Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, is the 265th Pope. On his first official visit in his native Germany as the sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church, all official media are concentrated on this unique event. But in Thomas Heise's film we do not get to see any of the official pictures. What we see is how the machine of the state exercising its control functions. (visionsdureel)
The motorway has been shut. Mobile fences dissect the landscape. Helicopters keep abreast of the situation above maize fields and freshly ploughed farmland. Rows of portable toilets line the edge of the forest; others are grouped in compact, rectangular units out on the fields. Police stand in front. Helicopter landing pads have been set up, roads laid across the countryside, broadcasting towers erected and containers stacked on top of each other. Stages are being constructed; police cadets march to and fro. Down on the red carpet, the minister president and her husband are being assisted with their rehearsal in front of a gangway which leads into nothingness, while the motorcade rehearses the VIPs’ journey through the closed-off city. The state secretary is showing flower children what to do. Helicopters 1-6 are ready. What's happening?
The German word LAGE (English: position, situation) comes from Middle High German and describes a 'position of lying in wait'. Something is going on. This may be 'a military, police or security situation: the situation of a military group in relation to their surroundings. A comprehensive view of the threat of government bodies or the reduction of domestic security. A situation which requires the police to act, factors and circumstances for rescue services which describe damaging events and damage prevention.'
The film DIE LAGE tells of the very same, when in September 2011 Pope Benedict XVI travelled to Germany as part of his plan to promote New Evangelisation, paying visits to the city of Erfurt and a site in the Eichsfeld region, both in Thuringia. The situation there is as one might expect.
A few weeks later at St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope announces his decision to declare a 'Year of Faith', to begin on 11 October 2012. "This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith."
DIE LAGE is the third in Thomas Heise's series of documentaries dealing with everyday life in Germany, after DAS HAUS (1984) and VOLKSPOLIZEI (1985). Take a peek behind the cordon.