13 Minutes

If the chief ambition of the Bratislava film festival’s “Europa” section is to bring the crème de la crème of contemporary European film production, then 13 Minutes was certainly a worthy choice.

 

The film marks director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s return in several ways – not only from Hollywood to Europe and from small to the big screen but also to his native German language, to the theme of World War II and particularly to its most infamous persona, Adolf Hitler. The last time he dwelled on this theme was in Downfall (Der Untergang, 2004), dramatic rendering of Hitler’s final days in his Berlin bunkerthat was nominated for Academy Award for the best foreign language film.

 

His latest release, however, is not as much about Führer as about a man who tried – equally unsuccessfully as anyone else – to kill him. Georg Elser planted a time bomb behind the lectern in the Munich municipal beer cellar where Hitler would give a speech on November 8, 1939, an anniversary of the 1923failed Nazi coup. Had he set at least one of the two time machines right, the 20th century history curricula would have most probably had a significantly different content today.

 

While the story of Claus von Stauffenberg and his thwarted attempt to assassinate Hitler have been rather well exposed to the general public, the story of GeorgElserhas remained unknown to many. In this respect, Hirschbiegel turns quite an interesting stone in the mosaic of WWII history, mapping out the rise and proliferation of the Nazi ideology through the eyes of a simple yetsensitivevillager who desperately attempted to change that picture.
Georg (Christian Friedel), an ordinary carpenter and an occasional musician, is a young Swabian man who on the one hand continues to practice his religioneven at times when it is no longer considered “advisable” but on the other hand has a way with women he charms with his musical talent. On one such occasion,the bohemian youngster falls for Elsa (Katharina Schüttler), a mother of two who is unhappily married to a local drunkard.

 

The telling of Georg’s story begins practically at the end and then rewinds backward. In the opening sequence, we see the arrest of a failed assassin. As he is interrogated by Gestapo, he recalls memories of his earlier life that add more and more layers to his character. The director keepsuncovering details abouthis strong believe in God,his despise for the alcoholic father or his passionate love for Elsa; through his flashbacks,we learn how National Socialism slowly poisoned social life even in the most remote corners of the Third Reich and gradually understand why Georgchose to turn away from the love of his life in order to follow through with his desperate plan.
In terms of structure, Hirschbiegelfollows two basic storylines – that of Georg’s love for Elsa and that of his endeavour to eliminate the evil embodied by Hitler. The concomitant circumstances of the thirteen minutes that could have changed the course of historyare depicted in a deeply convincing fashion and appeal not only to viewers’ intellect but also to their emotions. In 108 minutes, the director floods the screen with a succession of strong scenesthat keep the audience at the edge of their seatsand completely sucked into the story, despite occasionally having to turn their sights away in expectation of a sadistic scene.

 

While a motion picture of this type and magnitude obviously cannot do withoutsome portion of fiction, its fundamental story is based on true historical events; the final credits include some interesting facts from the lives of both leading characters.

 

By Anna Predmerská

Translated by Daniel Borský

 

Based on votes cast by the visitors, the Bratislava IFF Viewers’ Choice Award went to Wanuri Kahiu’s second feature film Rafiki (2018) about forbidden love in Kenya.

Awards of the 20th Bratislava IFF 2018

“If you’re lucky enough to make living of something you really love, there is a downside – you don’t do it for fun, it’s a job.”

 

Tomáš Hudák. He studied Film studies (criticism) at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (VŠMU). He’s a fan of film, music, literature and the art as such. He’s a freelancer, writing film reviews and co-organizing several Slovakian film festivals.

“It’s nice to step out from the bubble of social networks – the binary world of likes/unlikes to be part of the group of totally different people, who are connected only by the skateboards.”

 

Šimon Šafránek. – director, journalist, DJ – multi-genre artist with the sensation of music and word. He’s a freelancer, writing for the Denník N, Hospodářské noviny, Reflex, Magnus etc.

“Films make us better, braver, more romantic and free”

 

Bibiana Ondrejková. A popular theatre and voice actress and presenter. The general public knows her as the Slovak voice of Phoebe Buffay from the TV show Friends. Upon seeing her, viewers will associate her with the Slovak TV series The Defenders (2014), Red Widow (2014), Homicide Old Town (2010) or Block of Flats (2008).

“Actors infuse film with emotion and give it a soul”

Daniel Rihák. A fresh graduate of film directing at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava under the leadership of prof. Martin Šulík. A director of (so far) student films and a number of commercials. His graduation film The Trip recently won the Best Director and Best Sound awards at the Áčko Student Film Festival.

“All women have the power to change things”

 

Ivana Hucíková belongs to the generation of young Slovak filmmakers. She studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, from which she graduated in 2015 with her film Mothers and Daughters. A Bratislava citizen from Orava, living and creating in Slovakia and the USA. So far, she has made several short documentary films: Into My Life (2018), Connie & Corey (2017) and is currently working on the development of several film projects as their director, producer or editor.

“Cinema is a great medium for sharing common European values”

 

Dominika Jarečná was born in 1999 in Bratislava. She currently studies Theory and History of Arts at the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno (Czech Republic). She was a member of the Giornate degli Autori jury at this year’s Venice IFF and is a LUX Prize ambassador for the years 2018 and 2019.

Film festival: “It’s a bit like a vacation full of stories”

Alena Sabuchová is a young Slovak author and screenwriter. For her debut collection of short stories Back rooms, Alena was awarded the Ivan Krasko Prize for the best Slovak-language debut as well as the Tatra banka Foundation Young Artist Award in the category of literature. She writes scripts for television and radio, and is currently working on her second book, which will be published next year.

“These films were among the most awarded debut films at this year’s leading festivals”

 

Nenad Dukić. Serbian film critic, who has been collaborating with the team of people preparing The Bratislava International Film Festival for 8 years now. This year (the 20th anniversary of the festival’s existence), he is again the compiler of the Fiction Competition and co-compiler of the section Cinema Now.

The popular section Cinema Now brings an overview of the most remarkable films of the season. Its curators, Nenad Dukid and Tomáš Hudák, have assembled the most interesting movies that have stirred the waters of world’s major festivals. For 20 years, the Bratislava IFF has been supplying the Slovak film public with names, which often become stars of the screen.

The curators of the section Lexicon: Female gaze, festival programmer Tomáš Hudák and the director of this year’s festival spot Ivana Hucíková, have focused on the status of women in cinema, their portrayal in film, and the uniqueness of a woman’s experience.