Address by Frédéric Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, on the occasion of the presentation of decorations to Wim WENDERS, Senta BERGER, Martina GEDECK, HannaSCHYGULLA and Fatih AKIN Berlin, Monday 15 February 2010

Dear Senta BERGER,
Dear Martina GEDECK,
Dear Fatih AKIN,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,
If there is an art where, as on a moving mirror or in a lantern
the reality of a country, its questions and its
is of course cinema. This is particularly true for
Germany. Everyone knows the extraordinary book From Caligari to Hitler of
Siegfried KRACAUER who describes the history of the
disaster. Well, as in response and in reverse reflection of this story, the
for decades, German cinema has continued to write
and to invent a new identity, at the same time as he invented,
shaped and reflected a new Germany.
Of today’s Germany that we know and that we
love, this dynamic and open Germany, in perpetual exchange
with the world, which is our intellectual, artistic and political partner
the five personalities of cinema to whom I have the pleasure of
today are exemplary representatives. This is why
Berlin – one of Europe’s most dynamic and
the youth, diversity and creativity of our
contains – is also, obviously, the capital and emblem.
You are the pioneer of this new cinema inseparable from this new
Your cinema is the first, since the 1960s, to have told us
otherwise our history as Europeans, to have us drop the scales
eyes. You first knew how to make it visible and sensitive, and
the cultural and human unity of the European continent.
Europe was still in need of diversity and
inherited partitions, it still had difficulty to get rid of its
to free oneself from its real and imaginary frontiers.
You are the first to have crossed these borders with a single stroke of
car as in «Lisbon story». A little like this sage of
Antiquity, which, to refute the philosophers who denied the movement, has
just started walking. You helped us to move to the other side
of the national mirror.
Through cinema, you put in stage and spotlight this European citizen who
no longer existed, or did not yet exist, buried that it was under centuries of
nationalism. This European citizen, even more than visible, you have
made desirable. Your cinema puts before our eyes if not examples,
at least of the landmarks, opens up leads, shows us paths.
You have rediscovered the meaning of what Frédéric NIETZSCHE called the
good Europeans”, these great Germans – in particular – capable of
transcend boundaries by their stature and disposition of mind, and
GOETHE, the inventor of the European
“Weltliteratur”. And I’m not far from thinking you’re a little bit
the inventor of a «Weltkino», a cinema-world, in any case a cinema at the
measurement of a continent.
You have helped us to change the size of our
awareness of Europeans, to break down barriers. More than «Lisbon story»,
your films tell a «Europe Story».
To open our minds thus, you have developed the intoxication of
“American way of life” in Europe, including the sense of freedom of
road movie. You have been able to grasp this wind from the sea, restore this
size of the large spaces. This is also how you have made
the «United States of Europe» already mentioned by Victor HUGO. Because
like all great filmmakers, you have been constantly drawn to
this great American horizon, this To the end of the world… so far and so
our twin and our youth – even if your friendship is
and must also be critical, as your films show
across the Atlantic…
This sense of the “new frontier” you have also instilled in our
cinema and in our consciences by crossing the limits of genres.
You used the documentary at a time when it was not
Hardly in vogue and on this point also you have been a pioneer.
But above all you opened the cinema to music, from Nick CAVE to U2
and BONO, from Ry COODER to MADRE DEUS, not forgetting the BUENA VISTA
SOCIAL CLUB… Because music alone knows how to give us
immediately and without waiting for the feeling of «without borders».
Dear Wim WENDERS, on behalf of the President of the Republic and
the powers vested in us, we give you the badges
in the order of the Legion of Honor.
Dear Fatih AKIN,
You too are a symbol of this new Germany, of its
openness and its identity in perpetual motion.
I would obviously be careful to reduce you to successful integration
and multiculturalism. Of course, you are both exemplary,
and you constantly wonder about meeting points, and sometimes
between the German and Turkish cultures, but also between the
generations, and in this way you are asking the question of
our European identity.
You are an emblem of “elective affinities” and dialogue between
Germany and Turkey, and across Germany, all of Europe. These
exchanges like the Season of Turkey in France, which will continue
until next March.
You pose these questions as artists and even as great artists:
you are in line with a FASSBINDER and All others
are called Ali, though with your style. I’m thinking in particular of Against the
Wall”: this is not the Berlin Wall, but those of the prison, of the cultures
and feelings, all the more impassable when they whisper our
The strength of your writing and aesthetics also comes from research
a new way of telling, of building a story, that makes you one
the most demanding and ambitious filmmakers of your generation:
the parallel stories of your Other Side are told brilliantly
worthy of the greatest.
By the crucial questions you ask, by the multiplicity of your talents
– director, screenwriter, but also actor and producer – you
help shape Germany’s identity like no other filmmaker
and Europe today – not only to reflect it, but to recreate it
turning it resolutely towards the world, towards the diversity of its cultures,
his questions and his research, that is, towards the future.
Dear Fatih AKIN, on behalf of the French Republic, we present you
Knighthood badges in the Order of Arts and Letters.
Dear Martina GEDECK,
You are for me an embodiment of emotion and depth
human of the new German cinema.
In your meetings with the public, you carry the questions, but
also the aspirations of contemporary Germany. You are, for
associated with this film that has upset us all – a
other film about Berlin: I speak of course of The Life of Others, where, with a
poignant sensibility, you portray an actress struggling with the Stasi and
espionage, manipulated by a minister of culture
Recommendable – East German, I say, and not French!
You also lent your talent to the dramas of West Germany,
the revolutionary convulsions and terrorist excesses of the
BAADER»: your Ulrike MEINHOF will leave a lasting impression.
You looked in the face and showed the darkest hours of
the history of Germany, in films like Levi the Jew, or in your
recent reinterpretation of the Jew Süss, eloquently subtitled A film
without conscience.”
You show us all these existences that you play on the screen
do not constitute the “life of others”, but a part of our life to all,
and to everyone: we recognize ourselves in the moving Clara
SCHUMANN or in the «Belle MARTHA», this hilarious cook, and
you are a «perfect friend» not only for Antoine de CAUNES,
Carole BOUQUET and Marie-France PISIER, but for each of us.
You also answer, of course, like Wim WENDERS and Senta BERGER,
I will come back to this, at the call of “American friends”: we were able to admire you in
The Good Shepherd by Robert DE NIRO, which earned you a Bear in 2007
of money, among an impressive number of awards that I
I will refrain from drawing up the list so as not to offend your modesty…
You are the symbol of this new generation of actors and filmmakers
international dimension, which contribute to making Berlin
one of the greatest capitals of culture: you are the emblem of its
vitality, inseparable from its charm and sensitivity.
Dear Martina GEDECK, on behalf of the French Republic, we
Let’s present the knight’s insignia in the Order of Arts and Letters.
Dear Senta BERGER,
Your name, reminiscent of the Flying Dutchman’s bride, seemed
predispose you to travel and thereby become an incarnation of this
openness to the Other that expresses and exalts contemporary language cinema
But these journeys, before being chosen, were first provoked by the
History: your birthplace in Vienna having been
destroyed during the war, you had to take refuge with your parents
in a room of the Palace of SCHÖNBRUNN…
After your debut on the Viennese theatre scene, it’s the start towards
Germany, where you quickly become an icon. Already
international in scope, you are associated with major co-productions
I am thinking in particular of the
Winners, where you triumph alongside Peter FONDA and Jeanne
Already Europe is no longer enough for you: you are suffering the American temptation, the
Hollywood dream takes you across the seas, to conquer others
territories of the cinema. In the United States, you share the poster with the most
great legends: suffice it to me to mention the names of Frank SINATRA,
John WAYNE, or Kirk DOUGLAS, in the Shadow of a Giant. You
illuminate with your presence films that have remained unforgettable like Major
Dundee by Sam PECKINPAH, or Operation Opium by Terence YOUNG,
with Omar SHARIF, Marcello MASTROIANNI, Rita HAYWORTH or
Grace KELLY and the no less extraordinary Nadja TILLER...
Always faithful to the Wagnerian predestination of your first name, you have
forged an exceptionally strong bond with your husband, the great director
Michael VERHOEVEN, with whom you found a remarkable house
production: together, you offer us La Rose blanche, this film
of Hans and Sophie SCHOLL, these symbols by
excellence of the German resistance to Nazism.
Back in Europe, you build on your American experience, and
Wim WENDERS himself engages you in his Scarlet Letter. You play
also in France, alongside Alain DELON, in Diaboliquement votre de
Your innate sense of mobility and travel is also expressed by your
ability to try all genres – from cinema to theatre to
television, where you propose and compose up to the most
unexpected: we saw a pilot, taxi driver, you don’t miss him anymore
than to play «the flying Dutchman», and you will have done the round of
This outstanding career has very legitimately brought you in 2003 to the
President of the German Film Academy, and you received, a few
days only, the «Golden Camera» which rewards this magnificent journey
through the dream you have shared with us.
By each of these roles, your films and your songs, as by your
beauty and your legendary grace, you are the ideal ambassador of this
German language culture resolutely open to the world and who knows if
touch us well.
That is why, dear Senta BERGER, on behalf of the French Republic,
We present you with the Order of the Arts and the

You are not only, of course, the face of Rainer
Werner FASSBINDER, but also – and until recently – that of
this Germany which knows how to pass «on the other side» in the image of this
character you play in Fatih AKIN’s wonderful film:
you interpret there the mother of a young woman who defends undocumented
first entrenched behind its prejudices, then understanding that what
values of humanity and generosity. In the image of this
Germany which finds itself thanks to its openness to the other,
particularly in its intimate relationship with Turkey.
Before being able to embody Germany’s openness to Europe and
It was necessary to crystallize all its dimensions, all its emotions.
You have managed to show those terrible years of Nazism from a
German point of view, and so you have allowed these years to escape
complete nothingness where the refoulement could swallow them. It was a
a courageous and difficult work of memory. "MARIA", "VERONIKA",
“LOLA”: three first names, three German women – this is also through
this trilogy of FASSBINDER that you have shaped the face of a
a nation that passionately wanted to invent a future beyond the scar.
In Lilli MARLEEN, you gave a face to questions
complex of FASSBINDER. You accompanied this grand master of the
films and have given her the gift of a
meeting with the general public, which was also a
meeting with another Germany. Muse from FASSBINDER and through
he, you have been the face of Germany, of one Germany at a time
deep and popular.
Like a Catherine DENEUVE or a Jeanne MOREAU, you
count among those rare actresses who symbolize a
in all its diversity, to which they discover and reveal a
subtle unity: you are, in a way and obviously less
hieratic, like a German «Marianne» of cinema, an effigy
sensitive to the emotions and questions of each one, at once a Mother
Courage” and a “Mother Question”, if I may say so. If the actresses
are somewhat our goddesses of today, you are, so to speak, a
allegory of Germany, alive and moving.
If you thus embody the face of this new Germany, it may be
because you know how to translate by the silent play of your expressions, the
less inflexions of feelings and thoughts, you have the talent to
give them to read even in the most subtle movements of your traits, of
your eyes, with this air of reserve which is often like the litote of the
comedian. Your face brings the viewer back to the strong and first sense of
show, that is to say to an observation, a contemplation, a desire for
decipher the most fleeting of these signs, as a child can do
in front of his mother’s face.
It is then, from the moment you knew how to give a face to this
new Germany, that you have been able to explore all the ways of cinema
but also Amos GITAI or Béla TARR, in so many memorable films.
And with Fatih AKIN, it is a brand new Germany that you us
give to love.
Dear Hanna SCHYGULLA, on behalf of the French Republic, we
Give the Commander’s insignia in the order of Arts and Letters.