S Magazine, Issue 13
In the grand tradition of German metamorphosis, actor Alexander Scheer changes constantly, just as his beloved Berlin does. From playing a classical villain to being a rock god, from experimental theatre to international film festivals, from iron curtains to nonstop curtain calls.
The past is a foreign country, so the saying goes, and the past for German actor Alexander Scheer is hardly metaphorical terrain. “I was born in the East and when I was 14 there was a revolution and then suddenly I was in the West.”
The result, he says, was that “everything I had thought, everything I was used to, was suddenly turned upside down. It was wonderful.” Scheer’s story as an actor is thus the story also of his birthplace, Berlin. As a teenager growing up, he relished in the sudden anarchy and chaos that came with the fall of the Wall. Today, as one of the most successful stage actors of his generation, and with a burgeoning international film career, Scheer still lives in a state of perpetual flux, switching between genres and even art forms with a feverishness that masks the ease with which he does it. “Berlin is still constantly changing. You can’t ever say it’s a certain way. It’s just like me.”
Having started out doing underground theatre and modelling in the newly reunified city, Scheer, 35, had his breakout film role in the 1999 comedy Sonnenallee, before he embarked on a ten-year odyssey through Germany’s theatrical landscape, even as he returned repeatedly to his first love, cinema. His first big English-speaking televised role came in 2010, depicting the dangerous right-hand man to the international terrorist Carlos, in the eponymous five-hour thriller. He’s now to star in an experimental theatre production of Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler at Berlin’s legendary Volksbühne, while his latest shoot, slated for release in November, is a children’s fantasy film, in which he plays, of all things, Santa Claus. It’s an endearingly uncool part for Scheer, perhaps the most rock-n-roll of all German actors.
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smag13 – alexanderscheer
The Berlin International Film Festival was a product of the Cold War. The US military administration wanted to bring a touch of glamour to a West Berlin that had survived the Soviet blockade. Since then, the festival has gained a reputation for championing political, provocative movies, and has been no stranger to scandal.
When the Oscar Martay, the film officer with the US military administration in Berlin, conceived of the idea of an international film festival 60 years ago, the Cold War was at its peak and much of the destroyed city was still in rubble.
The first Berlin International Film Festival in 1951 was designed to serve as a propaganda tool for the Allies just two years after the end of the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. The divided city marked the front line of the conflict with Soviet Russia and its satellite states in Eastern Europe and the US officials were determined to introduce a bit of glamour to the sector of the city they controlled. The festival was to be a “showcase of the free world.” Continue reading
The former border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse may have been the spot where the Iron Curtain cracked wide open, but 20 years on there is little in this drab corner of East Berlin to indicate its historic significance. That is set to change now that Berlin has commissioned a firm of architects to create a new square to commemorate the events of Nov. 9, 1989.
Not all historic places announce themselves with pomp and fanfare. Sometimes they can be modest and unassuming, even a little bit shabby.
The Bösebrücke bridge to the north of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district is just such a place. This desolate corner of east Berlin is the spot where the Iron Curtain cracked wide open 20 years ago. It was here that East Berliners streamed past the suddenly moribund Bornholmer Strasse border checkpoint and into West Berlin at approximately 9:20 p.m. on Nov. 9, 1989. Yet today there is little to indicate that this is the place where communist East Germany entered its death throes.
That is soon set to change, however. Berlin’s city government has commissioned a new urban square to commemorate that fateful day in 1989. Just over a week ago, Sinai, a firm which specializes in landscape architecture, was named as the winner of the competition to design the new “Platz der 9. November 1989” (Nov. 9, 1989 Square). Continue reading