Greyness and Glamour in Gropiusstadt
In an excellent post on addiction by Different Maps via Bad Zero, the claim is that the addict is fully aware of their blankness and abjection, and revels in it. In the case of the citing of the preposterous Requiem for a Dream this is scuppered somewhat by the sheer overblown idiocy of the film itself (his mother watches TV it is a drug too DO YOU SEE) and as Daniel implies in the case of Christiane F, by its sheer glamour- one of the few exceptions to the k-maxim that anything based on a true story will be automatically delibidinised, and a not entirely cautionary tale, as Woebot pointed out a while ago.
Not in the sense of 'oh, look they're wasted, how cool', but more seductively in the grimly fascinating cityscape the 'characters' move in. When I first saw the film as a teenager, the opening scenes- Bowie's 'V-2 Schneider' playing over footage of a neon-lit U-Bahn, beautifully dressed and cheekboned post-punk Berliners crammed along the platform- naturally didn't make me want to take heroin in Southampton, but did make Berlin look like the most exciting place in the world, and when I finally went there a few years later I was gratified to find that large swathes of the city still looked like that.
The 'real-life' and fictional Christiane F was brought up in an area that encapsulates perhaps better than anywhere else the failures of postwar modernism. In Neukolln (hymned and misspelled by Bowie on the ''Heroes'' LP) can be found, not far from Bruno Taut's utopian 1920s Hufeisensiedlung, Gropiusstadt, named after the Bauhaus' founder-director himself. Gropius drafted plans for a spacious, low-rise, utopian siedlung: and after accommodation had been provided for all the refugees from the recently built wall, it had become a series of tightly packed skyscraping blocks, with a fine view of the death strip between the walls. Interestingly, it bears many similarities with the contemporaneous Marzahn newtown on the other side of the wall, coinciding with the Situationist line that the bureaucratic and capitalist societies had co-created an architecturally integrated spectacle- something backed up by the similar monumentalism of Gropius' American skyscrapers. Naturally when the spectacle was truly integrated in the 1990s this sort of stark modernism was strictly verboten. Gropiusstadt now houses the biggest shopping centre in Berlin.
Yet the footage of it in Christiane F, alongside the catatonically sad trans-European instrumentals from Low and ''Heroes'' that soundtrack the film, make it look incredibly glamorous, all hardness, geometry and extremely stylish clothes. In the flush of fame from her cinematic form, the 'real' Christiane meanwhile released one utterly fabulous record, an icily sexy Teutonic-disko single called 'Wunderbar', as if to back up the eroticised geometry of the film's mise-en-scene. The problem at the heart of the film, as in so many dystopian modernisms, is that it looks so good. You want to live in it, much as the people in the Brazilian gated communities want to live in Alphaville.