Two teenagers, who are paired up in dance class, eventually fall in love in this period piece from 1974. TRIGGER WARNING: Contains fashions from 1974.
Love at 16 (Liebe mit 16) belongs to a list of DEFA films that focus on the concerns of teenagers. The list includes Just Don’t Think I’ll Cry, Too Young for Love, Seven Freckles, Swan Island, Damn It, I’m Grown Up, Jana and Jan, and Just Married. The story in this film centers around sixteen-year-old Ina (Simone von Zglinicki) and eighteen-year-old Matti (Heinz-Peter Linse). Ina and Matti are enrolled in ballroom dance classes together. Matti is interested in Ina from the moment he sees here, but Ina remains indifferent to him. After the dance instructor pairs them up, the two start to become friendly and, eventually, lovers. At first, the parents, especially Matti’s parents, aren’t crazy about the budding romance. Ina’s mom is worried that Ina might become pregnant, while Matti’s dad feels the boy is ignoring his duties to the Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik (Society for Sport and Technology, GST for short—sort of a GDR version of the ROTC). Nonetheless, the kids grow close, and even a trip to a collective where an attractive young farmworker makes a move on Matti can’t stop the forward momentum of Ina’s and Matti’s romance. This might make the film sound like a teen love fable, but it’s anything but. Matti and Ina have their feet on the ground, and recognize that their love probably won’t last forever. They’re just enjoying things while they can.
As with last month’s Long Roads – Secret Love, this film was a collaboration between Herrmann Zschoche and Ulrich Plenzdorf. This time, however, the script involved a couple other people besides the Plenzdorf and Zschoche. One of them was Rainer Simon, a well-respected director in his own right (for more on Simon, see Jadup and Boel). The other was Gisela Steineckert. Steineckert was primarily a writer, but she was also one of the most ardently passionately Marxists in the GDR. Even after the Wall came down, Steineckert stuck to her guns and continued to write for the Marxist periodical RotFuchs. She is probably the reason for the discussions of socialism in the film and the trip to a Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft (or LPG—a state-owned agricultural collective).1
This was the second film to star Simone von Zglinicki and only the second film she made. She was just finishing her studies at the Theaterhochschule Leipzig when she was cast in Too Young for Love. She’s as adorable here as she was in that film. Zglinicki appeared in four films in her first year as a film actress. Talk about hitting the ground running! She has appeared in several popular DEFA films, including The Flight, Seven Freckles, and Driving School. She’s also appeared in hundreds of theatrical productions, and has performed regularly at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin ever since she graduated from theater school.
The same can’t be said for Heinz-Peter Linse. Although he appeared in a few movies and TV series in East Germany, as well as working as a production manager on a few more, his career in film ended with German reunification. Last heard from, he was running a limited liability holding company in Potsdam.
Special mention must be given to Herbert Köfer, who plays the dance instructor. Köfer appeared in dozens of East German TV-movies and films, usually in smaller roles. After the Wende, he continued working. In February, Köfer turned 100 and appeared this year in the TV-movie Krauses Zukunft, one of a number of spin-off films based on his Polizeiruf 110 character Polizeihauptmeister Krause.
This film was made in 1974, which was a banner year for interesting (if sometimes kitschy) fashion on both sides of the Wall. This film is a virtual cavalcade of what hip teens in the GDR were wearing that year. Genuine Levis were still frowned on at this point, but we have plenty examples of East German denim, peasant blouses, wrap miniskirts, and color-blocked sweaters. Credit for the styles here must be given to costume designer Isolde Warczycek, who had a good eye for the latest trends in fashion. Warczycek worked often with Zschoche, but her career in film ended with the Wende.
The best parts of the movie are the candid scenes of the kids dancing—the young woman frustrated with her partner’s inability to stay off her toes, or the kid who has already started smoking. Zschoche had such a keen eye for details that these scenes appear almost candid, as if taken from a documentary. Even if you don’t speak a word of German, the dance scenes are entertaining and get their messages across.
1. IMDB also lists Anne Pfeuffer as one of the writers, but she is listed in the credits as the person responsible for dramaturgie. This word is usually translated as “dramaturgy,” but that word has a different connotation in English. IMDB lists her as the person responsible for “dramatisation” [sic], but dramatization comes with the suggestion that this was the person responsible for converting a written work into a script. A more accurate translation would be to say that Pfeuffer worked as the dramaturge on this film. For more on the dramaturge, check out my book, Movies Behind the Wall (shameless plug).
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