BERLIN, FEB. 11 -- Yes, the Wall has fallen and the Romanians have their revolution on film and the Hungarians have footage from inside the secret labor camps, but did you hear that Danny DeVito demanded that his room at the Intercontinental be equipped with a personal trainer and -- they say these are his exact words -- "a whole heap of mangoes"?
The Berlin Film Festival, the first in 40 years to take place in both parts of the divided city, is suffering from a deeply split personality this year.
The West German TV shows can't get enough of Daryl Hannah's lips and the idea that the weight-conscious DeVito would require his hotel to provide a particular type of tropical fruit, in unlimited quantities.
But the festival's serious film folks have been working since Nov. 9 to celebrate the opening of the Berlin Wall by assembling works documenting last fall's moments of history, testing artistic freedoms that have not been exercised in decades.
Thus the uncomfortable contrast between, say, the raging debate over which Berlin friseur would curl Jessica Lange's locks and the world premiere of half a dozen East German films that Communist censors locked away immediately on completion more than 20 years ago.
Helge Sanders-Brahms, a West German director who has worked on the festival's selection committee for most of the past decade, quit last week to protest the dominance of American movies in the 24-film competition that ends next week with the awarding of the Golden Bear. And now the festival director is threatening to sue Sanders-Brahms for violating her pledge to keep secret the committee's workings.
"With the recent events in East Europe and the Berlin Wall coming down, this is a very special year for Europe and in particular for Berlin," Sanders-Brahms told reporters. "The choice of films -- and in particular the opening film -- should have better reflected the current situation."
The opener Friday night was "Steel Magnolias," the Dolly Parton-Daryl Hannah-Sally Field vehicle that several German critics decided was as good an example as any of a uniquely American ability to care about nothing but oneself.
Of course, that didn't stop thousands of Berliners from standing on sidewalks outside the massive Zoo-Palast theater to gawk at the stars. That comes with the territory -- no film festival can claim success without cheering crowds swooning over the likes of Michael Douglas and Nastassja Kinski, two of this year's big names here.
But the crowds themselves are winning the attention this year, largely because they are not only at the Zoo-Palast, but also across the Wall, in front of East Berlin's Kosmos and International theaters. There, on Karl Marx Allee, one of the world's finest boulevards of bombastic, impossibly ornate Stalinist architecture, the two theaters are decked out in festival banners and billboards announcing pictures such as "Music Box," the Costa-Gavras movie about the prosecution of a Hungarian American for war crimes, in Dolby stereo.
The big social event of the festival is the Filmball, which is being held in East Berlin, in the House of Soviet Culture, and features the unlikely combination of pop singer Sydney Youngblood, West German cabaret singer Helen Schneider, the Big Band of the Soviet Armed Forces and an East German Michael Jackson imitator. Tickets are 250 marks (about $150) -- Western currency only, thank you.
East German film buffs actually get to use their own, relatively worthless, currency to buy tickets to the East Berlin festival screenings. That decision has led to a busy and complex black market in tickets: East Berliners buy tickets in East marks, then, to get a precious few West marks, sell them to West Berliners who can't get into sold-out showings in their own city.
Festival organizers knew this would happen, so they required all customers holding tickets bought with East marks to show East German passports at the door. Nice try, but the folks in the street are smarter: Knowing that theater employees wouldn't check people's pictures too closely, East Berliners are renting out their identity papers with the black market tickets.
All of which fits rather nicely with the festival's main theme this year, the triumph of the people of Eastern Europe over their Communist rulers.
Festival headquarters -- where Italian starlets crowd around American agents praying to be noticed, and sweaty men in clashing plaids shout at accreditation clerks insisting that they are too real reporters -- has become a reunion of directors and writers emerging from years of furtive work on projects stymied by small-minded bureaucrats.
Mihai Hristu is a Romanian producer who called festival organizers only last month and asked if anyone was interested in his collection of banned Romanian movies. He was immediately given one of the best locations in the festival hall, where he is ready to show potential buyers a videotape of "Revolution, Day One."
The film is only 22 minutes long, but it is an extraordinary collection of eyewitness accounts of the mass murder in the center of Bucharest last December, with riveting scenes of Securitate attacks on crowds, brave demonstrators holding their ground and simple people at prayer for their land.
"The director decided this had to be documented," Hristu said. "So on Dec. 22, he said that any cameraman who had the guts could have a camera and some film." Fifteen cameramen took the offer and shot 200 reels to produce the documentary, which has not yet been shown in Romania.
Hristu is trying to sell 30 years worth of films that have never been shown, films that the Ceausescu government considered counterrevolutionary.
Down the hall, the Hungarofilm booth consists of a large, blood-smeared plaque that says: "Don't be afraid to tell the truth. -- Stalin." The Hungarians are offering "Recsk 1950-1953," a series of interviews with former inmates and executioners at a secret labor camp used by the Communist government to torture and murder political prisoners.
The Czechoslovaks are releasing a never-released documentary of the 1968 Prague Spring people's movement. And the East Germans are flooding the festival with forbidden films from the 1960s and the past few years.
East Germany's film industry was already in the throes of reform even before mass demonstrations brought down the hard-line Communist government last fall. The first East German film to deal openly with homosexuality, "Coming Out," was showing in East Berlin before the Wall opened.
But the East German movies drawing the largest crowds at the festival are three short documentaries made by independent film collectives. They are rough chronicles of last October's people's movement in Dresden and Leipzig, where hundreds of thousands of young Germans took to the streets to demand free elections and an end to rigid Stalinist rule.
In "DresdenOctober '89," director Roza Berger-Fiedler uses grainy stills and a raw black-and-white look to capture the helplessness of Hans Modrow -- then the city Communist Party chief. Modrow sits inside a sound truck, unseen by the crowd, listening to shouted demands and questions, answering through the loudspeakers.
"To speak to each other is the only way," he says, his white hair flopping onto his face, his eyes darkening, the lines along his cheeks deepening with despair. "I like to live here, I work here with you."
"We are the people!" the crowd shouts back. "We can no longer trust until democracy is guaranteed," one man yells.
Modrow shudders and the screen freezes for nearly a minute on the face of the old bureaucrat, staring into the end, casting his eyes out upon a crowd he cannot see.
Now, not even four months later, the moment is on movie screens in both parts of Berlin, and Hans Modrow is prime minister of a country that has rejected its reason for existence.