backsight: Soylent Green

Soylent Green (1973)

The other week, a circle of friends talked about how we wanted to be buried. Someone said: Soylent Green. And I thought there was another word I didn’t know in English. Turns out my words are fine; I missed a couple of American films in the 1970s. The dystopian thriller Soylent Green came out in 1973. So, it is safe to assume that it was made in 1972. It is set fifty years later. 2022. Today. I watched dystopia in real time. Comparative fun. And a reel treat – pun intended – if you can either ignore or admire the much simpler story line(s) and forget what you saw of sci-fi bombast of later years and what you heard from Charlton Heston when he acted off stage. 

Across seven bridges

Bruce bridge in San Diego
Sometimes I would walk the street without remorse
Sometimes wishing back my littl’ rocking horse
Sometimes I don’t find a resting spot
Sometimes I bolt the doors behind me shut
Sometimes I spew fire and sometimes ice
Sometimes I don’t know that I am wise
Sometimes I am tired right at morn
And then I seek solace in a song:

Across seven bridges you shall go
Seven years will come and leave
Seven times you are the ash of grief 
Then once again your light will glow

Sometimes ’t seems the clock of life stands still
Sometimes ’t seems you’re loping in a hamster wheel
Sometimes you are lame on itchy feet
Sometimes you squat quiet on a seat
Sometimes you grab for the golden orb
Sometimes you see your lucky stars send blur
Sometimes you take, when you can endow
Sometimes you hate, who you truly love: 

Across seven bridges you shall go
Seven years will come and leave
Seven times you are the ash of grief
Then once again your light will glow

1978. This song was produced for the radio in East Germany by the rockband Karat, who also toured in West Germany. Most East German bands never had that chance. The West German singer Peter Maffay heard the song at one of their concerts, asked whether he could do a cover version, and made the song even more popular. After the German unification, they performed together. It has been covered by many to this day. The lyrics were written by Helmut Richter. The song has its own Wikipedia entry.

My English translation has gone through a number of versions. I am very grateful to the musician Tillmann Spiegl for his help with making some lines as singeable as the German original.

Karat - Über sieben Brücken musst du gehn (1978) 

Manchmal geh' ich meine Straße ohne Blick, 
manchmal wünsch' ich mir mein Schaukelpferd zurück, 
manchmal bin ich ohne Rast und Ruh, 
manchmal schließ ich alle Türen nach mir zu. 
Manchmal ist mir kalt und manchmal heiß, 
manchmal weiss ich nicht mehr, was ich weiß, 
manchmal bin ich schon am Morgen müd, 
und dann such ich Trost in einem Lied: 

Über sieben Brücken musst du geh'n, 
Sieben dunkle Jahre überstehn, 
Sieben Mal wirst du die Asche sein, 
Aber einmal auch der helle Schein. 

Manchmal scheint die Uhr des Lebens still zu steh'n, 
manchmal scheint man immer nur im Kreis zu geh'n, 
manchmal ist man wie vom Fernweh krank, 
manchmal sitzt man still auf einer Bank. 
Manchmal greift man nach der ganzen Welt, 
manchmal meint man, dass der Glücksstern fällt, 
manchmal nimmt man, wo man lieber gibt, 
manchmal hasst man das, was man doch liebt. 

Über sieben Brücken musst Du geh'n, 
Sieben dunkle Jahre überstehn, 
Sieben Mal wirst du die Asche sein, 
Aber einmal auch der helle Schein. 

If you have the interest, time, and energy to read more of the Just texts you find them in blog order on this website. Please comment on what you associate with them, what you like, what you dislike, what you read in them, how they make you feel …

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backsight: The last execution

Nahschuss / The Last Execution (2021)

Gosh, I had been meaning to do this for a long time: write a few sentences about a film I saw, a book I read, something I heard. And here we go, the first one:

This German film came out last year. I heard people talk about it, because this story was still in them. Metabolizing. It was screened yesterday in the Digital Gym, with English subtitles, so I went.

The sujet, based on historical events: The last death sentence in the 40 years of East German history. Executed. At close range. The closest range possible. In 1981. The East German Stasi killed one of their own.

For me, one of those films where I focused on the story, felt it, lived in it. The warped, inhumane manipulation of people in the Stasi and outside of it. Manipulating and being manipulated. Each on their own. Cleverly and brutally enmeshed. Soon after their greed sucked them into tentacles of the secret service. Horrific and human. In its weaknesses.

The film-making and acting must have been very good; I got gripped by the story, the characters, the tension. I saw David Striesow – here the commanding Stasi officer – in Ich bin dann mal weg / I am off then (2015), when he played the loveable Hape Kerkeling walking the Camino de Santiago. In Nahschuss, he is traumatized, empty, and nasty.

Highly recommended.