Does changing the place we live bring along with it the opportunity to change oneself? This is a question that many of us have found ourselves pondering at some point in life, and it’s one of the main questions posed by the post-modern coming of age story brought to life in the film Berlin in You.
In the wake of this earnest question (and the driving force in the film’s narrative quest) concerning reinvention through relocation, comes another, potentially more consequential one: Is it possible, both literally and metaphorically, to travel too far away from one’s roots, to travel to the point of no return?
Written and directed by Robert Blake, Berlin In You tells the story of Greta, played by the talented Sarah Wessendorf, a conservative young woman who leaves her small town behind in order to reinvent herself in Berlin.
“Berlin,” wrote David Bowie of his time spent living there, “the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.”
For a young woman looking for a new identity, in Berlin there’s no shortage of the different kinds of people one can become.
Next to Amsterdam, the pulsing party-centric city of Berlin is something like the Las Vegas of Europe. It’s a cultural hub that boasts the widest assortment of adult entertainment imaginable– and Berlin in You doesn’t shy away from showing that side as Ms. Wessendorf’s character Greta begins to explore the city.
However, what is initially exciting and full of new experiences, soon becomes too much for Greta. Unaccustomed to this type of lifestyle, the character soon finds herself lost in the chaos of the nightlife as she rapidly loses herself in a downward spiral.
“She starts to lose herself, like a moth to the flame,” Wessendorf explains, “until she meets Tim.” This relationship provides a foundation Greta uses to steer herself away from the direction in which she had been headed, and begin to turn her life around.
“She starts to sit in silence with herself in a city filled with noise, and at the end, she realizes that she needs to be one with her entire being and take care of her mental and physical state in order to save her life.”
Originally from Hamburg, Germany, Sarah has lived in many major cities, including Tel Aviv, Israel, Milan, Italy, and Paris, France. “I am mostly proud of having lived in so many different countries,” said Wessendorf in an interview with VoyageLA. “Speaking several languages next to my mother tongue and having a complex understanding about what connects us as humans.”
“Especially now in our world, it is very important for me to spread this message. We should never forget that we are all interconnected and acting… can communicate that. It doesn’t matter if you watch an Iranian, an Israeli, a Japanese or a French movie, if a person suffers and transmits a deep sadness… it will touch you.”
She explains, “I relate with Greta very much. In this film, I reflected a lot about my time in Berlin. I always felt a bit of a love hate relationship to the city. I think everyone moving to Berlin is faced with many of these challenges– how to balance personal growth and freedom of expression with a healthy mindset and patterns that will lead to a good and well-rounded life. For myself, I had to make sure I set healthy boundaries for how I wanted to experience this place.”
As Wessendorf stated, many people who have lived in Berlin are indeed faced with the challenges depicted in Berlin in You. David Bowie, as referenced, spent two years living there in an effort to escape the chaos of life in Los Angeles. During his time in Berlin, he recorded three albums which are considered some of his best work, including his most famous title, “Heroes.”
In 2013, he released a single titled “Where Are We Now?” as a tribute to Berlin. The song repeats the lyrics, “Where are we now? Where are we now? The moment you know, you know.”
These lyrics touch on the feelings of Greta in Berlin in You as well as those described by Wessendorf about living in the city, which can so easily overtake someone that it leaves them wondering where they are now, as if it were somewhere different than where they were before.
Even the title Berlin in You cheekily touches on this; while the geographic location of a city may be objective, what the city does within its residents is subjective; an internal state; such as the selection of the title Berlin In You.
Berlin in You is a story about finding oneself amongst and within chaos. Greta is skillfully played by Sarah Wessendorf, who carries the film almost entirely. Bringing her own life experiences to her character, director Robert Blake said Sarah was able to “show me things about the character that I didn’t even know where there before.”
In her own words, “My personal mission for myself is to show how nothing truly differs between us except our experiences…” While this may be the case, it is Sarah’s breadth and ability as an actor that allow her to communicate a character to the audience with such depth and authenticity, which is captivatingly captured in the film Berlin in You.