When Uwe Tellkamp tells what his novel “Der Schlaf in den Uhren” (The Sleep in the Clocks), which has just been published, is about, the director Andreas Gräfenstein, who is sitting across from him, sums it up as follows: “A story that has absolutely nothing to do with the author. ‘ And Tellkamp confirms, ‘nothing at all’, laughs, shakes his head and continues laughing: ‘no, no…’.

Most of the time he is tense, short-tempered, agitated. He scolds the West German elite in Dresden, who, for example at the cheese counter, think they “have to teach him how I should and shouldn’t think”. He gets upset about the “incomprehensible self-righteousness of the West Germans who have moved here”, about their supposed knowledge of “what Islam is and what is good for us: I don’t want to be portrayed as a fascist, complete idiot and right-wing asshole, I reject that, precisely because democracy is important to me.”

And even when he starts to cry at a reading from his book “Das Atelier”, a touching scene in itself, he then approaches the “FAZ” journalist Stefan Locke, who is present, and finally says that he has come to terms with him as a representative of the having to deal with the so-called mainstream media and the corridors of sentiment set up by them in his novel: “There are people in their editorial offices who prefer left-green.”

Contrary to what Tellkamp often thinks, he has his say here extensively, at prime time. The film bears the traits of an author’s portrait. But there is more to Gräfenstein than free speech, freedom of opinion. Uwe Tellkamp is not the only one who sees it in danger after he revealed his position in a debate with Durs Grünbein about refugees in 2018 and then faced strong opposition.

In addition to Tellkamp, ​​the bookseller Susanne Dagen and the writer Monika Maron also have their say in the film, and on the other hand, as antipodes so to speak, the pleasantly relaxed Ingo Schulze and the art critic Paul Kaiser, as well as the theologian Frank Richter and Die Zeit – Journalists Martin Machowecz and Jana Hensel.

Against the background of Dresden and its special milieu, Gräfenstein traces the rift that is still going through Germany in 2022: “Doesn’t what is being discussed in Dresden affect the whole country?” the West and East Germans face each other, the feeling of many people in the East of imagining themselves again in a dictatorship, a dictatorship of opinion.

This film does all of that well. Ultimately, it was Tellkamp and Dagen with their bookstore Loschwitz, in which they let identities read, who triggered national debates with their statements and their political behavior.

While Dagen is also allowed to present himself extensively, Machowecz and Richter in particular are trying to balance. Ingo Schulze, on the other hand, is someone who has his own opinion without taking it as the ultimate.

On the other hand, a somewhat too elegiac mood is disturbing. There is a lot of piano dabs and violin babble, and some of the pictures are an idea from time to time and too beautiful, for example from Dresden’s Elbhang and Elbwiesen.

Or from the Uckermark, where Monika Maron lives. When it starts to rain at Maron’s, she calls her dog Bonnie several times, what an idyll! to finally defend herself inside against being put in a right-wing camp.

Paul Kaiser speaks of “consolidation of communication”; Martin Machowicz, on the other hand, would like “that we prevent people from retreating to their trenches as often as possible. We should try to discuss with many as long as we can.”

Gräfenstein’s film does exactly that, that’s what distinguishes it. But as beautifully mischievously relaxed as Tellkamp is at the end, as devout as the scenes at the desk are – that he comes out of his ditch, you don’t get that impression after the 90 minutes.