Lissy

In November of 1957, Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory was released in West Germany. It would appear in American cinemas a month later. When it did, film critics were rightly impressed and singled out one scene as a proof of Kubrick’s genius. It was the scene of the court martial, where the soldiers are shot… Continue reading Lissy

The Naked Man on the Sports Field

Konrad Wolf’s three feature films—Goya, The Naked Man on the Sports Field (Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz), and Solo Sunny—form a loose trilogy. On the face of things, the three films are as different as can be, musically, stylistically and cinematically, but all three films deal with deal with artistic creativity, in each case seen from… Continue reading The Naked Man on the Sports Field

Mama, I’m Alive

Occasionally, East Germany’s film studio DEFA worked with production companies from other countries. This gave those countries access to the Babelsberg film studios, which were some of the best in Europe, and it allowed DEFA to provide a better variety of films to the East German public. With many of these films, the influence of… Continue reading Mama, I’m Alive

Professor Mamlock

  In 1934, Friedrich Wolf’s play, Professor Mamlock, ruffled feathers around the world. In it, a conservative Jewish doctor tries to keep politics out the clinic he runs in spite of the growing presence of Nazis and Nazi support in Germany. As the doctor is incrementally stripped of power and control, he eventually realizes that… Continue reading Professor Mamlock

Goya

Epic is not a term one often uses with East German movies. As a rule, the films of DEFA keep to a human scale, charting life’s courses for ordinary people. Even the Märchenfilme (fairy tale films), while often dealing with fantastical kingdoms and imaginary worlds, keep the scale down to everyday proportions. But Goya or… Continue reading Goya

Divided Heaven

East Germany’s history is surprising, paradoxical, and weird. Just when you thought things were going to to lapse into a bleak recreation of 1984, the government would make a U-turn on some policy and relax the rules. Nowhere is this more evident than in the film community, where periods of creative freedom were followed by… Continue reading Divided Heaven

Solo Sunny

In the mid-seventies, Wolfgang Kohlhaase—arguably the GDR’s best screenwriter—became friends with a talented young film reviewer named Jutta Voigt. Ms. Voigt met Kohlhaase at “Die Möwe” (The Seagull)—a popular Künstlerklub (art club), where film people and other artists met—and introduced him to an exotic social misfit named Sanije Torka. Torka was the daughter of Crimean… Continue reading Solo Sunny

I Was Nineteen

Whether it’s Spielberg exploring the social dynamics of suburban children in E.T., or Paul Verhoeven recreating the horrors of war in Starship Troopers, a director inevitably brings some of his or her own past to a picture. Every so often, a filmmaker makes a movie that is completely personal. These run the gamut, from George… Continue reading I Was Nineteen

Sun Seekers

In 1947, the Soviets began mining operations in the Schlema Valley in the southeastern region of Saxony. They called their mining company “Wismut,” the German word for bismuth, because they didn’t want the U.S. to know what they were really mining: uranium. After what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Russians wanted to make sure… Continue reading Sun Seekers