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Concrete Love: The Boehm Family

Concrete Love: The Boehm Family

Gottfried Böhm is one of the most important living architects, and the only German to have won the coveted Pritzker Prize. Now 94, he still spends hours a day drawing detailed plans by hand, in his spectacular airy home on the Rhine in Cologne. Herr Böhm shares his home office with his wife Elisabeth, whom he met at university, and three other major architects, who happen to be his sons. The Böhms: Architecture of a Family is a fascinating look at the history and intergenerational dynamics of this hugely influential clan. Gottfried, who learned his craft from his father, made his name rebuilding cathedrals after they were damaged in the war. Each of his sons is well known: Paul is currently working on the gigantic (and controversial) Islamic Cultural Center in Cologne, Peter is known for the Film School and the Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich, and Stephan has worked on headquarters for Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Bank, as well as diverse buildings in China. Though they try to stay out of each other’s way and never challenge one another on architectural competitions, there is naturally an undercurrent of competitive tension running through the men’s studiedly restrained interactions. After so many years in the business, Gottfried still can’t resist criticizing the work of his sexagenarian sons.

This insightful film gives the viewer an impressionist view of daily life as seen through the eyes of four titans of architecture who happen to be related. Interspersed with ruminations and interviews is home video of the family from when the boys were young. Elisabeth, now suffering from dementia, gave up her own promising architectural career to nurture her men’s creative, competitive impulses. Hand in hand, though more slowly now, Gottfried and Elisabeth make their way together down the path of their well-tended garden. When Elisabeth passes away, it becomes clear that she was the one who formed the backbone of this family. And since her favorite color was red, each of Gottfried’s designs now features that warm color. Young Swiss director Maurizius Staerkle-Drux, who lived with the Böhms for two years, was able to discover the personal behind the smooth façades, providing a window into how architects’ emotions are expressed through their huge constructions.

This is a fascinating family portrait about the complex inseparability of life, love, belief, and art.

Posted on KinoCritics website

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