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Archive for the ‘East Germany’ Category

Eine Berliner Romanze ; 1956

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Director: Gerhard Klein
Actors: Annekathrin Bürger, Ulrich Thein, Uwe-Jens Pape, Erika Dunkelman, Marga Legal, Erich Franz
Country: East Germany

Before November 9th ends where I am, I have to post at least one entry that has to do with the Berlin wall… or at least about East and West Germany. I chose Eine Berliner Romanze, although the film was made before the wall itself was built.

It is a lovely film, but I feel like I would have gotten so much more if I knew the historical context and understood the ending. The English DEFA website says that Hans (Thein) gets a job in the GDR, but I didn’t think that was all that clear. Maybe it just went over my head? Maybe it was simply implied since he goes to the east with Uschi (Bürger) when she tells him that he is invited for dinner, thus there is a happy ending for both of them. There is a bittersweet note to all this because even though this couple is happy, another character does say that sooner or later, it won’t be easy for the couple to meet. The building of the wall is implied although it isn’t specific to the wall because the character knows that the tension between the Soviet bloc and the Western bloc is growing.

What I liked about this film was that it’s a simple story yet it gives an insight to what Berlin was like during the division. People could walk in and out of the different sectors and there didn’t seem to be discrimination towards the East Berliners since the West German shops accepted GDR’s currency. The two boys who fall for Uschi do not discriminate her for being an East Berliner and are more than eager to court her.

So is this film propagandistic? I would say yes and no. Uschi wants to get away from her drab life in the east and says that she wants to go to the west where everything is modern and exciting. Yet in the end, Uschi brings Hans to the east rather than the film ending on a middle ground or Uschi successfully running away to the west. The film also shows West Germany’s supposed economic boom in a bad light because we see Hans going to multiple places yet not succeeding in getting a job. I am planning to post about Alexander Kluge’s Abschied von gestern, which I think is somewhat similar to aspects of Einer Berliner Romanze. Both films don’t show the idealized view of either sides of Germany by portraying both sides having their own problems. But then again, I suppose any film can be deemed as propaganda when they portray their own country in a positive light *shrugs*.
While the ending is simple and cute, does it really mean anything? I guess film scholars can go on and on about what this film could mean except I am scared that I will overanalyze this film. I just need to be more sure about myself! And I definitely need to rewatch this film to clear up the ending and to read more about life in East and West Germany, particular in Berlin.

I highly recommend this film because it’s not like what you would imagine a film to be from a socialist country. It’s cute, it’s sweet, but it also has moments that give you an insight into what life was like back then or even before (such as Uschi’s comment about the thing she was eating “not being the same”, which I thought was a poke to Germany pre-East/West split). It’s a great way to start watching East German films because it goes against the stereotypes of “communist/socialist” films and shows that East German films have similarities with the films from the west.

IMDb Link: Eine Berliner Romanze
Where to buy: DEFA Film Library

Jakob, der Lügner (Jacob the Liar) ; 1975

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Director: Frank Beyer
Actors: Vlastimil Brodský, Erwin Geschonneck, Henry Hübchen, Blanche Kommerell, Manuela Simon
Country: German Democratic Republic (East Germany)

Jakob, der Lügner is a film that I would have never expected from the GDR, but then again, my view of the GDR is completely skewed. Thank goodness I’m slowly starting to get out of my “EAST GERMANS ARE CRAZY COMMUNISTS” mindset. It’s not the story that was shocking but the way the film was shot seemed a bit experimental to me. I haven’t watched many East German films, but for some reason, the editing of this film made me think of the various European New Waves.

Most people might know this film due to the fact that it was remade into a film starring Robin Williams. I haven’t watched that version yet, but I was rather satisfied with this version. I also read the book, which I highly recommend because I think it adds more to the film and I can see why certain aspects were filmed a certain way and it just gives more depth to the scenes. I didn’t think the acting was all that great, but at the same time, it just felt right for this film. I did have a little crush on Henry Hübchen, who plays Mischa, but that’s not really relevant. I was glad that Vlastimil Brodský was chosen to play the titular character because he was PERFECT. This film was also my first film with Erwin Geschonneck, one of the biggest stars in DEFA films, except I didn’t know it was him until I watched two other films with him. Ok, I’m digressing. I really don’t know what to say because whenever I watch it, I think, “Wow, this is great! I want to post about this, and this, and this…” and then I just forget all that.

An interesting fact is that it’s the only DEFA film that was nominated for an Academy Award. Makes you think a little about why that is so.

One scene that particularly struck me was the scene of Kowalski’s (Geschonneck) suicide because of the way it was shot. Even before you see Kowalski’s body, you know that it is him. Trust me, when you see the shot, it’ll leave an impression

This film also had me thinking a lot because of how the film ends. Although ambiguous, I still think that it is quite certain that all of them are being sent to concentration camps. Whether or not the characters we saw in this film survive, they still go through something that were even more terrible than the ghettos. Then what was the point of Jakob telling all these lies? It’s as if everything was irrelevant such as the actions of the characters in this film and the film itself. Even the film starts with proclamations that imply subjectivity and the uncertainty of things. When I saw them I scoffed and said to myself witheringly, “Oh, how ~*postmodern*~”, but now that I watched it again, I think that it adds more to the film.

And I just have to add, Lina (Simon) WAS THE MOST ANNOYING THING EVER. I just wanted to smack her every time I she came on the screen. Somehow I feel like I’m the only one who thinks this.

IMDb Link: Jakob, der Lügner
Where to buy: Amazon.com, DEFA Film Library