A romantic triangle story told against the backdrop of the building of the Simplon Tunnel at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, as workers battle the elements to build one of the longest railway tunnels in the world.
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)
Even if you are a fan of East German films and have seen nearly everything in the DEFA catalog, you may not be familiar with the name Joachim Hellwig. Hellwig primarily made documentaries. He was a bit of a party wonk, and avoided rocking the boat, so you won’t find any of his films on … Continue reading Joachim Hellwig and defa futurum
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?
As discussed elsewhere on this blog, fairytale films were the closest thing to a cash cow the East German film industry had to offer. Beloved by East and West Germans alike and often featuring stories in which the poor and generous triumph over the rich and greedy, the fairytale film faced fewer hurdles when they … Continue reading Snow White
The musical comedy is not a genre anyone would associate with East Germany. It was born in Hollywood and reached its acme under Arthur Freed at MGM. Musical comedies are happy affairs, light as meringues colorful, and carefree—not qualities that immediately spring to mind when one thinks of the GDR. But DEFA made several musicals and … Continue reading Beloved White Mouse
Communist musicals are in a class by themselves. So much so that in 1997, filmmaker Dana Ranga made them the subject of her fascinating documentary East Side Story—required viewing for anyone interested in the films of the GDR or other Eastern Bloc countries. In a world as grim and gray as East Germany could be, … Continue reading Midnight Revue
In 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey sent shock waves through the film world. While some complained about its nearly incomprehensible plot, everyone was impressed with the film’s technical achievements. It is not an overstatement to say that Kubrick’s film represented a quantum leap in special effects. The genre would never be the same … Continue reading Signals
Hollywood has always had an ugly relationship with Apaches. Even at their most sympathetic (most notably in Broken Arrow and The Battle at Apache Pass) they are portrayed as ruthlessly violent. Most of the time they are a cipher, as incomprehensible to white folks as the tripods in War of the Worlds. Even after the … Continue reading Apaches