A number of decorative boards carelessly attached to the pale front of a dull concrete apartment block – the Excelsior building, Berlin. For most of its inhabitants this is just a stopover, very soon, life is going to get better, and everyone is trying to find their own way: 49 year old Michael tries to live up to his former success as an escort by promoting the application of “invisible make-up” online. Claudia’s showgirl days are over, but the photos of a shooting session are to smooth her way back to the stage anyway. Norman’s startup “ChangeU” is designed to help people get happy and himself get a sleek new sports car…
Hardly anyone of them manages to evade falling victim to the temptations of our success-oriented society.
Claudia Mittag, Norman Specht, Michael van Gemert, Richard Hebstreit and others.
Director: Eric Lemke
Screenplay: Erik Lemke & André Krummel
DOP: André Krummel
Editing: Erik Lemke
Editing advice: Monika Schindler
Sound: Sebastian Tesch & Ansgar Frerich
Music: Tobias Burkhardt
Production: Peter Rommel – Rommel Film in co-production with Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg
Funded by: Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, BKM, DFFF German Film Fund, Board of Trustees for Young German Film
Erik Lemke was born in Dresden in 1983. From 2004 to 2007 he studied documentary film directing with Dmitri Sidorov at the St Petersburg State University for Film and Television. After working as an animator at Balance Film in Dresden he has since 2010 been living and working as an independent filmmaker in Berlin. He worked as an editor on the web documentary “Europe: The Eastern Border” directed by Tawan Arun and Joris Rühl and as an after-effects composer on the feature film “Alois Nebel” directed by Tomáš Luňák. Erik Lemke has also worked on his own short documentaries such as “Mich vermisst keiner!”, which premiered at DOK Leipzig 2016 and won several awards at festivals. Erik Lemke also works as a freelance lecturer for various youth projects and represents the German Media Council in the German Cultural Council’s expert committee on work & social issues. His directorial debut in the documentary feature film “Berlin Excelsior” premiered at the 51st Hofer Filmtage and was awarded the rating “Particularly Valuable” by the film rating board.
There is a recurring theme which haunts the lives of residents of Excelsior-Haus. Most are just living ‘temporarily’ in this faceless concrete tower block, hoping to move on to greater things, but never quite ‘arriving’. Is there something special with this building, that holds – without deserving the credit – the name Excelsior (Latin for sublime). Or is it more an expression of our time?
Documenting the zeitgeist is usually only possible through precise observation. Berlin Excelsior doesn’t lose itself in biographical details of its protagonists, but offers fleeting glimpses and insights, like snapshots within the moments of their lives. Only where stories and people are not described to the very end, identification is possible.
“Some neoliberals still believe in the trickle-down effect, according to which wealth trickles down from the top to the bottom and thus benefits everyone in the end. Statistics refute this. But what actually percolates is ideology. What is tried out in expensive management seminars, what fills thousands of guidebooks, what politicians and celebrities talk about every day, eventually reaches the bottom – even dubious projects like the “Ich-AG” bear witness to this development. Those below, the people portrayed by Lemke, then imitate what is said above. Berlin Excelsior” shows this in beautiful, sad and rethinking images.”
Wolfgang M. Schmitt: Rhein-Zeitung
“There is probably a consensus that the architects of the house of Excelsior missed timeless beauty. (…) Conscious of its creative power, the camera repeatedly dissects the building, looking at it from everywhere, as if in constant search of a cut, an angle that will make the house appear in a better light. And indeed, the sublimation succeeds. It is not the house itself that is beautiful, but the sections, their juxtaposition, without any binding panning, the eternal succession of open and closed windows. And of course – we are in Berlin, after all – the aesthetics of decay: in the middle of the filth, on the 17th floor, there is a noble sky restaurant.”
Manon Cavagna: critic.de
“Between the glamour of the penthouse club restaurant and the decaying basement bunker below, Berlin Excelsior traces the stories of the people who live here. A preserved microcosm of an already outdated Berlin feeling.”
Alexander Soyez: Inforadio
51. Internationale Hofer Filmtage 2017
14. achtung berlin – new berlin film award 2018
dokKa Festival 2018
23rd Berlin & Beyond San Francisco 2019
FBW-Prädikat “especially valuable”