Berlin is not exactly a city of romantics. There’s Paris for that, or maybe Venice. Berlin is a city of cynical singles and loners, right? A city of darkroom trysts and Tinder dates, not monogamy and forever-afters. Hoping for romance in Berlin is like going to a vegetarian restaurant in search of a good steak. At least that’s what the popular mythology would tell us.
In truth, romance is alive and well here: you’ll find it every Saturday at midnight in a tiny, hole-in-the-wall theater on Kastanienallee. For years and years — at least eight, because that’s when I first discovered it — Lichtblick Kino has been screening the same movie every Saturday at the stroke of 12: “Casablanca.” This enduring classic from 1942 is the story of the doomed love between a dashing but jaded Humphrey Bogart and a radiant Ingrid Bergman, set against the backdrop of WWII intrigue. Even if you’ve never seen it, you at least know some of its famous one-liners:
Here’s looking at you, kid.
We’ll always have Paris.
Kiss me as if it were the last time.
With just 32 seats, Lichtblick Kino is one of the smallest movie theatres in the city, and its got a good story behind it too: the front room opening up onto the sidewalk was a butcher shop way back when. The back room, where movies are now screened, was where the butcher himself lived.
It’s not the most polished of theatres, but in true Berlin style, it’s got a scruffy appeal. Maybe that’s part of the charm of the place — it’s not where you’d expect to find a romantic tradition thriving, and yet there it is. A fitting twist on the conventional love narrative.
After all, Bogart and Bergman don’t live happily ever after. Perhaps that’s what makes their story all the more enduring.
Play it again, Sam.
Lichtblick Kino | Kastanienallee 77
A shortened version of this writeup was first published in Cee Cee, a weekly Berlin newsletter that you should all be subscribed to if you’re interested in hearing about the coolest happenings in Berlin. Get on the list here, if you aren’t already.