Filmmakers lash out at German critics


COLOGNE, Germany -- Directors and producers grumbling over a bad review is nothing new but some of Germany's leading filmmakers have launched a virtual media assault on local film critics.

Guenter Rohrbach, president of the German film association and producer of films including "Das Boot" (1985) and "The White Massai" (2005), blasted German film critics in an essay published in the current edition of German weekly Der Spiegel.

"Do we even need them, these elite self-promoters who turn pirouettes around our films?" Rohrbach wrote. "Is the meager praise they occasionally give worth all the suffering they inflict, all the damage they do to us?"

Rohrbach's emotional attack on Germany's movie critics was prompted by the critical bashing of two recent releases: Tom Tykwer's literary adaptation "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" and Dani Levy's comedy "Mein Fuehrer: The Truly Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler."

Despite being lambasted in the arts sections of most major German papers, both "Perfume" and "Mein Fuehrer" have done well at the boxoffice. "Perfume" sold more than 5.5 million tickets, putting it on par with Hollywood blockbusters, while "Mein Fuehrer" has sold more than half a million tickets since its Jan. 11 release.

Calling critics "autistic" and "elitist," Rohrbach points out that Germany's so-called opinionmakers are so out of touch with ordinary movie goers that they've become irrelevant. He uses the example of Valeska Griesbach's film "Longing," which was adored by German critics. The film sold just 24,000 tickets nationwide.

Dani Levy also has joined the critical backlash with an article in national paper Die Welt.

Levy said that local critics' dismissal of "Mein Fuehrer" as harmless and unfunny "robbed the (German) audience of a honest controversy" and discussion regarding the film.

"I fear the opinionmakers have actually succeeded in robbing you (the audience) of its desire to go to the movies," Levy concluded.

Germany's critics have responded by defending their right to offend. Josef Schnelle, president of Germany's association of film critics, said it is the critics' prerogative to praise and promote smaller productions that might get missed.

Schnelle acknowledged that, when it comes to big-budget or Hollywood films, the critics have virtually no influence on the boxoffice because, he says, "the audience for these films rarely read reviews."