Fatherland - Fatherland(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2020]
Directed by the much-celebrated English filmmaker Ken Loach (Kes, The Wind that Shakes the Barley and I, Daniel Blake), Fatherland aka Singing the Blues in Red, like all of Ken’s films, has its roots in the criticism of the socio-political landscape of the time in which it was made. Loach has always ensured that his films act as an outlet for his opinions on politics and society at large. Fatherland was made in 1986, 8 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and follows the story of an East German singer/songwriter, Klaus Dritteman, played by musician Gerulf Pannach, whose own musical trajectory echoes that of his character, with regards to his critical stance against the oppressive East German government. In fact, it is worth considering the film as semi-autobiographical as his own life experiences informed the film’s story.
After proving himself an irritant to the Communist government with his protest songs, Dritteman is banned from performing and forced to emigrate to the West where American recording executives lay in wait to exploit him and his music for both financial and propagandist aims. Dritteman, however, is more interested in tracking down his father, a concert pianist, who fled to the west leaving his family behind in East Germany, much like Dritteman is doing himself. The film is divided neatly into two sections, the first half is concerned with Dritteman’s emigration to the west, while the second focuses on his search for his father. The film’s opening is a gritty and honest depiction of the situation in Germany during the years of its division and as such a wonderful time capsule. Once Dritteman has crossed over to the west he begins his search for his father. The record company exec, Lucy Bernstein (Christine Rose) in an attempt to track down his father puts Dritteman in touch with a young French girl, Emma De Baen (Fabienne Babe) who knows of his father’s whereabouts. Dritteman, accompanied by Emma, leaves West Germany and heads to Cambridge, England in search of a meeting with his father, but he must also figure out what Emma’s interest is in their meeting.
Fatherland is a damning indictment on political ideologies, showing both the Communist East and the Capitalist West in a negative light. Wherever Dritteman is, he never experiences true freedom to be himself. He is always under surveillance, whether by the East German secret police, the Stasi or the CIA, his defection doesn’t really change matters. Pannach’s performance is excellent, I know he is essentially playing himself, but considering this was his only screen performance he is remarkably good. As well as showing his acting chops he also wrote and recorded all of the songs himself. The rest of the cast are good, particularly Sigfrit Steiner as Dritteman’s father, James Dryden and Fabienne Babe as Emma.
Overall, Fatherland is an excellent film that doesn’t receive the same levels of attention as some of Loach’s other films. The disc features a handful of interesting bonus features including a conversation with editor Jonathan Morris, a copy of the original shooting script by Trevor Griffiths, and a couple of fascinating short films, Talk About Work (1971) a youth employment services film and Right to Work March (1972), a documentary focusing on the march from Glasgow to London in support of jobs for young people across the country that included Ken Loach among its number. Darren Charles