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Machines Like Us: Desires and Technology in German Cinema

Venue: Louis Koo Cinema, Hong Kong Arts Centre  
Date: 2021.04.18 - 2021.04.21
Price: HK$80 / HK$64* 

Since the invention of the first stone tools nearly two million years ago up to the present digital era, technology has always been the means that humans use to fulfill desires, obtain resources, modify the world and explore possibilities. Film is also one of the means - by cinematically realising imaginations and establishing human connections.

Co-presented by Goethe-Institut Hongkong and the Hong Kong Arts Centre, this film showcase serves as an introduction to German science fiction films from the 1920s up till now, and encourages our audience to observe how technologies have evolved over time in cinema and in our greater world to meet human desires. This programme involves discourses on gender, politics, society, culture and other areas over the course of history. While it traces how the ancient dream of creation connects with today’s world, it also illustrates how the human condition and our surroundings have been shaped by technological innovations.


Screening schedule:

18/4 (Sun) 4pm* The Golem: How He Came into the World

18/4 (Sun) 7:30pm+ Metropolis

19/4 (Mon) 7:30pm World on a Wire

20/4 (Tue) 7:30pm In the Dust of the Stars

21/4 (Wed) 7:30pm* Hi, AI

*With after-screening talk. Conducted in English.
+With introduction. Conducted in Cantonese.


The Golem: How He Came into the World

Director: Paul Wegener, Carl BoeseMusic: Jan Brauer

Germany | 1920 | 76 mins | Silent with score| DCP | B&W

The dangerous contradictions created by tyranny

18/4 (Sun) 4pm*

*DJ Jan Brauer will attend the after-screening talk. Conducted in English.

Suffering under an absolute monarchy in Prague in the 1600s, Rabbi Lowe, a magician and master of the Black Art, wants to prevent the persecution of his Jewish people, and creates a giant warrior, the golem, to protect their safety. The golem is sculpted of clay and animated by the spirit of Astaroth, and is a seemingly indestructible juggernaut with superpower, performing acts of great heroism, yet equally capable of dreadful violence. When the rabbi’s assistant takes control of the golem and attempts to use him for selfish gain, the golem evades human influence...
This finely rendered expressionist work of unleashed desire and potential damnation is based on a Jewish folklore. Co-director, Paul Wegener, plays the golem. The film was one of the most successful German silent film productions, both artistically and financially. Despite its bleakness, The Golem still bursts with brightness and hope, and is a masterpiece of German horror cinema. Commissioned by Goethe-Institut Hongkong, Berlin-based DJ and electronic music composer Jan Brauer will accompany this classic silent movie with a contemporary score.

About the score composer

Jan Brauer is a DJ from Berlin as well as an electronic music composer. He co-founded the group Brandt Brauer Frick in 2009 who has made appearances at festivals such as Coachella, Glastonbury, and Haldern Pop. Jan also works on crossover-projects with classical music, theatre and films. In 2017, Brauer composed a new film music score for Sergei Eisenstein’s classic 1925 silent movie Battleship Potemkin and was premiered to a full house of enthusiastic audience at the Hong Kong Arts Centre.



Director: Fritz Lang

Special Award, New York Film Critics Circle Awards 2002
Nominated for Best International Film, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (USA) 2011

Germany | 1925/26 | 149 mins | In German with English subtitles | DCP | B&W

Between the head and the hands must be the heart

18/4 (Sun) 7:30pm+

+With introduction by Dr. Derek Lam. Conducted in Cantonese.

In the city of the future, Metropolis, Joh Fredersen rules it from high above while the workers are non-stop plodding underground. Fredersens' son Freder falls in love with Maria, the workers' leader. At the same time, Rotwang, the inventor, creates a steel robot and is instructed by Fredersen to model it after Maria. The fake Maria then instigates the workers who leave their machines and thus cause the flooding of the city. How to overcome the vast gulf that separates classes and bring people together?
Metropolis was one of the most monumental and expensive films of Germany and is among the first features of the sci-fi genre. Inspired by the New York skyline, the film is a canvas of futuristic and dystopic extravaganza, which also embodies director Fritz Lang’s trailblazing ambition in filmmaking.


World on a Wire

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Honourable Mention (Television Play), Adolf Grimme Awards, Germany 1974
Berlin International Film Festival 2010
Melbourne International Film Festival 2010

West Germany | 1973 | 212 mins | In German with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

A trippy race between humans and the machines

19/4 (Mon) 7:30pm

In the future, the government has a simulation project called Simulacron, which includes an artificial world with over 9,000 identity units who live as avatars that believe themselves to be real people. The technical director of the programme dies in a mystery accident. His successor, Fred Stiller, becomes suspicious of a massive corporate and governmental conspiracy, and starts to wonder about his own humanity and the “real world”. Meanwhile, one of the identity units in the simulation attempts suicide.
In World on a Wire, director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s wild wired dystopia is gloriously cracked and boundlessly inventive. The epic demonstrates that sci-fi is a genre that is fit for Fassbinder-esque paranoid-existential interrogation and romantic vision. This is the director’s only work of sci-fi which he made at the age of 27, and was originally aired as a two-part television serial in 1968.


In the Dust of the Stars

Director: Gottfried Kolditz

East Germany | 1976 | 95 mins | In German with English subtitles | DCP | Colour 

Who’s suffering from the winner’s curse?

20/4 (Tue) 7:30pm

After a six-year journey, the spaceship Cyrno lands on the planet TEM 4 after receiving its call for help, but the Temers deny the call. As commander Akala prepares the spaceship to leave, the ruler of TEM4 invites her and the crew to a lush party. Not only do the opulent food and the seductive dancers cloud their minds, there are also drugs to brainwash them. Only navigator Suko is left behind on the spaceship, and he makes a terrible discovery.
Sometimes referred to as the “East German Barbarella”, In the Dust of the Stars is deemed one of the most imaginative films of East German cinema. It was co-produced with Romania by the state-owned studio, DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft), and is the last of the studio’s four outer-space films. The cast was heralded from different eastern European countries. Director Gottfried Kolditz started his career in making musicals and In the Dust of the Stars is a feast for the eyes.


Hi, AI

Director: Isabella Willinger

Best Documentary, Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival 2019
Nominated for Best Documentary, German Film Awards 2019
Nominated for NEXT:WAVE Award and Politiken's Audience Award, CPH:DOX 2019
International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam 2019

Germany | 2018 | 90 mins | In English, German, Japanese Italian, with English subtitles | DCP | Colour 

A robotic goal to love humans?

21/4 (Wed) 7:30pm*

*Professor Dr Gordon Cheng and Dr Derek Lam will attend the after-screening talk. Conducted in English.

Humanoid robots are the new creatures. While scientists agonise over the philosophical questions surrounding artificial intelligence, robots are filling roles as receptionists, domestic workers, sex objects and others. In the US, Chuck is lonely and picks up a robot girlfriend, Harmony, who is programmed for empathy and compliments. In Japan, grandmother Sakurai is given the childlike robot, Pepper, by her son, so she is less alone.
While robotics is the future, Hi, AI provokes important moral and existential questions: How will we live together with machine learning and artificial intelligence? What will we win and what will we lose? And, who are the main characters in the new world? The interactions in the film bring about humorous moments, and many revealing hints too. We might come to realise that we can discover deeply human traits in the new artificial lifeforms.


About the speakers

Dr Derek Lam

Dr Derek Lam teaches film as a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong.  He has worked for the Hong Kong International Film Festival (most recently on its retrospective of late Godard), Macau's Cinemateca Paixão, and the New York Film Festival.  He obtained his MFA degree in film directing at Columbia University and his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong.

Professor Dr Gordon Cheng

Gordon Cheng has made pioneering contributions in humanoid robotics, neuroengineering, artificial intelligence for the past 20 years. Since 2010, Dr Cheng has been holding the Chair for Cognitive Systems, which he also founded. The Chair for Cognitive Systems is part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Technical University of Munich (TUM), Munich/Germany.


Individual tickets: $80 / $64*

*20% discount for tickets for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above, and people with disabilities and the minder and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients. Tickets for CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis.

*For each screening, 20% off for each purchase of 4 or more standard tickets.

*20% off discount to Goethe-Institut Hongkong’s students with a valid discount letter.


Tickets are now available on Hong Kong Movie.

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