Bertolt Brecht’s grim tale of a woman for whom war is a source of income is committed to film with the definitive cast from Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble in East Germany. There have been many anti-war plays over the years, but none so well-regarded as Bertolt Brecht’s classic Mother Courage and Her Children (Mutter Courage und … Continue reading Mother Courage and Her Children
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?
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
whisper & SHOUT
For anyone whose preconceptions about life in East Germany is informed by what was taught in American schools, whisper & SHOUT (flüstern & SCHREIEN) is the film to see. Made in 1988, it follows the exploits of several East German rock bands as they travel from venue to venue. In between, the film stops to … Continue reading whisper & SHOUT
While DEFA was far better at interpreting famous fairytales on film than Hollywood ever was, the fact is, many of the classics are so grotesque that any movie that did them justice would not be considered suitable for children. One such example is Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio). The story … Continue reading Pinocchio
New Year’s Eve Punch
As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, the East German government had a rocky relationship with musicals. The inherent frivolity of the genre clashed mightily with the government’s philosophy that every film should promote good socialist values. At the same time, musicals were popular with the public in the fifties on both sides of the Iron … Continue reading New Year’s Eve Punch
Don’t Cheat, Darling!
In 1975, director/screenwriter Jim Sharman, along with co-author Richard O'Brien, had a huge hit with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In 1981, they decided to try again with Shock Treatment. It had the same writers, same director, and some of the same cast, but it failed miserably. It was like trying to catch lightning in … Continue reading Don’t Cheat, Darling!
The Flying Dutchman
There is no other film quite like The Flying Dutchman (Der Fliegende Holländer). Part opera, part experimental sound collage, and part avant-garde cinema, it is a surrealistic take on Wagner’s opera that pushed the boundaries of filmmaking at the time. Although there were silent films that used Wagner’s operas and music, and a 1947 Italian film … Continue reading The Flying Dutchman
On the Sunny Side
On the Sunny Side (Auf der Sonnenseite) is an entertaining little film about a man named Martin Hoff, who goes from working in a steel foundry to taking drama classes, only to be kicked out because of his behavior. It stars Manfred Krug, who, like Hoff, was working as a steelworker when he started taking … Continue reading On the Sunny Side
My Wife Wants To Sing
Excessive seriousness has never been a problem for Hollywood. Designed for the sole purpose of making money, Hollywood films only give us something to think about when it looks like that approach will improve the bottom line. In stark contrast, DEFA was all about making thoughtful serious films. An approach that led to some criticism, … Continue reading My Wife Wants To Sing