The Weirdest Thing I've Done in Berlin

Ruth Marie Landry
November 5, 2015
At the Hunger Games Premiere

This blog post begins in high culture and ends in pop culture. 

Tuesdays are my off day, and I didn’t have much planned except for a trip to Tempelhofer feld, the giant park that was formerly an airport, which I described in an earlier post. I was about to leave the IES Abroad Center when my friend Jan asked if anyone wanted to go with him to the Philharmonic, where there are concerts every Tuesday at 1pm. It’s called the Lunchkonzerte because it is planned so that people can go to the concert during their lunch break. It would last about an hour, Jan told me, and it would be free.

While I can’t say that I am particularly knowledgable about classical music, I have a very deep appreciation for anything free. So I joined Jan in a trek to the Philharmonie. We caught the U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz, where we walked through the Sony Center. In the middle of this tented square a stage was being erected. Not much of it was completed yet, but two screens proudly displayed Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss from the Hunger Games under the words “Die Tribute Von Panem.” We assumed it was an advertisement.

The Philharmonie is a few blocks away from the Sony Center, in a large yellow building that looks oddly unfinished to me, perhaps because of the almost patchwork exterior. We entered through a side door, and were allowed to go into the foyer of the Philharmonie, a large white space clearly created for crowds to gather in before and after performances. Today however, the crowds were to stay in this room, and several hundred people already spread across the room, perched on the balconies above it, lined the staircases and sat on the coat check tables, any surface that could be inhabited was, but Jan and I shuffled our way through the crowd with ease, as apparently Germans are a lot more conscious of leaving walkways within a crowd than Americans are. We sat on a second floor balcony. Most of the people in the crowd were older, but there were two young mothers with their babies in front of us, a few middle aged couples and several teenagers. Finally, a lone man walked to the center of the room. He bowed and took his place at the piano. 

He played four songs, for about an hour. Several people lay down and stretched across the floor, others gazed out the windows, some closed their eyes. Listening to classical music is sort of hard for me, I’m not trained to know what to expect from it, so my mind wanders. I felt a little guilty every time I caught myself thinking about how I am going to get to Munich, or when I was going to do my laundry, or how my book is going to end. Finally I forced myself to pay attention by doing a writing excercise in which you attempt to transcribe what you are hearing, both phonetically and merely descriptively. After the concert, I mentioned my struggle to follow the music to Jan and he said the same thing happens to him. I wonder if this is a quality of classical music, if I only get distracted because I don’t know much about the music, if my thoughts were influenced by what I was hearing. 

While we talked about this, we walked back to Potsdamer Platz. The Hunger Games stage was now much longer, and a set of fences were set up in lines that were very clearly a walkway, or perhaps a red carpet. Jan left to go to his next class, but I stuck around to investigate this mysterious stage in the middle of the Sony Center. 

As it turns out, the world premiere of the last Hunger Games movie would be taking place in Berlin the next day, Wednesday, and the whole cast would be at Potsdamer PLatz for it. Apparently, much of the movie was filmed here in Berlin, especially in Tempelhofer Feld. I sent a nervous message to the IES Abroad group chat to see if anyone would be willing to go with me, saying, “I’m low key down to go to the premiere if anyone wants to join (low key like not willing to stand around for hours, but also wanna see Jennifer Lawrence if I can)”—a total lie. I was not low key down to go, I was very, very excited to go, and I was one hundred percent down to stand around for hours if I had to, which is exactly what Jan, Jamie, and I did.

Last year, my friend Hannah and I accidentally got to a screening of the Hunger Games four hours early and were mocked by our friends as eager beaver nerds who were a little too excited for a children’s movie. Which is entirely fair. But I’m passed the point of caring that I’m too old for these movies; I think it’s really fun to be a fan, especially a fan of movies. I love sitting in dark theaters eating popcorn and watching good commercials, and there aren’t many movies that engender the insane devotion that the Hunger Games does. Furthermore, I went to an all girls school as a teenager, so being among a crowd of screaming teenage girls makes me rather nostalgic for the old days, when the Jonas Brothers played in the New Orleans arena, when I shook Elijah Woods’ hand at a Mardi Gras parade, when my whole school reenacted Will and Kate’s marriage. 

Going to the Hunger Games premiere was probably the weirdest thing I’ve done in Berlin so far, partially because it was so unexpected, partially because the Hollywood paparazzi gloss and trash stood in such stark contrast to the grime and DIY and punkish nature of so many of my regular haunts in Berlin. 

On Wednesday we got to Potsdamer Platz around 4PM. We stood behind an older couple who were there with their grandchildren. They didn’t seem to really know what the movie was, the grandfather kept referring to the movie as “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Although the Sony Center was pretty full when we got there, by 5:30 when the premiere started, it was packed with over 6,000 people, apparently. A Legolas (yes, from Lord of the Rings) impersonator lip sang before the start of the premiere for reasons that none of us could figure out, and then either the winner or a contestant from the Voice of Germany sang a song.

Each star who entered tried to say something in German, and the crowd would roar with approval. Many of the Germans in the crowd with us found it really funny. I could tell that some of their pronunciation was poor, but the German girls next to us mocked these celebrities relentlessly, repeating “ich liebe Berlin!” and the other phrases the stars tested out.

Finally, Jennifer Lawrence came onto stage for a short interview. She was beautiful, of course, in an incredible purple dress, and of course she talked about the dinner that they were going to be fed, and then she attempted to sign every single sheet of paper passed to her from the crowd. 

As someone who is five feet tall, I can’t say I saw much of any of the stars, but seeing them wasn’t the point of being there—not for me and certainly not for the people behind me, who really must have been too far back to see much except for the screens of iPhones. The point of going is the excitement, the spirit, and the silliness. The point of going is to chat with grandparents about Philip Seymour Hoffman, to make fun of bad accents, to take absurdly blurry seflies with the top of Josh Hutcherson’s head, and to stand around for four hours with your friends, laughing at your own foolish excitement. 

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Ruth Marie Landry

<p>Ruth Marie Landry is a junior majoring in the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. On campus, she works in the library and as a tutor for high school students. She is also a DJ for WJHU (Johns Hopkins&#39; only student radio station) and the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Vector Magazine, an online literary magazine. While growing up in New Orleans, she developed a love for spicy food, dancing to live music, and long, poorly planned road trips. Ruth enjoys big cities, Sphynx cats and Brutalist architecture.</p>

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