Berlinale: Retrospective

Retrospective 2017:
“Future Imperfect. Science · Fiction · Film”

The Retrospective of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival is dedicated to science fiction films, one of the most visual stunning and spectacular genres in the history of film. This year’s Retrospective will showcase imaginary worlds in an imperfect future, the way the science fiction genre has conceived of them since its beginnings, with a focus on two themes - the society of the future, and the strange and Other. A total of 27 international features, including classics, cult films, and largely unknown productions from places like Japan, as well as Central and Eastern Europe will make up the 2017 Retrospective.

The particular appeal of these films is that they provide us with a sensory experience of a distant future, although positive visions of that future tend to be the exception. The genre is dominated by depictions of dystopias that use pessimistic extrapolation to imbue contemporary issues with an explosive quality. The environmental dystopia portrayed in Soylent Green (dir: Richard Fleischer, USA 1973), for instance, is the result of over-population and environmental pollution. Using a muted colour palette, it depicts a world in which there is intense competition for water, food, and accommodations, and humans are recycled like trash. Central to the sci-fi genre are storylines dealing with totalitarian systems and omnipresent surveillance, such as in the first film version of George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 (dir: Michael Anderson, UK / USA 1956). Director George Lucas’ memorable vision of a technocratic future in THX 1138 (USA 1971) is a highly efficient and fully automated society, in which the emotions and free will of the individual are suppressed with medication. Another sub-genre are post-apocalyptic films where the Earth has become uninhabitable. In O-bi, o-ba: Koniec cywilizacji (O-bi, O-ba: The End of Civilization, dir: Piotr Szulkin, Poland 1985), the survivors of a nuclear holocaust have retreated to a life underground. When all civilized order has been annihilated, violence and chaos rule; but new forms of community also emerge.

Another ubiquitous theme in science fiction films is the alien or unknown Other. The genre is replete with scenarios that have humans coming into contact with extraterrestrial life forms, and ideas about what the aliens might look like and how they live. The Danish silent film Himmelskibet (A Trip to Mars) by Holger-Madsen premiered in 1918, making it one of the earliest science fiction films ever shot. It conjures up a very peaceful vision of a Mars expedition and the encounter with the life forms who live there. Other friendly-seeming alien races include the starfish-shaped extraterrestrials in Kōji Shima’s Uchūjin Tōkyō ni Arawaru (Warning from Space, Japan 1956) and the childlike creatures in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (USA 1977). The genre classic The War of the Worlds (dir: Byron Haskin, USA 1953), by contrast, is a perfect example of the threatening alien invasion from space storyline. But the Other can also surface within human society or even within the individual. Artificial intelligence, androids, and robots raise the issue of the difference between men and machines. That is explored in a gloomy, merciless manner in Marek Piestrak’s Test Pilota Pirxa (Pilot Pirx’s Inquest, Poland / USSR 1979).

The exhibition “Things to Come. Science · Fiction · Film” has been on view at the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen since June 2016 and will run parallel to the Retrospective. It also explores the intertwining of science and fiction and will remain open until April 23, 2017 at Filmhaus on Potsdamer Platz.

The publication accompanying the Retrospective will be released only in English for the first time. The richly-illustrated volume published by the Bertz + Fischer house will feature essays by renowned international authors, who delve into science fiction film within the context of their national cinema.

For the second time this year, the film Retrospective will be rounded out with a special presentation in the television mediathek of the Deutsche Kinemathek, showcasing the intensity, with which German television has been exploring the subject of the future for decades.
The Deutsche Kinemathek will also host numerous events to complement the Retrospective.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, has been a Retrospective partner since 2011. In the summer of 2017, MoMA will present a related and extended exhibition of science fiction films, organised by Joshua Siegel, MoMA Curator of Film.

Since 1977, the Berlin International Film Festival has organised film history Retrospectives in cooperation with the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen. The Retrospective is always dedicated to an important director or a film history theme. The Retrospective brings German and international films back to the big screen, often with a restored version or new copy. Contemporary film is positioned within a historical context.

Berlinale Classics

Beginning in 2013, the Retrospective expanded to include presentations of Berlinale Classics. By integrating current restorations of film classics as well as rediscovered films in brilliant image and sound a forum is created to premiere the growing number of high-quality restorations and reconstructions that make use of new digital-processing technologies.

As a rule, films screened in Berlinale Classics are introduced by a prominent festival guest. Berlinale Classics carries on the Retrospective torch by presenting new restorations independently of the Retrospective’s current theme, and is supported through co-operations with international partners.

In addition to the German production Schwarzer Kies (Black Gravel) directed by Helmut Käutner, Rafi Bukaee’s Avanti Popolo from Israel, the Mexican film Canoa by Felipe Cazals, Annie Hall by Woody Allen, Maurice by James Ivory, Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero and Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D by James Cameron will be shown in digitally restored versions as part of the Berlinale Classics section in 2017.

Please find additional information in the press releases from December 12, 2016 and January 19, 2017.

The Retrospective has been managed by the Deutsche Kinemathek since 1977 that has organised the following Retrospectives:

  • Germany 1966 – Redefining Cinema (2016)
  • Glorious Technicolor. From George Eastman House and Beyond (2015)
  • Aesthetics of Shadow. Lighting Styles 1915–1950 (2014)
  • The Weimar Touch. The International Influence of Weimar Cinema after 1933 (2013)
  • The Red Dream Factory. Mezhrabpom-Film and Prometheus 1921–1936 (2012)
  • Ingmar Bergman. Film as life and life as film (2011)
  • PLAY IT AGAIN…! 60 Years Berlinale (2010)
  • 70 mm - Bigger than Life (2009)
  • Luis Buñuel (2008)
  • City Girls. Images of Women in Silent Film (2007)
  • Dream Girls. Film Stars in the 1950s (2006)
  • Production Design + Film. Locations, Settings, Spaces (2005)
  • New Hollywood 1967-1976. Trouble in Wonderland (2004)
  • F. W. Murnau (2003)
  • European 60’s (2002)
  • Fritz Lang (2001)
  • Artificial People (2000)
  • Otto Preminger (1999)
  • Siodmak Bros. Berlin – London – Paris – Hollywood (1998)
  • G. W. Pabst (1997)
  • William Wyler (1996)
  • Happy Birthday, Cinema! (1995)
    Buster Keaton 100
    Slapstick & Co.
  • Erich von Stroheim (1994)
  • CinemaScope (1993)
  • Babelsberg. A film studio (1992)
  • Cold War (1991)
  • The Year 1945 (1990)
    40 Years Berlinale
  • Europe 1939 (1989)
    Erich Pommer
  • Colour. The History of Colour Film (1988)
  • Rouben Mamoulian (1987)
  • Henny Porten (1986)
  • Special Effects (1985)
  • Ernst Lubitsch 1914-1933 (1984)
  • Exile. Six Actors from Germany (1983)
  • Insurrection of Emotions: Curtis Bernhardt (1982)
    East German Children’s Films
  • The Producer: The Films of Michael Balcon (1981)
  • Billy Wilder (1980)
    3D Films
  • Rudolph Valentino (1979)
    We Danced Around the World. Revue Films
  • Marlene Dietrich, Part 2 (1978)
    Censorship – Banned German Films 1933-1945
  • Marlene Dietrich, Part 1 (1977)
    Love, Death and Technology. Cinema of the Fantastical 1933-1945


  • Eleanor Powell
  • Conrad Veidt, Part 2
  • Great German Films 1929-1932
  • German Short Films of the 1930s, Part 2


  • Greta Garbo
  • Conrad Veidt, Part 1
  • German Short Films of the 1930s, Part 1


  • Lilian Harvey
  • Jacques Feyder
  • Norman McLaren


  • Wilhelm/William Dieterle
  • American Musicals
  • Animations by Dave Fleischer


  • Douglas Fairbanks
  • Ludwig Berger
  • American Animations 1940-1955


  • Busby Berkeley
  • Eddie Cantor


  • Winners of the “Golden Bears” and other Berlinale films
  • Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire


  • Abel Gance
  • Musicals 1929-1950
  • Oskar Fischinger


  • Ernst Lubitsch, Part 2
  • W. C. Fields


  • Ernst Lubitsch, Part 1
  • Harry Langdon


  • Cinema Novo
  • Max Ophüls
  • Mack Sennett


  • Masterpieces of German Film1895-1932


  • Louis Lumière
  • Pola Negri
  • Paul Leni


  • Elisabeth Bergner
  • E. A. Dupont
  • Karl Grune
  • Yasujiro Ozu


  • Asta Nielsen
  • G. W. Pabst
  • Ingmar Bergman


  • Richard Oswald
  • Billy Wilder
  • Akira Kurosawa


  • 10 Years Golden Berlin Bear
  • Musicals from 1930-1945
  • Musicals from 1930-1945 (Experimental film special programme)


  • International Masterpieces from the Early Years of Talkies


  • Masterpieces of International Film from 1915 to 1945


  • German Artists in Foreign Film


  • The Humour of Nations


  • 60 Years Film


  • Showcase of Famous Films


  • Silent Movies


Retrospective & Homage
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