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

Jakob the Liar

There are a few East German films that, in spite of the political differences, are acknowledged as classics on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Stars, The Murderers Are Among Us, and The Rabbit is Me have all entered that exclusive group, but—with the exception of Stars—these films did not receive much attention until after… Continue reading Jakob the Liar

The Singing, Ringing Tree

Many Britons of a certain age share a collective memory so firmly etched in their psyches that the very mention of it brings back childhood nightmares. In 1964, BBC television serialized a film about a haughty princess, a prince that turns into a bear, a giant goldfish, and a really, really evil dwarf. So powerful… Continue reading The Singing, Ringing Tree

The Second Track

Film noir is not a term that is usually associated with East German cinema. It is used most often when discussing the Warner Brothers crime films of the 1940s. Noir comes with certain rules that must be followed. The main ones are: characters whose complexity keeps them from falling into easily identifiable categories of good… Continue reading The Second Track

Rotation

As its title suggests,  a recurring image throughout Rotation is the wheel. The wheel in this case appears in various forms, from the cylinders of the printing press that acts as the film’s Greek chorus, to the carousel at a fair where Hans Behneke, the film’s protagonist,  is forced to work during the Weimar Republic’s… Continue reading Rotation

The Axe of Wandsbeck

When reviewing the post-war films of East Germany (or West Germany, for that matter), there is a tendency to temper one’s reviews by limiting any comparisons to the other German films of the the same era. That is to say, you can write lots of nice things about these films, but just don’t compare them… Continue reading The Axe of Wandsbeck

The Council of the Gods

The Council of the Gods stands as a testament to the nature of greed and the dangers of corporate conglomerates like IG Farben.