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

Free Land

The second film from DEFA captures the struggles of farmers and the people fleeing the destruction of the cities who are trying to start collectives in East Germany’s rural areas. Free Land (Freies Land) was the second film made for DEFA. Like The Murderers Are Among Us before it, Free Land is a rubble film,… Continue reading Free Land

1-2-3 Corona

There’s a tinge of irony in the fact that one of the movies that gave people in Germany a little joy amidst the rubble of World War II has a name that now reminds us of darker times. 1-2-3 Corona might be the most happy-go-lucky a film that DEFA ever made. The story takes place… Continue reading 1-2-3 Corona

What Should I Watch?

A guide to what to watch while your stuck at home during the pandemic. Here are a few you East German films with English subtitles that are well worth seeing. 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 favorite… Continue reading What Should I Watch?

The Condemned Village

If you look up The Condemned Village (Das verurteilte Dorf) on Wikipedia (either the English or the German version) you’ll find it described as a “propaganda film.” You could argue that point, but if you look up The Steel Fist, My Son John, Red Snow, or Walk East on Beacon—all made the same year as… Continue reading The Condemned Village

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

Those East German Barge Films

Living on a boat is not easy. You’re in a constant fight against the elements and there’s no end to the maintenance. Boat owners will tell you that, if you want to know what it’s like to own a boat, “stand in the shower and tear up twenty dollar bills.” Yet, the idea of living… Continue reading Those East German Barge Films

Our Daily Bread

There is a stereotype in the West about the films from communist countries: That they’re all about the struggles of the working class against oppression; that they’re shot in the style of socialist realism popularized by Russian directors; that they’re full of hokum about the importance of agriculture and tractors. Any regular reader of this… Continue reading Our Daily Bread

Jana and Jan

With the notable exception of horror movies, the East German film industry (that is to say, DEFA) made films of nearly every genre from westerns to science fiction; from thrillers to romantic comedies. If it were a Hollywood film, Jana and Jan (Jana und Jan) would be categorized as a women-in-prison film, but without the… Continue reading Jana and Jan

Career

Director Heiner Carow hated Career. He only made it to salvage his footage from The Russians are Coming after that film was banned by the East German authorities. Along with footage from his own film, Carow adds newsreel footage from other sources1 to fashion a film about a businessman in West Germany named Günter Walcher who… Continue reading Career