Modern German Relationships Told Through Film

Here are two films in Summer in Berlin (2005) and Everyone Else (2009) that focus not only on romantic relationships, but interpersonal relationships between friends and couples. These social interactions in turn give a view into the hopes and aspirations of contemporary German individuals. The first film is a dramedy directed by Andreas Dresen that follows a pair of girlfriends who face hardships and a romance that nearly comes between them. Everyone Else directed by Maren Ade on the other hand focuses on a young couple who takes a trip to Sardinia and become strained in their relationship. Although quite different, both films place importance on a central relationship that becomes further complicated by other acquaintances. All of this in turn gives commentary on not just the state of mind of Germans but of humanity as well. Everyone wants to have friends and to be loved.  

           By the title it would be assumed that Summer in Berlin is light fare, and at times it is, but it also has something to say about the difficulties of relationships and the realities of life. Katrin is divorced, has a young son named Max and is trying to make her way in the world by finding a job. Her good friend Nike is single and works as a caregiver for the elderly. Their lives are far from ideal and that makes their friendship even more important to them. After the daily grind their sanctuary is the rooftop where they share a glass of wine, unwind and chat about whatever they feel like. However, after one especially long day Nike is not around when Katrin needs her. Their roof top oasis is rudely broken up and the fact is Nike now has a boyfriend, the gangly truck driver Ronald. This is an interesting turn of events since the main relationship that both these women really cherished is hurt, because of Nike’s desire for a boyfriend or at least intimacy. Here is the struggle that plagues everyone. There is a primal longing to be loved and accepted and sometimes that urge can become even more important than maintaining a strong friendship. If you give Ronald a quick going over, he really is not a desirable character to be in a relationship with. He can be friendly enough and he is willing to sleep with Nike but that’s about where his involvement stops. Even when he first meets her at the club Ronald does not really show any genuine interest or his only motive is self-gratification (Summer in Berlin). It’s as if he asked himself, what can she offer me? The answer was simple: Food, coffee, a bed, and superficial companionship. He was fine with that so he went along with it and was satisfied. Nike on the other hand is attempting to make something more out of their relationship. She desires something deeper and more genuine. It is only during a pit stop when she is accompanying Ronald on his route, that Nike finally sees his real side. The fact is, he is married and has children, but he told a little white lie to Nike before (Summer in Berlin). This situation brings to mind Katrin’s own failed marriage and whether or not it ended due to her husband sleeping around like Ronald. As far as career advancement goes Ronald is a Nobody who is simply excited to be shipping electronics instead of carpets soon. Despite these signs, Nike still stays with him. Finally, her relations get completely muddled when Ronald shows up at her empty apartment only to go down to wait at Katrin’s (Summer in Berlin). When Nike discovers this, she resentfully suspects that something is going on behind her back. Thus, a love triangle is created that never existed before and a man who is a tramp has gotten between two friends. Nike desired the same things that everyone else wants and it did not turn out in her favor. Ultimately, she wises up and renews the bonds that are truly important, with Katrin and Katrin’s heartbroken son Max.

            Fittingly Everyone Else is a film about a boyfriend who wants to be as happy as another couple and a girlfriend who does not want to be like everyone else. Whereas Nike’s relationship with Ronald seemed wrong from the beginning, the Chris and Gitti we grow accustomed to at the beginning of this film seem made for each other. Their relationship exudes intimacy, playfulness, and affection. They spend time in their beach attire soaking in the sun and they even have time for private inside jokes like the little ginger man “Schnappi.” In one sequence when they are sprawled out Gitti even puts eyeliner and makeup on a consenting Chris (Everyone Else). Interestingly enough, Chris has little interest in seeing his former schoolmate Hans and his partner Sana. At first it seems that it might be because he is annoying or a phony. That is far from the truth however as Hans turns out to be a genuine guy who is willing to poke fun at himself and he enjoy the company of others. His relationship with Sana is a mutual bond of love between people who are getting ready to have a child and continue a life together. They seem like an ideal mature couple and the type of couple Chris and Gitti might be a few years down the line. However, circumstances begin to change for the two vacationers. Their relationship begins to crumble slowly at first and it continues to unravel as they spend more time with Hans and Sana. It is almost as if Chris knew that this would happen if he was with Hans, because Chris realizes that he covets the type of life that Hans has. The reality is he is not quite as accomplished an architect. Furthermore, he and Gitti are nothing like the other couple and they probably never will be. Gitti for one wears her emotions on her sleeve, she is more of a clown, and she only wants his love. Chris on the contrary is often quiet and he has trouble reciprocating affection. He is the typical strong silent type who is content with books and not prone to share his feelings. This comes back to hurt them because he feels it is unnecessary to tell Gitti he loves her and he is more open about his vocation with Hans than with Gitti. Their evening exchanges over dinner become in some ways reminiscent of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The conversations do not become shouting matches, but they are perhaps more realistic and in some ways more harmful. They quibble and then brush off their hurt feelings quickly only to move on without any acknowledgement that something is wrong. Thus, Chris and Gitti are not able talk through their relationship effectively and that’s where they fail. It worked initially, in the early stages, when it was all about intimacy, vacationing, and superficial laughs. But the reality of a full-fledged relationship seems unattainable for them and even by the end of the film it seems doubtful that they will get back together. Although they were initially in a better place than Nike and Ronald, they too fell apart, since they were not able to make anything substantial out of their relationship aside from the sex. So many people in our contemporary world desire to have deep, lasting relationships, because in many cases they have never been able to get past the surface level and they want more. In this way these two couples in Summer in Berlin and Everyone Else are perfectly imperfect examples of modern relationships. 

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