The Retrospective is where classic movies are rediscovered or long-forgotten films are given a second life. The Retrospective brings German and international films back to the big screen – often in a restored version or a new print. The Retrospective helps place contemporary films in historical context.
Beginning this year, the Retrospective expands to include presentations of Berlinale Classics, showing recent restorations of film classics, as well as rediscovered films. With their freshly brilliant images and sound, these screenings provide a forum to premiere the growing number of high-quality restorations and reconstructions that make use of new digital processing techniques.
As a rule, films screened in Berlinale Classics will be introduced by a prominent festival guest. Berlinale Classics carries on the Retrospective tradition by presenting new restorations independently of the Retrospective’s current theme, and is supported through co-operations with international partners.
Both the Retrospective and the Homage sections have a long history. The Berlin International Film Festival began presenting film-historical retrospectives and homages in co-operation with the Deutsche Kinemathek in 1977. The Retrospective is always dedicated to an important director or a theme in film history. The Homage usually honours a great actor and showcases his or her lifework.
Every Retrospective has its own requirements. Various criteria are considered when looking for a theme such as its significance in film history and originality. The theme should also differ from previous ones but show some continuity. It can be topical or have relevance to current politics. The theme should appeal to a broad audience as well as to professional festival guests from both Germany and abroad. Is the theme worthy of research in the field of film history? Can it be meaningfully documented in the accompanying publications? What about the availability of film prints? Which guests will we be able to invite? What kind of parallel events can be organized? Reaching a consensus over a theme is not usually a problem. Excitement and enthusiasm are contagious.
The Deutsche Kinemathek – in consultation with the festival management – is given a free hand in shaping the Retrospective. Often, the Berlinale features not only a Retrospective, but also an Homage which is dedicated to a guest of honour.
The following personalities have been Homage guests in Berlin: James Stewart (1982), Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin (1984), Fred Zinnemann (1986), Jane Russell (1991), Hal Roach (1992), Gregory Peck (1993), Sophia Loren (1994), Alain Delon (1995), Elia Kazan (1996), Jack Lemmon (1996), Kim Novak (1997), Catherine Deneuve (1998), Shirley MacLaine (1999), Jeanne Moreau (2000), Kirk Douglas (2001), Claudia Cardinale (2002), Anouk Aimée (2003), Arthur Penn (2007), Francesco Rosi (2008).
The Retrospective has honoured many influential directors: Billy Wilder (1980), Curtis Bernhardt (1982), Ernst Lubitsch (1984), Rouben Mamoulian (1987), Erich von Stroheim (1994), Buster Keaton (1995), William Wyler (1996), G. W. Pabst (1997), Robert and Curt Siodmak (1998), Otto Preminger (1999), Fritz Lang (2001), F. W. Murnau (2003), Luis Buñuel (2008). And have been dedicated to a variety of themes in cinema history: Exile (1983), Special Effects (1985), Colour (1988), Europe 1939 (1989), The Year 1945 (1990), Cold War (1991), Babelsberg (1992), CinemaScope (1993), Slapstick & Co. (1995), Artificial Humans (2000), European 60s (2002), New Hollywood (2004), Production Design (2005), Traumfrauen. Film Stars of the Fifties (2006), City Girls. Images of Women in Silent Film (2007).
To bring back films to the screen in the best possible quality is one of the goals of the Retrospective, a concern that has gained importance over the last few years. This endeavor is supported by an international network of archives, distributors, private collectors and copyright owners who provide prints and the right to show them. The Deutsche Kinemathek is a member of the Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF) and maintains contact with numerous film archives around the world.
Thanks to the costly restorations carried out by these archives, films can be discovered or rediscovered in all their original visual and audio brilliance, in their authentic color or subtle gray tones as they were first shown. In the course of the extensive research, it is not only important to understand the influence of film itself on the history of cinema. Different prints must also be found so they can be compared and evaluated. It is not always possible to obtain high-quality, rarely played prints or to convince lenders to make a new print specially for the Berlinale. However, more and more studios, distributors and archives now recognize the value of film restoration and choose the Berlinale Retrospective to present restored films or rare and valuable archive prints in all their former glory.
Lectures, Discussions, Readings, Publications
The Retrospective program is accompanied by a series of events at the Deutsche Kinemathek including lectures, discussions, readings and presentations of documentation. The event series is a forum for our guests, a chance for discoveries, encounters and exchange – living cinematography.
The Deutsche Kinemathek is responsible for conceiving and producing the accompanying publications – whose content is very closely tied to the theme and film programme of the Retrospective or the Homage. The books take an in-depth look at and shed light on the theme from several angles. They also provide a historical context – so that the publications will continue to serve as useful reference works beyond their original purpose. The films shown are documented with comprehensive filmographies and original reviews in FilmHefte (Film Magazine) which have been published every year since 1997. Since 2004, they have also been available for download at the Deutsche Kinemathek website.
The Retrospective and Homage books as well as the FilmHefte books are sold during the festival at special sales counters and in the Deutsche Kinemathek's M-Shop.