The Scar (Die Narbe): Film Review

Die Narbe. Westberlin Poster - P 2013

Die Narbe. Westberlin Poster - P 2013

Numbing art project communicates little to non-German viewers.

Burkhard von Harder takes a helicopter ride along the former path of the Berlin Wall.

An almost unendurable exercise whose point will elude all but the most generous Western viewers, Burkhard von Harder's The Scar is a 77-minute aerial view tracing the path of the former Berlin Wall, a circuit that exists now mostly in memory. Though on paper the idea has some potential -- as a historical meditation on the suffering of East Berliners and the arbitrary nature of borders -- its execution stumbles on multiple fronts, resulting in a work whose value will be seen only by German history museums and those whose interest in the subject requires them to digest any shred of available information.

Shooting in winter, von Harder ensures that his snow-covered subject will have the least possible visual appeal; if bleakness is in fact the point, the filmmaker (an art photographer) should at least have procured a high-def camera capable of making the starkness palpable.

As we fly over the scene, FM Einheit's music seems less an accompanying score than a batch of impersonal instrumental tracks culled from studio sessions. Snatches of distorted audio pop in -- quotes from politicians, announcements of former checkpoint names, a civilian's crank-like calls of protest to GDR offices -- but there's no discernable order to these tidbits. At least their random arrival helps viewers stay awake -- something that's surely even more necessary in this film's companion piece, a sixteen-hour marathon tracing the entire border between East and West Germany. Set for release next year (the 25th anniversary of the Wall's fall), that film seems unlikely to make it past the German border.

Production Company: BVH Pictures

Director-Producer: Burkhard von Harder

Director of photography: Evert Cloetens

Music: FM Einheit

Editor: Alex Beyer

No rating, 77 minutes