Der Zauberer von Oz

When I saw that Freiluftkino Kreuzberg, the open-air cinema in our Berlin neighbourhood, was playing Der Zauberer von Oz (The Wizard of Oz) last night, I reckoned we had to go.

Not only is it Catherine’s favourite movie (a fact that was a touchstone during our wooing), but being able to go to the movies outside – outside! – was the whole reason I dragged my family to Berlin for the summer in the first place (well, maybe not the whole reason, but…).

As it turned out, after a week of build-up (and beautiful weather), it started to rain yesterday about supper time, and it looked like our plans were dashed.

My brother Steve once said that my primary motivation in life is to do things that result in good stories. And he’s right: story is everything for me, and I’ll do a lot of things that are otherwise mildly uncomfortable if there’s a chance that a good tale to tell will result (why else would I have carefully constructed a situation where I’d get coffee thrown at me?).

Catherine, on the other hand, gets her kicks from other things, and story, at least in the way that I think about it, means almost nothing to her.

Which is to say that the opportunity to see The Wizard of Oz in the pouring rain, favourite movie or no, was not something Catherine would jump to.

Oliver, on the other hand, had been looking forward to this all week. And yesterday he was counting down the hours – “the iPad says 17:30, when is 21:30?” – and coming up with clever rebuttals to our suggestions that movies in the rain were not pleasant (“Your clothes will get wet!” said we; “They’ll dry out!” said he).

Admiring his pluck, and realizing that “remember that time we didn’t go and see The Wizard of Oz in the rain in Berlin” doesn’t cut it as a story, I was in.

Oliver was very prepared, with rain pants and a rain jacket. I was not prepared at all, and so borrowed Catherine’s rain jacket (the sight on me in which made Catherine and Oliver both break down in laughter for some reason). And off we set.

The Freiluftkino is in the back yard of the same Kunstquartier Bethanien that’s home to Druckwerkstatt, where I’ll be printing tomorrow. It’s about a 15 minute walk from our apartment, and in that 15 minutes we managed to get ourselves awfully wet. It was raining.

We arrived at the box office around 9:15 p.m. to find ourselves the first ones to arrive. They told us that the show wouldn’t go on unless 5 people showed up and, as luck would have it, as soon as they said that another 3 brave souls showed up. A few minutes later 2 more people showed up. We paid our admission, bought beer, apple juice and M&Ms at the concession, and, to our surprise and delight, found our way under one of three giant beer umbrellas at the back of the field.

The chairs were a little wet, and the rain blew in from time to time when the wind picked up, but otherwise we were mercifully dry for the night, and our worst enemy became not the rain but the mosquitoes (and even they weren’t too bad).

The manager came out a few minutes later and said something in German that I feared was “even though there are seven of you we have had to cancel the show because the projector is under water.” When he repeated it in English, though, it turned out to be “the weather for The Wizard of Oz this year is much better than it was last year; this is the original print; there’s coffee and tea at the concession; enjoy the show.”

And then we were off to see the wizard (in English with German subtitles).

I hadn’t seen the film in over a decade – the last time was before Oliver was born when I snuck Catherine, blindfolded, into the Somerville Theatre in Cambridge, MA for her birthday – and I really, really enjoyed it. Nothing like seeing a tornado-themed movie when the wind and rain are swirling all around you. And think of the vocabulary we learned from the subtitles – worth the trip alone – Hexe (witch), Gehirn (brain), Herz (heart).

I also came to realize that whereas I thought Seinfeld and The Simpsons were responsible for most of the popular sayings to emerge from the 20th century, really everything came from The Wizard of Oz.

The movie finished up around 11:30 p.m. We suited up and headed back out into the rainy Berlin night; back at the apartment we peeled out of our wet clothing, I tucked Oliver into his bed in the kitchen, and we dreamed dreams of talking trees and ruby slippers.