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A young Sicilian travels to the German industrial city of Wolfsburg and ends up on trial for murder in this award-winning three-part epic, one of Werner Schroeter's most successful and acclaimed films.
"Palermo oder Wolfsburg is Schroeter at his artistically most complex, all-embracing and all-encompassing" (Olaf Möller, Cinema Scope). The first German film to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, Palermo or Wolfsburg ironically provoked criticism from erstwhile Schroeter supporters for its high production values and traditional narrative, and equal praise from erstwhile detractors for the very same qualities. Both sides were wrong: though telling a fairly linear story about a young Sicilian who travels to the German industrial city of Wolfsburg to work for the Volkswagen plant and ends up on trial for murder, Schroeter's three-part epic (each segment with its own visual style and tone) has a crazed kind of beauty, often recalling Pasolini at his most poetic. The film's irrationality escalates until it reaches its culmination in the surreal final third — "as reality-fissuring an experience as The Thin Blue Line" (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice) — in which the court case turns into a series of spoken arias about the nature of Sicily and Germany, "this land without light, without sun, without song." (The title establishes the film's polarities: an idealized, pre-industrial Sicily — genuine, sensual, convivial — and its abhorrent opposite, materialistic Germany — chilly, sterile, hostile.) "Just marvel at the way the film begins on a quasi-early Viscontian note to end like Sirk at his most tempestuously mournful and Bene at his most somber" (Möller).