Eve, the beautiful redhead who delivers the mail, just wants somebody to love. Who would think that such a beautiful woman would find it so hard to get a guy?
The Red Fox (Rotfuchs) of the title is Eve Kolinauke (Angelika Waller), a postal worker in the small river town of Müritz (filmed in Tangermünde and at the Wesenberg Lock). Eve earned her nickname thanks to her bright red hair. She tootles around the town on an underpowered moped, delivering the mail and attempting to collect payments for newspaper subscriptions. Everybody loves Eve, but Eve is more interested in a man who’ll commit to her and those seem to be harder to come by. She already made a mistake once and has a child to prove it, so when bargeman Jon (Jürgen Zartmann) shows up and starts to woo her—or, more accurately, paw her—she’s understandably suspicious and ends up jumping in the river to get away from him. This should have been a red flag, but Jon keeps chasing her, climbing up to her window at night and pitching woo until she finally caves. It’s only after she accepts his affections that she finds out about Sabine (Karin Schröder), his fiancée. Unfortunately, Eve’s pregnant now and is faced with a choice of having another baby as a single woman or getting an abortion. She decides on an abortion, but, at the last minute, changes her mind. After the child is born, she spends her time pushing the baby carriage along the lock where the barges pass. Jon, now married, is still obsessed with Eve, but Eve’s not having it; telling him to forget about climbing into her window anymore. If he wants back into her life, he’ll have to come in the front door (in other words, with a marriage proposal).
Red Fox is based on a short story by Peter Abraham, an East German writer best known for his children’s books. Born Karl Georg von Löffelholz, Abraham studied at the film school in Potsdam-Babelsberg, and worked as film critic, and as a screenwriter and a dramaturge at DFF before moving on to become a freelance author.1 Red Fox was written as a story treatment for the movie and later published as part of the collection Rotfuchs und andere Leute (Red Fox and other people) in 1983. His book Das Schulgespenst (The School Ghost) was made into a popular DEFA children’s film 1986. Abraham continued to write children’s books after the Wende, including two sequels to Das Schulgespenst. In 2011 he published his autobiography Als ich das Spielen verlernte (When I Forgot How to Play) about his childhood in Nazi Germany and the years that followed. Abraham died in 2015
The film was directed by Manfred Mosblech who worked exclusively in television (see Marta, Marta for more on Mosblech). As with Marta Marta, his directing is efficient and competent and well suited to the small screen. No long shots or anything that would require a movie screen to get the full impact. The camera moves only as needed to move the story forward, and the angles, while sometimes unusual, are never arbitrary or distracting. This makes Mosblech’s directing nearly invisible, which isn’t a bad thing. If your noticing the directing the first time you watch a film, the director has failed.
As Eve, Angelika Waller turns in a fun performance and does her own moped rising. Born in Bärwalde in der Neumark (now part of Poland), Waller had a long career in East German films and television, but is best remembered for playing Maria Morzeck in Kurt Maetzig’s The Rabbit is Me—her first feature film role. Few people saw The Rabbit is Me at the time, thanks to the 11th Plenum’s Kahlschlag, but her next film, Schwarze Panther (Black Panthers) was a hit and made her a star, She went on to star in a few more feature films, including Mord am Montag (Murder on Monday), Wir lassen uns scheiden (We Are Getting Divorced), Euch werd ich’s zeigen (I’ll Show You). In 1971, she starred as Eva Braun opposite Fritz Diez as Hitler in the Russian film Liberation (Освобождение). Since the Wende, she has continued to appear in films, most recently as Grandmother Lisbeth in Rückenwind von vorn (Away You Go).
Playing Eve’s love interest, Jürgen Zartmann isn’t a dreamboat like Frank Schöbel or Dean Reed, but he’s good looking and exudes masculinity. Zartmann studied acting at the theater school in Leipzig and spent most of his early career in television. He first came to the public’s attention in the TV mini-series Artur Becker, in which he played the title character. After that he appeared in dozens of TV-movies and series, including Front ohne Gnade (Front Without Mercy), Treffpunkt Flughafen (Airport Rendezvous), and, of course, Polizeiruf 110 (Police Call 110). His feature film appearances during the DEFA years include Günter Reisch’s Nelken in Aspik (Carnations in Aspic), The Persons Involved, and The Tango Player. He has gone on to appear in several more films and television shows since reunification.
As Jon’s fiancée/wife Karin Schröder is a good choice. Her Sabine has a quiet reserve that plays nicely against Eve’s wild woman. She’s every bit as pretty as Angelika Waller, so she spends most of her screen time frowning which helps keep the viewer’s sympathies with Eve (for more on Karin Schröder, see Beloved White Mouse).
The music for this movie mimics the type of the music you’d hear accompanying an old silent film. This isn’t surprising considering composer Hartmut Behrsing specialized in playing ragtime music throughout much of his career. Red Fox was his first movie soundtrack. He went on to create several more for various made-for-TV films and series, including a long stint as the composer for Police Call 110—a stint that ended when they closed the doors of the DFF. In 1986 he co-founded the concert series Jazz im Frack (Jazz in Tailcoats) at the Komische Oper Berlin. He has been playing freelance since 2006.
The film bears similarities to The Legend of Paul and Paula and I don’t think this is an accident. Heiner Carow’s film had come out in March of 1973 and was a huge hit. Red Fox went into production after that film, and was broadcast on Christmas Eve of the same year. Both films deal with an unwed mother trying to find true love while raising kids and trying to make ends meet. In both films, the female protagonist’s love interest is already married, although, in Red Fox, the character of Sabine is not the gold-digger that Ines (Heidemarie Wenzel) is, which makes it that much harder to sympathize with Eve. Jon is a more resolute and headstrong character than Paul, but that doesn’t make him any more likeable. Eve fairs better than Paula at the end of the film, but nothing is really resolved. The truth is, Eve is in love with a man who doesn’t deserve her affection, and she, in her turn, shows no remorse for her stalking or aggressive behavior towards Sabine.
Being a TV-movie, Red Fox is far less daring than Carow’s film. The music is nowhere near as edgy as songs The Puhdys brought to Paul and Paula. It also skirts the issues of class, which is one of the things that makes The Legend of Paul and Paula such a remarkable film. In that film, the love affair is between a married man who appears to be working in the government and a woman who works as a store cashier. In Red Fox, the job disparity between the two lovers is less pronounced. Red Fox also lacks the creativity of Paul and Paula. Carow approaches subjects such as surveillance and sex with a great deal of imagination. Mosblech avoids the subjects entirely. The camera pans away or fades to black whenever sex starts to enter the picture, and surveillance isn’t mentioned at all.2 In spite of these reservations, Red Fox is an entertaining little film, as cheerful as Amélie. It’s well directed and well acted and remains one of the most popular TV-movies from the GDR.
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1. As discussed in my book, Movies Behind the Wall, the role of the dramaturge in East Germany was an interesting one, part editor, part censor whose job it was to make sure that the film or TV show didn’t conflict with the values of the SED. As one might imagine, this was sometimes a tough job.
2. Literally speaking, The Legend of Paul and Paula also avoids the topic of surveillance, but look at the scene where the musicians are shown listening in to Paul and Paula’s lovemaking. Who do you think these guys represented?.
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