cinema, German Politics

Mission Impossible.

It may sound a little prejudiced, but it’s true. Ethan Hunt, aka Tom Cruise, finally found an impossible mission – in Germany, of course.

Wolfgang Thierse, President of the German Bundestag made it clear that it will indeed be impossible to shoot some action scenes for the next Tom Cruise star vehicle, Mission Impossible 3, in the glass dome of the Bundestag. After Cruise had visited the dome in April, the studio’s location manager had asked for permission to shoot there but was turned down because of concerns regarding the “dignity” of Parliament.

Dignity? On which planet do Mr Thierse and his advisors live (although I have a hunch this was Thierse’s decision. It sounds just like him…)? Turning down such a huge PR opportunity for German Democracy with the alleged “dignity” of the Bundestag is beyond me. What’s undignified about visualing the new Reichstag, a symbol of German Democracy, to a billion people, many of whom will probably have only seen images of the building with Hitler or the Kaiser parading in front of it. What’s undignified about raising people’s interest in Berlin? What’s undignified about shooting a movie? It’s certainly inconvenient, but I am rather sure overlapping schedules were not a fundamental problem. Sure, most films set in, say, The White House, aren’t actually shot there – but does that matter for the “dignity of the institution”? Besides, what was more undignified – Denzel Washington’s “Murder at 1600” or the questionable election procedures and results in Florida?

To be at least a little balanced here, I haven’t read the screenplay – and if I had, I would not tell you for free. So maybe it is indeed objectionable with respect to some concept of dignity. But I don’t think so. Quite honestly, I have a feeling the decision to keep Cruise out of the Bundestag is telling more about the way representative Democrcacy is understood by senior German politicians – including Wolfgang Thierse – than anything else. Must dignity always mean distance? Remember cosy Bonn? And would Thierse have declined the request to use the dome for a Yo-Yo Ma documentary? A video for Herbert Groenemeyer? I’m sure there’s a line somewhere, but does it exclude action movies?

The rejection is a little reminiscent of the extremely embarrassing debate preceding Christo and Jean Claude’s wrapping of the Reichstag in 1995, which was later hailed as impressive art and an opportunity for Germans to re-embrace the Reichstag building as a cornerstone of their Democracy.

But at least some politicians seem to have learned this lesson. Walter Momper, former Mayor of Berlin, and currently President of Berlin’s state Parliament has offered his chamber as an alternative to the producers. His bid might be successful as the film will be shot in the Babelsberg studios just outside Berlin, where – suddenly – more and more “Hollywood” movies are being shot – predominantly because studios in Los Angeles are far more expensive.

Mr Momper therefore rightly grasped the opportunity to benefit from supporting this kind of “reverse outsourcing” without undignified excuses. But then, he doesn’t have a dome