Screening “KRABAT” – German Film Club, collaboration between KKF & Goethe Institut, Wednesday, 2 November 2011, at 7:30 pm, Performance Space KKF (2nd Fl.)By kedaikebun • Oct 28th, 2011 • Category: Events
Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner, 120 min, 2006-08, German with English subtitles
Cast: David Kross, Daniel Brühl, Christian Redl, Anna Thalbach
14-year-old orphan Krabat is taken on as an apprentice by the sinister master of a mill. Alongside eleven other lads, he finds himself learning not just the miller’s craft but eventually also the arts of black magic. However, this comes at a high price: every New Year’s Eve one of the students must forfeit his life since this is the only way their master, who has made a pact with Death, can extend his own life for another year. Krabat, however, begins to break away from this fateful power struggle. His inner strength, a shrewd friend and the love of a girl help him banish the dark shadows that have long been cast over this place and its inhabitants.
In this respect Otfried Preussler’s 1971 children’s book KRABAT contains something both timeless and universal. It tells of the seduction of power, the strength of love, the illusion of security and the challenges of freedom. Based on a Sorbian legend, the story takes place in Upper Lausatia in eastern Germany at the beginning of the 18th century when Augustus the Strong ruled Saxony, a situation indicated by certain minor events. Screenwriter Michael Gutmann and director Marco Kreuzpaintner have set their film adaptation some years earlier in a period more familiar to the audience: the altogether more impoverished and shabby era of the Thirty Years War, which finished in 1648.
Krabat has lost his parents in the upheaval of the war. The guttural voice of the narrator, Otto Sander, sets the scene. One night Krabat falls into a kind of dream state and is lured to a mysterious mill where the ominous miller takes him on. Krabat slaves away alongside eleven other lads, content at least to have found a roof over his head. Soon, however, he is initiated into a secret: the mill is revealed to be a school of magic where the master teaches his apprentices the black arts. At first Krabat is fascinated and, like the others, he learns to transform himself into a raven and fly. The boys succeed in protecting the inhabitants of a nearby village from marauding soldiers thanks to their supernatural powers. But when Tonda, who has cared for him like an older brother, loses his life, Krabat gradually begins to fully realize the dangerous and dichotomous nature of this circle. He finds a shrewd friend in Juro, the kitchen hand who pretends to be dim-witted. Juro tells him that the love of a girl is required to vanquish the master. Krabat, who has long been in love with local girl Kantorka, decides to take up the fight, even though winning will mean the loss of his newly acquired magic powers.
The message of this successful novel-to-film adaptation has a lasting resonance: those who possess great strength are also able to inspire an astonishing solidarity in others.