Berlin Babylon

This 2001 German documentary by Hubertus Siegert considers the architectural development of central Berlin after the wall came down, but with no narration giving order to the commentary from a multitude of planners, architects, and city officials, it soon settles into a languid city symphony. The montage sequences are highly seductive: the industrial band Einsturzende Neubauten (“new buildings falling down”) bangs away as construction workers pour cement, and Brahms, Beethoven, and Wagner accompany the endlessly drifting aerial shots. Siegert tracks the progress of several large-scale projects—the $240 million Federal Chancellery building, the new Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz—and, after showing 1945 footage of a decimated Berlin, visits the Academy of Arts, once home to Nazi architect Albert Speer. Unfortunately the film never establishes either a perspective of its own or a coherent geography of the city, so the politicians pontificating at ceremonies and architects commiserating at building sites become deadly dull long before the the film exhausts its 88 minutes. In German with subtitles.

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