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?

Held for Questioning

The backstory of Held for Questioning (Der Aufenthalt) is the story of a film that was made against all odds, by a director that DEFA had, essentially, written off the books. Frank Beyer was one of the best filmmakers in East Germany. He proved this time and again, with movies such as Five Cartridges, Naked… Continue reading Held for Questioning

The Fiancée

The Fiancée (Die Verlobte) is a grim film that offers very few moments of levity during its hour and forty-five minute running time. It’s a women-in-prison film, but has nothing in common with the likes of Caged Heat, 99 Women, or the dozens of other women-in-prison films of the sixties and seventies. There is nothing… Continue reading The Fiancée

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

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

The Airship

In The Airship (Das Luftschiff), director Rainer Simon looks at the creative urge, how it drives a person forward, and how it can cloud their vision, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. It is a wildly experimental film with a narrative that jumps back and forth in time and features direct-on-film animation. The film follows the… Continue reading The Airship

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

Käthe Kollwitz – Images of a Life

In 1966, director Ralf Kirsten made The Lost Angel, a film about a day in the life of sculptor Ernst Barlach. That film centers around Barlach’s sculpture Der schwebende, which was destroyed by the Nazis for being “degenerate art.” The sculpture was inspired by Barlach’s fellow artist Käthe Kollwitz. So much so that the face… Continue reading Käthe Kollwitz – Images of a Life

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