Heroin

An East German customs official goes undercover to investigate an international drug trafficking ring operating between Berlin and Budapest. The late sixties saw the trend in international intrigue move from the Cold War to the Drug War. It started with the made-for-TV movie The Poppy is Also a Flower—which was financed by the United Nations… Continue reading Heroin

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

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

Spring Takes Time

Spring Takes Time (Der Frühling braucht Zeit) was one of the twelve films banned in the wake of the notorious 11th Plenum. Along with The Rabbit is Me, it is one of the only films that actually made it into the theaters before the ax came down. While some of the 11th Plenum bans seemed… Continue reading Spring Takes Time

Rendezvous Aimée

In the mid-fifties, things were getting awfully messy in Berlin. With a border that porous, and two politico-economic structures so out of sync with each other, it was inevitable that all sorts of shenanigans would occur, usually to the detriment of East Germany. Goods purchased in East Germany, where the state was subsidizing some of… Continue reading Rendezvous Aimée

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

The Ernst Thälmann Films

Although he died five years before the country was created, Ernst Thälmann was East Germany’s greatest hero. He was to the GDR what George Washington is to America: an icon and a founding father, preternaturally moral and incapable of mistakes. Both men fought for freedom from oppression. In Washington’s case, that oppression came in the… Continue reading The Ernst Thälmann Films