BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: Goethe Institut selects, round four.

DESPITE East Germany being in its death-throes, the state was still producing films after the wall came down. The Architects is clearly reflective of the growing liberalisation in late 80s East German society, and the film is none too subtle in its critique of authority and conformity. It ultimately looks at how much an individual has to compromise him or herself in order to fit in, concluding in a rather hard-edged pessimistic manner.

The narrative revolves around Daniel Brenner (Kurt Naumann), an architect in his late 30s who never managed to live up to the promise he showed in university. In other words, he never made the right connections in the East German hierarchy. However, he is given a great opportunity to design a building, and assembles six of his old varsity friends to assist. But while he spends hours and hours working on the project, his wife, Wanda, realises her life has been slipping away. And as the designs are deemed too out-there (e.g. not conformist enough) the pressure mounts on the group, and on Brenner’s marriage. The individuals are swamped by the socialist realist apartment blocks and architecture, a constant, static reminder of conformity and allegiance to the state.

The film looks at the impossibility of satisfying oneself and satisfying what the so-called state wants. It’s a rather political statement to be making in a socialist society. (Although, aesthetically, the film doesn’t try to make an individualistic statement – it’s rather dour in that regard).. However, the film is not only concerned with compromises to the state, and thus also has relevance to non-socialist countries. The Architects speaks about the impact of individualism on modern relationships, no matter the political environment. Both Daniel and Wanda tear themselves apart simply because they want to be individuals. Both are after the same thing, but the way they set about trying to achieve that, means their relationship becomes untenable. It’s a cruel reminder of modern life that neither of them really get what they want despite the personal sacrifices they end up making. Compromising to other external factors will always get in the way. Daniel sold out. Wanda is likely to end up a hausfrau elsewhere. And the Wall is about to come down to sell individualism as freedom...