A 1961 television docudrama about the assassination of the German Foreign Minister for the Weimar Republic who tried to make peace with the Soviets. A morality play about the impossibility of finding common ground when you’re dealing with fascists.
What Should I Watch?
New to East German films? Here are a few from DEFA with English subtitles that are well worth seeing. All of these films are currently available on the Kanopy streaming service. 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 … Continue reading What Should I Watch?
Do You Know Urban?
In Do You Know Urban? (Kennen Sie Urban?) a man's search for a man named “Urban” takes his life in an entirely new direction. While recuperating in the hospital Hoffi (Berndt Renné) meets Urban (Manfred Karge). Urban, has worked as an engineer on projects all over the world, and Hoffi sees him as a source … Continue reading Do You Know Urban?
A murder has been committed at the Pension Boulanka, but there are too many suspects. Here's a classic example of a German Krimi, East German-style. A few years back, I was talking to the “Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller. Eddie is the man behind the Noir City, a film noir festival held every year at … Continue reading Pension Boulanka
A Girl of 16½
A popular wall poster for the young people who opposed the Vietnam War read: “War is unhealthy for children and other living things.” After World War II, Germany saw the full effect of this. German fathers were either killed or imprisoned, and the mothers waiting at home fell prey to the Allied bombs. Parents would … Continue reading A Girl of 16½
Dusk: 1950s East Berlin Bohemia
Just off the Schiffbauerdamm, a street that runs along the River Spree on the north side of the river, sits the Berliner Ensemble Theater. It was founded in 1954, after Bertolt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel left the Deutsches Theater to start their own theater. It was an ambitious project featuring a revolving stage … Continue reading Dusk: 1950s East Berlin Bohemia
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
Coded Message for the Boss
Second only to the Indianerfilme, East German spy films offer a view of the world so antipodal to Hollywood’s version that sometimes it feels like you’ve entered (or escaped from) Bizarro World. Russians and East Germans are the good guys trying to protect the world—free and otherwise—from the nuclear threat posed by West Germans and … Continue reading Coded Message for the Boss
Don’t Forget My Little Traudel
Don’t Forget My Little Traudel (Vergesst mir meine Traudel nicht1) is the story of Gertraud (“Traudel”) Gerber, A 17-year-old whose mother died in the Ravensbrück concentration camp eleven years earlier. Since then Traudel has been living as an orphan but still carries around a last letter from her mother, which ends with the sentiment that … Continue reading Don’t Forget My Little Traudel
In the mid-fifties, things were getting awfully messy in Berlin. With a border that porous, and two politico-economic structures so out of sync with each other, it was inevitable that all sorts of shenanigans would occur, usually to the detriment of East Germany. Goods purchased in East Germany, where the state was subsidizing some of … Continue reading Rendezvous Aimée