What’s Up, Germany? caught up with Shubhra Gupta, film critic and senior columnist with The Indian Express, to talk about the fascinating world of cinema. This is what she had to say.
As a film critic, what is your approach to movie-watching?
To be as open-minded, fair and impartial as I possibly can. Also, to have zero expectations from what I am about to watch.
What is your impression of German cinema? How has the German film industry evolved over time?
That’s a question I’m not fully qualified to answer. But there is no doubt that German Expressionist cinema from the 1920s made an indelible impact on both movie-goers and film-makers. My introduction to German cinema began with the works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog. Some of their films are part of my very precious movie memories. Contemporary German cinema is in an interesting phase right now: from Good Bye, Lenin! to Run Lola Run, Head-On to The Lives Of Others and Victoria, it’s all grist to a film critic’s mill!
What are your favourite German movies and why?
There are too many to count! But I have a special liking for the early Expressionist silent films (The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Nosferatu, The Last Laugh, M, Metropolis), because they were like nothing I’d ever seen before! Their style was bold, innovative and way ahead of its time. If you haven’t seen these films, then your cinema education is incomplete.
It is the first big international film festival in the calendar, and it’s where all the big film-makers come to unveil their films. I love the festival, more so because Berlin is such a wonderful, welcoming city.
What makes the Berlinale special for you?
Berlin is both historical and contemporary. It is so different from other German cities. The Berlinale is the city’s own festival, in which all film-loving Berliners are involved and engaged in, just like in Toronto. It’s great to see lines of enthusiastic movie-goers queing up for the same films as us, and the press from all over the world! I love the ease with which I can get all kinds of cuisines in and around the venue! I just wish it were not quite so cold though, but that’s something I’ve learnt to live with.
You say that you have “a huge capacity to sit through terrible Bollywood movies, but no patience at all with bad Hollywood”? Why is that so?
That’s because Bollywood is mine. Even from the worst of films, I can get a takeaway or two: It’s always interesting to see how film-makers use cultural practices in their work, because their views impact us; whereas I have no stakes in Hollywood’s practices. And if the film is bad, there’s nothing in it for me.
Where do you think cinema is headed in this world of rapid change and new technologies?
The more things change, the more they will remain the same. Screens can become tinier and tinier (on the phone) or bigger and bigger (IMAX), but good storytelling will always be the lifeblood of good cinema. Without that, there will be no cinema, no matter how advanced the technology is.
How has Indian cinema changed?
In the last 20 years, Indian cinema has undergone a sea change. From an inward-looking industry only interested in making formula films for domestic consumption, it has been forced to create more cinema that can travel and be understood and appreciated in other countries. Because that’s the only way to make work that lasts, as well as create a market for good Indian cinema.
Any advice for budding film critics?
Always, always know that the film is bigger than you.