan to keep the news from her and goes to great lengths to put it into action.
He rigs up a television set to show old programming and has a friend (played by Florian Lukas) “broadcast” newscasts that conveniently leave out certain news stories. He searches for food brands that now no longer exist. He forces the family to dress in the old styles.
But how long can he keep up the charade? And at what cost?
Ich und Kaminski
Brühl stars as an arrogant writer and journalist named Sebastian Zöllner. He decides he will get a big break in his career by writing the biography of one of the greatest living artists, Manuel Kaminski.
The artist is, by this time, blind and living a reclusive life in the Swiss Alps. Zöllner believes Kaminski is ill and close to death. With dollar signs in his eyes, he goes to great lengths in order to try to gain access to the artist.
Practice practice practice! Discover other great German language actors and actresses previously featured.