For many of us there are just a few precious pinpoints of light in the otherwise endlessly dreary Berlin winters. For some those lighter spots come in the form of vacations somewhere sunny and far away, for the rest of us there’s the Berlinale. Ten days of standing in lines, trying to parse the catalogue’s short film descriptions for this year’s treasure, this year’s must see; ten days of warm screening rooms and an excitement that becomes palpable when the lights start going down and the curtains finally open. What better occasion to finally pay tribute to Arsenal, one of the finest cinemas in the city and the headquarters of Berlinale’s Forum program for more experimental films.
Huddled deep under the architectural theme park that is Potsdamer Platz, the Arsenal screening rooms actually lie on the far end of Cinestar‘s long, skylit corridor that is carpeted with the script for Taxi Driver. The connecting door between the two different cinemas is only open during the Berlinale, and even then is usually guarded with clipboarded officials. All the better, as the two couldn’t be more different. Sure, both are dedicated to screening Originalfassungen, unmolested original versions untainted by German dubbing, but instead of the admittedly wonderful world of 3D/48fps hobbits, Arsenal is dedicated to film history, more specifically its more adventurous, experimental side.
Throughout the year, Arsenal hosts film series and retrospectives for fantastic filmmakers as radically different as Vincente Minnelli or Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and has several ongoing series of classics that are always worth your while. One, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, plays masterpieces old and new by the likes of Antonioni, Rossellini, Murnau (with live piano accompaniment!), and Herzog, another ‘Klassiker nicht nur für Kinder’ regularly gives all of us the chance to see The Wizard of Oz on the glorious big screen.
The screening rooms themselves, unlike the classy ones at Kino International or Babylon Mitte, are nondescript black boxes, but the seating is comfy, and the cinema offers a great membership deal that lowers the price of tickets to a very manageable 5€. So the next time the clouds weigh down too heavy on your neighborhood, and you’ve finished bingeing on this month’s new TV show from the US or UK, take the stairs down to Arsenal and take a chance on some real cinema.