The Female Directors of East Germany Pt. 1: The DEFA Directors

A short overview of the women directors who worked at DEFA.

Private Party

Shown once and then thrown in the Giftschrank (poison cabinet), this TV movie about a marriage in crisis had to wait until after the Wende for most people to see it. In Frank Beyer's Private Party (Geschlossene Gesellschaft),1 Robert (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and Ellen (Jutta Hoffmann) are a seemingly happy married couple. Robert is a talented… Continue reading Private Party

What Should I Watch?

A guide to what to watch while your stuck at home during the pandemic. Here are a few you East German films with English subtitles that are well worth seeing. I’m often asked for recommendations on East German movies that people should watch. There’s no one answer to this. I once showed my personal favorite… Continue reading What Should I Watch?

Held for Questioning

The backstory of Held for Questioning (Der Aufenthalt) is the story of a film that was made against all odds, by a director that DEFA had, essentially, written off the books. Frank Beyer was one of the best filmmakers in East Germany. He proved this time and again, with movies such as Five Cartridges, Naked… Continue reading Held for Questioning

Journey Into the Nuptial Bed

East Germany had a difficult relationship with musicals. As with western audiences, the East German public enjoyed musicals and paid to go see them. The box office was good for nearly all the musicals DEFA made but the art form is so inherently frivolous that it drove the more stodgy politicians crazy. Making fairytale films… Continue reading Journey Into the Nuptial Bed

Käthe Kollwitz – Images of a Life

In 1966, director Ralf Kirsten made The Lost Angel, a film about a day in the life of sculptor Ernst Barlach. That film centers around Barlach’s sculpture Der schwebende, which was destroyed by the Nazis for being “degenerate art.” The sculpture was inspired by Barlach’s fellow artist Käthe Kollwitz. So much so that the face… Continue reading Käthe Kollwitz – Images of a Life

Berlin Around the Corner

In the mid-fifties, director Gerhard Klein and screenwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase made a trio of films about life in Berlin. The films were inventive, daring, and popular. Both men went on to have successful careers at DEFA, working together and separately to create films of all sorts. In 1965, the two joined forces again with the… Continue reading Berlin Around the Corner

How to Marry King

Right from the opening credits, How to Marry a King (Wie heiratet man einen König?) lets us know that this is not going to be like any DEFA fairytale film that came before it. It starts in the real outdoors, not a film set, with long shots of a woman being kicked out of her… Continue reading How to Marry King

The Tango Player

Following the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 1989, events in East Germany started happening fast. Faster than DEFA could keep with. Less than a year after that first batch of East Germans streamed into West Berlin in their Trabants, the GDR ceased to exist. Yet DEFA soldiered on, buffeted mercilessly by the… Continue reading The Tango Player

When You’re Older, Dear Adam

Egon Günther’s 1965 comedy When You're Older, Dear Adam (Wenn du groß bist, lieber Adam) is a weird movie, made weirder still by the times in which it was made and the technique used to rebuild the film. The film tells the story of a boy who is given a magic flashlight by a swan.… Continue reading When You’re Older, Dear Adam