Marta, Marta

Carefree and perky, Marta moves through life without much thought, until things get real. Every once in a while, a television movie comes along that becomes as much a part of media literacy as any feature film. It’s the one that everyone was talking about the next day at work and continued to talk about… Continue reading Marta, Marta

The Break-In

This DEFA/West German coproduction about a daring bank robber was a huge hit on both side of the German border. It’s based on an actual bank robbery that took place in Berlin in 1951. In November of 1951, a man named Walter Pannewitz rented office spaces on the ground floor of the Römischer Hof, a… Continue reading The Break-In

Those “Porcupine” Films (Das Stachetier)

Several of DEFA’s most well-known actors and directors got their starts making short films for the Das Stacheltier group. Here’s a look at the group, the films, and the people who made them. If you’ve read more than a couple of the articles on this blog, you’ll have come across the name “Das Stacheltier.” Formed… Continue reading Those “Porcupine” Films (Das Stachetier)

What Would Happen If…?

When a car full of strangers arrives in Willshagen, the rumors start to fly. The action in What Would Happen If…? (Was wäre, wenn...?) takes place in Willshagen, an imaginary village that sits in a bulge on the border between East and West Germany. Many of the people in the town have either joined the… Continue reading What Would Happen If…?

The Teleplays of Christa Kulosa

A popular format on East German TV was the teleplay. These were videotaped on stage in front of a live audience. In America, you’ll see this most often with sitcoms such as Cheers or I Love Lucy. Similarly, these East German teleplays were mostly comedies, but were unique, one-hour to hour-and-a-half shows rather than series… Continue reading The Teleplays of Christa Kulosa

Set a Fire, the Fire Brigade Is Coming

What happens to a fire department when the town there in never has any fires? That’s the idea behind the TruTV’s new comedy Tacoma FD. But it isn’t the first time someone thought of this. It’s also the concept behind Set a Fire, the Fire Brigade Is Coming (Zünd an, es kommt die Feuerwehr), the… Continue reading Set a Fire, the Fire Brigade Is Coming

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

The Arctic Sea Calls

In case you ever wondered what the Little Rascals (Our Gang) would look like as an East German concept, The Arctic Sea Calls (Das Eismeer ruft) answers the question. It's the story of a band of spunky kids who take upon themselves to hike from Prague to the Bering Strait in an attempt to rescue… Continue reading The Arctic Sea Calls

Too Young for Love?

Too Young for Love? (Für die Liebe noch zu mager?) is a portrait of a girl on the cusp of womanhood. At the start of the film, our heroine Susanne (Simone von Zglinicki) is wide-eyed and still wet behind the ears. She works at a textile plant and is a model worker. Susanne has a… Continue reading Too Young for Love?

Wolz – Life and Illusion of a German Anarchist

From the first frame of the opening credits, Wolz lets you know that it will be taking a lighthearted look at an otherwise serious subject. The theme song is typically German-sounding oompah march music, punctuated by gunshots. On paper, Wolz does not sound like material for humor at all. It follows the exploits of a… Continue reading Wolz – Life and Illusion of a German Anarchist