By Don Simpson | February 1, 2015
Director: Maurizius Staerkle-Drux
At 92 years of age, world renowned architect Gottfried Böhm is still actively working. His three sons — Paul, Peter and Stephen — all participate in his firm now, each focusing on their own specific projects, fostering an intense air of competition and rivalries among the siblings. While Gottfried has always placed his career over his family, his wife Elisabeth was left to raise the kids and serve as the matriarch. Now, Elisabeth never leaves Gottfried’s side, serving as both his muse and sternest critic. Elisabeth’s constant presence is also due to her ever-declining health.
With Elisabeth’s death on the near horizon, Maurizius Staerkle-Drux’s documentary focuses on the influence that the strong and intelligent matriarch once had on the Böhm clan. You might say that she was the concrete foundation of the family; whereas Gottfried’s love for his wife and sons was as cold and stubborn as concrete. In fact, Concrete Love: The Boehm Family plays a lot on the idea that concrete is cold and un-moving, like Gottfried himself.
Concrete Love does well to focus on Elisabeth’s desires to have her own career as an architect, despite being too busy raising her family; she acquiesced to become Gottfried’s mentor and muse. Regardless, Elisabeth wants to be independent and self-sufficient into her final days. All the while, Concrete Love showcases Gottfried’s prioritization of work over family, and the traumatizing effect that decision had on his sons. To this day, Gottfried approaches his sons’ work with uncompromising frigidity; though they feel as though he just does not understand their worlds. It seems like ever since World War II there has been a disconnect between Gottfried’s philosophy and his message — he raised his kids to be pacifists, but then he fought with the Nazis.
With documentaries, you never know how much the director’s intentions shifted since the commencement of the shoot. In the case of Concrete Love, Staerkle-Drux appears to have been at the right place at the right time. Capturing Gottfried at what must be the near-end to his architecture career, Staerkle-Drux focuses on just how sloppy the baton hand-off between generations can become, especially in the absence of the family’s ever-present matriarch.