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Films from the former East German Republic
Please note: Many of the videos listed below will be totally discontinued once our limited supply is sold.
Die Abenteuer des Werner Holt (The Adventures of
Werner Holt) DFA 60
1965, b&w, ca. 163 min. - Director Joachim Kunert. This film, about a pair of 17 year-olds who are yanked out of school and drafted into WW II, is a politically and artistically important piece of its time. This film is a politically and artistically important piece of its time. Its new, surprising frankness about the toll war takes on youth immediately generated much public resonance; With his film "The Adventures of Werner Holt", Joachim Kunert offers a new tone and pitch as well as a novel view on the war that ended twenty years before. "First rate." -- Variety. Siebzehnjaehrige werden von der Schulbank weg in Hitlers Krieg geholt. Auch Werner Holt und Gilbert Wolzow sind unter ihnen. Gilbert ist ein fanatischer Soldat. An der Front beginnt Werner die Sinnlosigkeit des Krieges zu begreifen und trennt sich von seinem Freund. Doch als dieser von SS-Leuten gehaengt wird richtet Werner das Gewehr auf die eigenen Leute. Dieser Film basierend auf den gleichnamigen Roman von Dieter Noll, ist ein politisch und kuenstlerisch bedeutendes Werk, das seinerzeit einen neuen, ueberraschenden Ton anschlug und auf Anhieb von einer grossen oeffentlichen Resonanz begleitet wurde.
Affaire Blum (The Blum Affair)
English subtitles, 1948, b&w, ca. 105 min. - Director: Erich Engel. Based on a real case in Magdeburg during the Weimar Republic. The Jewish manufacturer Jacob Blum is framed for the murder of his accountant due to the accusations of Gabler, a thief and dealer of stolen goods. Anti-Semitic prosecutors accept these accusations, as they believe all Jews are criminals. Even with evidence indicating that the crime was committed by Gabler, the prosecutors refuse to change their stance. Blum's only hope is commissar in Berlin, who takes over the investigation and finds the real murderer. The Magdeburg Court reluctantly accepts the results of Bonte's investigation, but they deny their own scandalous behavior. For Erich Engel, the film was a return to his political and cultural roots after years of "Inner emigration" during which he worked for the entertainment cinema of the Third Reich. He had directed the premiere of Brecht's The Three Penney Opera in 1928 in Berlin and until the Nazis came to power, he had staged many other political plays. DFA 1069
Als die Mauer fiel (When the Wall came Tumbling
Down) DFA 169
Some narration in English, some in German. German commentaries with English subtitles, 1999, color, ca. 89 min. - Director: Hans-Hermann Hertle and Gunther Scholz. Using never-before-seen footage, this compelling film shows what really happened during those perilous, pivotal hours that forever changed our world. Thoroughly researched, beautifully crafted, this is one of the best documentaries on the fall of the Berlin Wall yet to emerge. Berlin, November 9th, 1989. Thousands of people break through the border checkpoints of the divided city. The so-called "death strip" has lost its horror. East and West Berliners are dancing on the Wall and chip it away with hammers and chisels throughout the night. The most famous symbol of the Cold War is crumbling as the world watches on live television... Using never-before-seen footage, this compelling film shows what really happened during those perilous, pivotal hours. General Secretary Gorbachev and President Bush; the French and the British governments; Chancellor Kohl and General Secretary Krenz; foreign secretaries, ministers and high-ranking officers from both sides (some speaking out for the first time), along with journalists such as NBC News Correspondent Tom Brokaw, describe first-hand what occurred behind the scenes.
And Your Love Too DFA 147
English subtitles, 1962, ca. 92 min, b/w, Berlin, August 1961; a love triangle develops as the Berlin Wall is being constructed. Eva, a young East German girl, must decide between two contrasting brothers.
Anton der Zauberer (Anton, the Magician)
1978, color, ca. 101 min. - Director: Guenter Reisch. A flamboyant comedy about love, work and money, revealing that the "planned" economy produced some unconventional entrepreneurial methods. Anton Grubske, Automechaniker, entgeht 1945 mit List der Kriegsgefangenschaft. Er heiratet Liesel, die Tochter seines alten Lehrmeisters und uebernimmt die Werkstatt. "Du bist Arbeiter, du musst die Ausbeuter ausbeuten", hatte ihm ein sowjetischer Sergeant gesagt. Anton schroepft die Grossbauern, deponiert seine Trinkgeldmillion bei Sabine, der lustigen Witwe. Diese setzt sich in die Schweiz ab, Anton landet im Gefaengnis.... Eine handfeste Filmkomoedie um Arbeit, Geld und Liebe.
Apachen (Apaches) DFA 35
English subtitles, 1973, color, ca. 90 min. - Director: Gottfried Kolditz. Based upon original documents and set at the beginning of the Mexican-American War (1846-48), APACHES is one of fourteen "Indianerfilme" produced in East Germany between 1966 - 1985. Mexico, 1846. Johnson, an American sociologist, discovers a vast source of precious metals on a Mimbreno-Apache reservation. He decides to annex this territory to the U.S., then expel and exterminate the Indians. He also benefits personally as the US government is paying $100 for every scalp of a warrior, $50 for a women's and $25 for a child's. Only a few survive this massacre. But, the young warrior Ulzana is out for revenge for his tribe.... Director Gottfied Kolditz wrote the script together with the leading actor Gojko Mitic. They based it upon original documents and reconstructed the imagined atmosphere of the Mexican War (1886-1884) at its beginning. During this time small bands of American scouts were dispatched to Mexico to plot the conquest of targeted regions. These infiltrators also organized provocations and instigated conflicts in the name of different groups. Apaches is one of fourteen "Indianerfilme" produced in Babelsberg between 1966 and 1985.
Auf der Sonnenseite (On the Sunny Side)
1962, b&w, 97 min. - Director: Ralf Kirsten. Martin, a singing steel worker, wants to become an actor. But neither the drama school nor his attractive female boss is impressed with his tough-guy antics. A Romance with music. Der singende Stahlschmelzer Martin will Schauspieler werden. Doch an der Schule wie auch bei der attraktiven Bauleiterin Ottilie verfaengt seine Imponiermasche nicht. - Eine Romanze mit Musik. Unter Ralf Kirstens meisterhafter Regie entwickelte Manfred Krug zum ersten Mal seinen unnachahmlichen Stil, welcher ihn zu einem der beliebtesten Schauspieler in Ost und West machte.
Das Beil von Wandsbek (The Axe of Wandsbek)
English subtitles, 1951, b&w, ca. 111 mins, - Director: Falk Harnack. Based upon a novel by the German-Jewish author Arnold Zweig, published in 1943 during his exile in Palestine. The main character is a butcher who serves as an executioner for the Nazis and also turns in four antifascists. After these atrocities become known, customers start to boycott his store, his wife takes her life, and he shoots himself. Director Falk Harnack (1913-1991) belonged to the resistance group "White Rose" during the Third Reich and came close to being discovered. IN 1943 he deserted the German Army and joined Greek partisans. After the war he worked in theaters in Munich and Berlin and from 1949 to 1951 as Art Director for DEFA. The Axe of Wandsbek was Harnack's debut as a film director. Yet some six weeks after its premiere, the film was banned to generating compassion for the hangman. Harnack left the East German studio to direct only in the West. IN 1962 he was refused permission to bring an edited version of The Axe of Wandsbek to GDR cinemas. Only in 1981 did the restoration of the original version become possible. This was how the East German Ministry of Culture fulfilled the leading actor Erwin Geschonneck's 75th birthday wish.
The Bicycle DFA 150
English subtitles, 1982, color, ca. 89 min., Susanne, an unskilled worker, lives alone with her child. She is very unsatisfied with herself and her life. After she meets Thomas, a successful engineer, she gives up her job. In an attempt to receive insurance money, she claims that her bicycle has been stolen. However, her fraud is discovered and she is summoned to court. When Thomas finds out, he attempts to settle these matter without involving officials. This responsible and ambitious young man does not want to have "skeletons in his closet." Some critics saw The Bicycle as a plea for personal space and individual right to personal happiness, which did not conform to the concepts of GDR cultural politics. As a result, the film was boycotted after its premiere. Cultural authorities proclaimed this truthful portrayal of the GDR's melancholic reality as false. They turned down all invitations to present the film at international film festivals in London and Vienna and claimed "we do not show such films abroad." DFA 150 Sold OUt
Bis das der Tod euch scheidet (Until Death Do Us
Part) DFA 146
English subtitles, 1979, color, ca. 92 min. - Director: Heiner Carow. Scenes from a "socialist marriage." An intense and powerful film that shows the consequences of the breakdown of communication between loving partners. At the center of the story stand Jens, a construction worker and Sonja, a saleswoman. They live in a very stable environment; they have friends, a child, a new apartment. From the outside, it appears that they are completely happy. However, in this case, looks are deceiving. Jens doesn't want Sonja to go back to work now that they have a child. Behind Jens' back, she passes the skilled-worker exam. Depressed, Jens starts to drink heavily, becomes easily enraged and begins to beat his wife The scenes of a "socialist marriage" inevitably lead to catastrophes. Ruecker and Carow make clear the fact that social and material security are no guarantee for individual happiness. The film shows how complicated and susceptible every individual is, and that society cannot take responsibility for everyone. It also makes apparent the consequences of lack of communication between partners. Their surroundings provide no solace.
Born in '45 (Jahrgang 45)
English subtitles, 1990; b&w ca. 94 mins. Director: Juergen Boettcher. The only feature film by the painter and documentary filmmaker, Juergen Boettcher, it was banned before completion. The director produced a revised version in 1989-90 and when it was finally shown in cinemas in the spring of 1990, its true poetic beauties were discovered. Born In '45 tells the story of Al and Li, a married couple living in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin. They have only been married for a couple of months but decide to divorce. Alfred, a motorcycle enthusiast, especially pushes for the divorce. He fears losing his independence and freedom to experiment. The film was caught in a wave of politically motivated film bans in the summer of 1966 and was not allowed to be shown. Only in the Spring of 1990, when the film was shown in cinemas, were the true beauties of the film discovered: its rhythm, its lacunae, its disposition. "Boettcher grasped the life of 20 year-olds in Prenzlauer Berg with social and regional exactness and was able to translate it into an elementary worlds language." (Erika Richter).
Carla (Karla) DFA 125
English subtitles, 1965; b&w, ca. 129 mins. Director: Herrmann Zschoche. CARLA, together with a dozen other DEFA films, fell prey to a ban in 1965-66. A meeting of SED party functionaries labeled the film nihilistic, skeptical and hostile. Only in 1990, after the fall of the Wall, was CARLA shown in cinemas. Author Ulrich Plenzdorf and director Herrmann Zschoche tell the story of a young teacher who goes against the routine opportunism of her hypocritical and small-minded surroundings. Just starting her teaching career, she discovers her students hide their true thoughts and feelings and only say what they are expected to say. The young teacher tries to encourage open discussions about taboo topics, attempting to break down the walls of suspicion and cynicism. Her superiors view her actions with unease and eventually intervene to discipline Carla, who is beginning to lose faith in her cause. The influential East German actress Jutta Hoffmann, who left the GDR in the 1970s, plays this role with large, questioning eyes, exactly as Plenzdorf and Zschoche intended. They wanted their viewers to stay faithful to the ideals of truth and honesty, rather than conform to their surroundings. DFA 125 Sold Out
Chingachgook, the Great Snake (Chingachgook, die
grosse Schlange) DFA 33
English subtitles, 1967, Color, ca. 86 mins, Director: Richard Groschopp, Based on the story "The Deerslayer" (one of The Leather stocking Tales) by the American author James Fennimore Cooper (1789-1851). For its second "Indianerfilm," East German DEFA Studios adopted the story The Deerslayer (one of The Leatherstocking Tales) by the American author James Cooper. Director Richard Groschopp condensed its extensive plot and focused primarily on the conflict between members of the two Indian tribes. Chingachgook, the Great Snake takes place in 1740. While the French colonists are using the Hurons to fulfill their war purposes, the Delaware, are fighting on the side of the English troops. Only Chingachgook, a young Delaware, and his fair-skinned friend Deerslayer realize that the whites intend to expel and exterminate Indians altogether. The movie was filmed in Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia (Upper Tatra). To create costumes, masks, props and stage dances with historical accuracy the production team conducted research in ethnological museums and sought their assistance, for instance in building an authentic Indian canoe.
Chronik der Wende:
Teil 1 / Die entscheidenden Tage im Oktober 1989 (The Fall of the Wall: Part 1 / The Path to German Reunification)
English subtitles, 1994, b&w/color, ca. 90 min. - Director: Wolfgang Drescher. Fall 4989 in East Germany: breakdown, upheaval and a new start. The dramatic events are depicted using authentic documents from East and West German TV news, Stasi documentation, amateur videos and private photos never before released in North America. Honored with the top German TV award, the Adolf Grimme Prize in Gold, 1995. DFA 120 Sold Out
Chronik der Wende: DFA 121
Teil 2 / Die entscheidenden Tage im November und Dezember 1989 (The Fall of the Wall: Part 2 / The Path to German Reunification)
English subtitles, 1994, b&w/color, ca. 90 min. - Director: Wolfgang Drescher. Fall 1989 in East Germany: breakdown, upheaval and a new start. The dramatic events are depicted using authentic documents from East and West German TV news, Stasi documentation, amateur videos and private photos never before released in North America. Honored with the top German TV award, the Adolf Grimme Prize in Gold, 1995.
Coming Out DFA 39
English subtitles, 1989; 108 mins.; Color, Director: Heiner Carow, The first and only DEFA feature film about homosexuality, it premiered on November 9, 1989, the evening of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Awarded the Silver Bear at the 1990 Berlin Film Festival. "The descriptions of East Berlin’s gay scene are revelations in themselves." ...Variety As a boy, Philipp was strongly attracted to his best friend, but he's put that behind him in order to live within the "norm." He meets shy Tanja who falls hard for him, and soon the genuinely loving couple is sharing an apartment. But Philipp cannot repress his passionate desire for a young man he meets in a concert ticket line. Coming Out maps Philipp's painful journey toward saying "yes" to his truest self.
Council of the Gods (Der Rat der Goetter)
English subtitles, 1950; 105 mins.; b&w, Director: Kurt Maetzig, An epic film about the close ties between big industry and the Nazis. Based on the Nuremberg Trials against the directors of the IG Farben Company. COUNCIL OF THE GODS also brings to light the cooperation between German industry and United States monopolies. Throughout the film, a worker from Standard Oil Company makes sure that his German partner company is not bombed. In the scenes that take place after 1945, the USA is portrayed as a latent fascist power. It is during these scenes that the otherwise convincing, historically researched Council of the Gods stoops to Cold War propaganda. Two main protagonists dominate this epic film. Chairman Mauch, who had supported Hitler, finds new fame and fortune in West Germany after the war. The bourgeois chemist Dr. Hans Scholz lives through a torturous political transformation and maturing process. Finally, he becomes wrapped up in his political neutrality and closes his eyes to the fact that poison is being produced in his factory. Standing before the judges at the Nuremberg Trials, he learns that he is partly responsible for millions of deaths in gas chambers at concentration camps. Kurt Maetzig grasped the very contemporary theme of scientists taking responsibility for their research - as Bertold Brecht had done with The Life of Galileo.
Der Dritte (Her Third) DFA 68
1972, color, ca. 107 min. - Director: Egon Guenther. An entertaining treatment of love and human relationship, but also a document of the evolving self-confidence and independence of East German Women. Jutta Hoffmann, who plays the leading role, received the prize for Best Actress at the 1972 Venice Film Festival. Margit hat zwei Kinder, jedes von einem anderen Mann. Und beide Beziehungen gingen schief. Bisher wurde sie von den Maennern ausgesucht. Aber damit ist jetzt Schluss. Margit hat ihr Selbstbewusstsein entdeckt und damit eine neue Freiheit. Nun ist sie entschlossen den Dritten selbst auszuwaehlen. Ihr Interesse gilt dem Kollegen Hrdlitschka (gespielt vom Oscar-nominierten Schauspieler Armin Mueller-Stahl), der aber nichts von Margits Liebesabsichen ahnt.
**No Longer Available**
The Destinies of Women DFA
English subtitles, 1952, 105 min, color - This film was created in 1952 during the peak of cultural/political dogmatism in the GDR. During this time, films were officially supported if they portrayed "typical fates in typical situations" with "positive heroes" in the lead roles who could convince viewers of the victory of socialism. Director Slatan Dudow chooses another, less conspicuous and didactic method. His protagonist, Conny, a womanizer from West Berlin, is the archetypal bourgeois adventurer. The film presents him in relations to four women: a law student who is almost ruined by her love for him; a designer who becomes pregnant with his child, loses her job in West Berlin and moves to East Berlin; another woman who, in an attempt to impress him, steals a dress and later becomes guilty to the death of her brother; and lastly, another student who rebuffs Conny the first time they meet. For Slatan Dudow, the positive heroes are the women, not the men. This interpretation was hardly shared by the political leadership in the GDR. During an SED film conference, The Destinies of Women received harsh criticism. Despite the declamatory scenes and black/white portrayals of East and West Berlin, The Destinies of Women provides an accurate picture of the times and proves to be a substantial political study. Stylistic innovation and a striking montage approach make this film a DEFA classic.
Ecke Schoenhauser (Berlin - Schoenhauser Corner)
English subtitles, 1957, b&w, 81 min. - Director: Gerhard Klein. One of the most important films of the 1950's, it portrays young people in East Berlin in search of life's purpose. Over 1.5 million viewers had seen the film within three months after its premiere in August 1957. Ranked by film critics among Germany's 100 most important films. One of the most important films of the 1950s, this film portrays young people in East Berlin in search of their purpose in life a few years before the construction of the Wall. They want to be free, dance to Rock'n'Roll, trade forbidden Western goods and avoid the constraints of their parents and the State. Berlin-Schoenhauser Corner... is a perceptive social study of a city in which political and economic division affects everyone. Director Gerhard Klein and scriptwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase were influenced by foreign films in their choice of style and topic.
Einer trage des anderen Last (Bear Ye One Another's
Burden) DFA 40
1988, b&w, ca. 113 in. - Director: Lothar Warneke. The script to this controversial film was kept in a drawer over ten years until, in 1988, Director Warneke finally received permission from the East German authorities to begin production. Wenn Josef Heilige beim Rasieren selbstvergessen die Internationale einstimmt, setzt Hubertus Koschenz "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" dagegen. Ein Marxist und ein Christ in einem Lungensanatorium Anfang der fuenfziger Jahre. Achtung und Toleranz muessen sie muehsam lernen. Nachdem das Drehbuch des Films fuer mehr als 10 Jahre in der Schublade lag, erhielt Lothar Warneke 1988 endlich die Erlaubnis diesen Film zu drehen.
Ete und Ali (Ete and Ali)
English subtitles, 1985, color, ca. 92 min. - Director: Peter Kahane. A comedy about an unlikely pair of men. The critics' reaction was enthusiastic: "A film as earnest as life and as imaginative as art can be." ETE AND ALI brings to mind Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder and Woody Allen... with a little Laurel and Hardy mixed in. Ete and Ali complete their military service on the same day. Neither one knows what to do next. Ali has no interest in returning to his small village, which does not even have a bar. And Ete has just discovered that his young wife is in search of a new partner. Ali decides to help his friend win his wife back, and then the problems really begin... This DEFA comedy pokes fun at this incongruous pair, Ete and Ali are like Laurel and Hardy. Ete is small and modest, Ali is big, strong and quick with a witty remark. A odd coupe, inseparable from each other.
The Fall of the Wall - Chronik der Wende DFA 137
Double VHS Video Cassettes, ca. 90 min. each tape - The dramatic events in authentic materials from East and West German TV news. Stasi documents, amateur videos, and private photos never released outside of Germany.Part 1: The critical days of October 1989, the 40th anniversary of the GDR and the consequences. Part 2: The critical days of November and December 1989 - From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the conclusion of the 1989 Monday Demonstration.
Figaros Hochzeit (The Marriage of Figaro)
1949, b&w, ca. 101 min. - Director: Georg Wildhagen. Shortly after WWII, the DEFA Studios produced a series of operas and operettas which belonged to the classical German musical heritage. This enchanting film, the very first opera production of DEFA, stands out because of tits lavish decor and costumes, the outstanding actors and their masterful voices of that time. Featuring Angelika Hauff, Erna Berger, Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, Sabina Peters, Tiana Lemnitz, u.v.a.
Fuenf Patronenhuelsen (Five Cartridges)
English subtitles, 1960, b&w, ca. 85 min. - Director: Frank Beyer. A stylized drama of character and landscape set during the period of the Spanish Civil War. A stylized drama of character and landscape with two of the biggest stars of German cinema Today: Manfred Krug and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Five soldiers during the Spanish Civil War hide their dying commander's last message in five empty bullet shells. Together these five go through hell and back to keep the message form falling into the enemy's hands. One gives up, but the other four manage to reach their destination with the message still intact.
Gegenbilder: DDR Underground Filme (GDR Underground
Films) DFA 148
English subtitles, 1997, b&w/color, ca. 90 min. - Director: Lutz Dammbeck, Gino Hahnemann, Cornelia Scleime, Cornelia Klauss, Volker Lewandowsky, Thomas Frydetzki, Claus Loeser, Tohm di Roes, Thomas Werner, Ramo. The State had a monopoly on film production in East Germany, but it was not absolute. An underground film scene made up of painters, poets, musicians and performance artists flourished from the 1970s through the 1980s outside official channels. Presented here for the first time outside Germany is a selection of 10 films from this fascinating and provocative film world. DFA 148 Sold Out
The Gleiwitz Case DFA 151
English subtitles, 1961, 70 min, Director Gerhard Klein reconstructs details of the surprise attack by a nazi unit on the radio station at Gleiwitz on the Polish border in 1939. Immediately after the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, Gerhard Klein's film The Gleiwitz Case arrived in theaters in the GDR. Together with authors Wolfgang Kohlhaase and Guenther Ruecker, Klein reconstructed details of the surprise attack by a Nazi unit on the radio station at Gleiwitz on the Polish border in 1939. This attack, which was later blamed on Polish forces, served as Hitler's reason for marching into Poland, starting the Second World War. Cool and impartial, the film reflects on the possibilities and techniques of provocation. It shows how facts and opinions can be manipulated and how people are made to accept lies, murder and war. Gerhard Klein and his Czech cameraman Jan Curik found an impressive visual language with which to describe fascism: groups of people were assembled into ornaments, in which the individual is suppressed by the masses. This enlightening perspective on the fundamentals of totalitarian power and violence met with resistance among the cultural politicians in the GDR. The film was accused of glorifying fascism. Today, the film is considered one of the most modern and experimental films in DEFA history. DVD Bonus Materials: Essay titled The Case of The Gleiwitz Case; Film about editor Evelyn Carow; Orignal Trailor; Photo Gallery; Biographies & Filmographies
Heisser Sommer (Hot Summer)
English subtitles, 1968, color, ca. 91 min. - Director: Joachim Hasler. An original DEFA musical. Since its 1993 comeback in Germany, Hot Summer has risen to the ranks of quirky and "alternative" cult films. East Germany's own unique version of Grease.
Ich war neunzehn (I Was Nineteen)
English subtitles, 1968, b&w, 115 min. - Director: Konrad Wolf. Konrad Wolf's most autobiographical film is a poetic exploration of the postwar dilemmas of German identity and a powerful document of the search for a "usable" German past after the debacle of film censorship in 1965. Nineteen year-old Gregor Hecker returns to Germany in April 1945 wearing the uniform of a Russian Lieutenant. He had to leave the country with his parents when he was eight years old and now feels a stranger on German soil and was put in charge of a small town.
Jakob der Luegner (Jacob the Liar)
English subtitles, 1974, color, ca. 96 min. - Director: Frank Beyer. A subtle, moving drama about a former restaurateur who brings hope to his Nazi-occupied Polish ghetto by telling fabricated news stories. Trapped in a Polish ghetto with thousands of other Jews facing starvation or deportation to the death camps, Jacob is detained one evening at Gestapo headquarters. Eavesdropping, he overhears a radio report about a nearby Russian victory. At first he is silent, but circumstances compel him to pass on the good news of hope. In order to be believed, he feigns access to a hidden, strictly forbidden radio. Quickly he becomes a one-man bulwark against despair, a reluctant hero, but a tragic figure still - a man ultimately powerless to see or change the fate of his people. Jacob the Liar is a heartbreaking, yet funny film that enlivens with the sheer power of its insight. A masterwork of artistry and understanding not to be missed.
Just Don't Think I'll Cry (Denk bloss nicht ich
heule) DFA 124
English subtitles, 1964; 91 mins.; b&w, Director: Frank Vogel. Labeled anti-socialist and banned by GDR government officials, this film was belatedly acclaimed a masterpiece of critical realism. A story about conformism and hypocrisy in schools. In September 1963, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), the ruling party of the GDR, published a "Youth Communiqué." This document mandated that young people should no longer be passive recipients of education, but should be cultivated as independently thinking and acting individuals. Thus the concept "Leaders of Tomorrow" emerged. At the same time, DEFA introduced a series of feature films which portrayed the everyday lives of young people. This group of films included Just Don't Think I'll Cry, the story of an 18 year-old high school senior's conflict with society. Despite his being thrown out of school for writing a provocative essay, he continues to oppose the lethargy and hypocrisy he sees around him. He wants to remain true to himself no matter what the cost.
Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love)
English subtitles, 1959, b&w, ca. 109 min. - Director: Martin Hellberg. The film impressed by the monumental scenery and historical costumes. Director Hellberg opens a new view onto one of the most important plays of classical German literature. Based on the drama by Friedrich Schiller. Luise, daughter of the town musician Miller, is in love with Ferdinand, the son of President von Walter. The President wants his son to marry the Duke's concubine so that he will have a greater influence over the Duke. The lovers become the victims of a secret intrigue. Ferdinand finally poisons himself and Luise. Superb acting in this film which is based on Schiller's drama.
Das Kaninchen bin ich (The Rabbit Is Me)
English subtitles, 1965, b&w, ca. 109 min. - Director: Kurt Maetzig. For 24 years it was a banned film. Only after the fall of the Wall was it presented in cinemas. After its initial presentation in 1989, critics hailed 'The Rabbit Is Me' as one of the most important and courageous works ever filmed by DEFA. Director Kurt Maetzig drew ideas from a forbidden novel by Manfred Bieler: a 19-year-old girl named Maria Morzeck is denied university admission because her brother is in jail for political reasons. The young woman falls in love with a judge, but later finds out that he is the judge who passed the harsh sentence on her brother. When the GDR justice system undergoes a slight reform, the judge quickly reverses his earlier ruling. Maria sees through his opportunism and leaves him. DEFA made this film in 1965 to encourage discussion of democratization of East German society. Soon after, the political leadership of the GDR labeled The Rabbit Is Me an attack on the state, anti-socialist, pessimistic and revisionist. After SED banned the film, director Maetzig wrote a biting self-criticism which was published in the largest daily newspaper in the country. Shocked by these attacks, DEFA ceased production of a dozen other critical films in progress, almost the entire year's production. The films remained taboo and no one was allowed to see them until the end on the 1980s.
Karbid und Sauerampfer (Carbide and Sorrel)
English subtitles, 1963, b&w, ca. 80 min. - Director: Frank Beyer. Combining fast-paced humor, keen social observation and popular appeal, this film reached over 1 million viewers in a short three-month period. "One of the best German film comedies." - The Oxford History of World Cinema. After the end of World War II, workers in Dresden decide to build a cigarette factory. They send their colleague Kalle hundreds of kilometers north to pick up carbide for welding. He picks up seven barrels, which he must move across the Soviet occupation zone without a car. Throughout this odyssey he runs into forests full of land mines, man-crazy women, Russian guards and other life-threatening dangers. Director Frank Beyer made Carbide and Sorrel between his anti-fascist epic Naked among Wolves (1963) and his legendary forbidden film Trace of Stones (1966). The hilarious screenplay was a lucky find as was the lead actor Erwin Geschonneck, a man whose self-confidence and laconic with got him through the ups and downs of everyday life. DFA 93 Sold Out
Die Legende von Paul und Paula (The Legend of Paul
and Paula) DFA 135
English subtitles, 1973, color, ca. 106 min. - Director: Heiner Carow. To this day, the most poplar DEFA film. Based on Ulrich Plenzdorf's controversial screenplay about the love between a single woman and a complacently married bureaucrat. Featuring the up tempo music of the GDR rock group, The Phudys, this is a film about longings, dreams and the pursuit of individual freedom. A cult classic. To this day The Legend of Paul and Paula is the most popular DEFA film. Author Ulrich Plenzdorf and director Heiner Carow tell about the love of a single saleswoman to a married and complacent bureaucrat who comes out of his shell. "Go to her and fly your kite," sings the GDR rock group The Puhdys in this romantic and ironic treatment of reality. The film's fundamental plea for individual freedom caused contradictory reactions among dogmatic politicians. In most East German districts this film was banned for months.
Look At This City - Berlin After The War (Schaut
auf diese Stadt) DFA 129
English subtitles, 1962; 86 min.; b&w, Director: Karl Gass, The history of West Berlin from the end of the Second World War to the days following the building of the Walló from a communist perspective. A provocative and informative time capsule from the days of the Cold War. Director Karl Gass begins his film before the construction of the Wall. With montages of rate authentic images, Look at this City: was intended to prove how important and necessary the closing of the border was for the preservation of the GDR. The director provided an account of the political, social and ecological development form a communist perspective the Eastern section of Berlin was portrayed as a city of peace, while the West was portrayed as a "front" city and "spearhead against the East." The source of constant disruptions, West Berlin could only be resisted by forcefully isolating it. The film argued that the GDR, with the creation of the Wall, would be able to secure the possibility of peace in Europe and throughout the world.
Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives
of Windsor) DFA 69
1950, b&w, ca. 90 min. - Director: Georg Wildhagen. This musical masterpiece was questioned by the SED prior to its release due to the film's portrayal of societal relations. Check out this great comedic performance.
Der dicke Adlige Falstaff, der Fresser, Saeufer und Weiberheld von Windsor, ist dieses Mal an die Falschen geraten. Frau Fluth und Frau Reich schmieden gemeinsam einen Plan um den Kerl fuer immer davonzujagen. Nach Shakespeares gleichnamigen Lustspiel.
Die Mauer (The Wall) DFA 128
1990, English subtitles, b&w/color, ca. 99 min. - Director: Juergen Boettcher. From the documentary filmmaker and painter Juergen Boettcher. His topic: the Berlin Wall, its last days and its highly anticipated destruction. Lyrical and haunting. A film masterpiece. Boettcher composed his films like a "Tafelbild". For the settings, he chose historical places in the center of Berlin: Potsdamer Platz, the Reichstag, and the Brandenburg Gate. One the broken-down Wall he projected historic motion pictures: Emperor Wilhelm's ride through the Brandenburg Gate the torch-lit procession of the Nazis, the famous picture of an East German policeman filmed feeing to the West in 1961 and the fall of the Wall.
Minna von Barnhelm oder Das Soldatenglueck (Minna
von Barnhelm or The Soldier's Fortune DFA 44
English subtitles, 1962, color, ca. 103 min. - Director: Martin Hellberg. A sweeping story of love, pride and betrayal. Based on the drama by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. It is important to note that the script left Lessing's text practically unchanged. The pointed and cogent dialogue passages as well as the plot are given a highly effective cinematic interpretation. What makes this film stand out is the brilliant cast led by Marita Boehme, Otto Mellies and Manfred Krug. During the Seven Year's War, the Prussian Major von Tellheim becomes engaged to the Saxon noblewoman Minna von Barnhelm. After the war, the King - in an unwarranted move - deprives the major of his title. Von Tellheim becomes impoverished and, filled with shame, breaks off his relationship to Minna. But she remains devoted to her beloved Tellheim and cunningly manages to elicit a new declaration of love from him.
Die Moerder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Among
Us) KOV 449
English subtitles, 1946, b&w/color, ca. 81 min. - Director: Wolfgang Staudte. The first feature to be produced in postwar Germany was made under the auspices of the new DEFA Studios, featuring the budding star Hildegard Knef. It is ranked by film critics among the top ten of Germany's 100 most important films. Its film noir style is reminiscent of German expressionism. A man and a woman return to Berlin in the aftermath of World War II to face the harsh realities of postwar Germany. Susanne Wallner is a concentration camp survivor who, despite unspeakable experiences, is filled with a new desire to live. Dr. Hans Mertens is a former physician and officer in the German army who finds himself unable to deal with the haunting memories of his role in the war. Through Susanne's caring, the broken man gathers new strength and courage, but discovers the shadow of his past cannot be avoided.
Our Daily Bread (Unser taeglich Brot)
English subtitles, 1949; 99 min.; b&w, Director: Slatan Dudow, A story about a struggling family after the Second World War, this is considered to be East Germany's first socialist film. Berlin's world of ruins is captured in almost documentary fashion. Karl Weber a petty bourgeois cashier in Berlin, observes from a distance how his son Ernst participates in the building of a new socialist society after the Second World War. Karl does not understand Ernst's visions, instead, he confides in his other son Harry. However, Harry becomes involved in illicit business and Karl quickly realizes that it would be best to join his son Ernst in the people-oriented" factory. With this film, director Slatan Dudow (1903-1963) continues the traditions of proletarian German film from the Weimar Republic.
Roman einer jungen Ehe (The Story of a Young Couple)
English subtitles, 1952, b&w, ca. 99 min. - Director: Kurt Maetzig. A DEFA propaganda film of the Cold War depicting with dramatic verve the period between 1946 and 1951 from a decidedly Stalinist perspective. As of 1956, when Stalin and his crimes were officially denounced' 'The Story of a Young Couple' was no longer shown in the GDR. Agnes and Jochen, a husband and wife who are actors, live in the western part of Berlin. They fall in love just as the conflict between East and West is deepening shortly after the end of World War II. Agnes does not want to take part in the "cold and heartless propaganda against the East and be dragged into the "militaristic theater." She leaves Jochen and goes to the GDR to contribute to its development with her talents.
Rotation DFA 96
English subtitles, 1949; 80 mins.; b&w, Director: Wolfgang Staudte, An anti-fascist film now considered a classic. Upon its release in 1949, director Staudte was forced to change the ending which was deemed too pacifist. Ranked by film critics as among Germany’s 100 most important films. Wolfgang Staudte's Rotation portrays the petty bourgeois and their support for Hitler during the Nazi period. The main character, the mechanic Behnke, wants to join the Nazi party to secure a good living. However, after his Jewish neighbors are taken away, he changes his views. Trying to remain "a non-political man," he withdraws from reality and becomes a Nazi laborer. In September 1949, Rotation came to theaters in the Soviet occupation zone. But first, upon requests of the DEFA management and its Soviet advisors, the director had to change the indefinite ending of the film. Staudte's intention had been to show how both Behnkes father and son, burn their military uniforms. But at a time when East Germany was setting up people's police (Volkspolizei), such pacifist images were taboo. The new ending which took Staudte six months to revise, shows two young people who optimistically ponder the future.
Das singende, klingende Baeumchen (The Singing,
Ringing Tree) DFA 24
1957, color, ca. 70 min. - Director: Francesco Stefani. In order to win the love of a beautiful but haughty princess, a prince sets out to find the fabled singing, ringing tree. This Brothers Grimm tale was filmed primarily for children but has since been enjoyed throughout Europe by "children" of all ages. Recommended for children.
Die Soehne der grossen Baerin (The Sons of Great
Bear) DFA 27
English subtitles, 1966, color, ca. 93 min. - Director: Josef Mach. This production began the most successful series of films at the box office in the history of East German cinema. A young and fearless chief, Tokeiitho, tries valiantly to protect his Dakota tribe's ancestral land from greedy white invaders in search of gold. The struggle proves hopeless. Tormented by their inhuman living conditions, the Indians resolve to flee from the reservation and journey to more fertile lands beyond the Missouri into Canada.
Solo Sunny DFA 41
English subtitles, 1980; 102 min.; Color, Director: Konrad Wolf, A huge box office success, this film addressed the longings and frustrations of East German youth. SOLO SUNNY also artfully captures the GDR version of "70s style" with its gritty-glitzy visuals and catchy soundtrack. Its success promised a youthful renewal in DEFA, yet two "discoveries" among its youth talent - star Renate Kroessner and cinematographer Eberhard Geick - soon felt compelled to pursue their careers in the West. Awarded the Silver Bear at the 1980 Berlin Film Festival. Sunny is a pop-singer with a mediocre band. She longs to be happy and recognized as someone special. The Taxi driver, Harry, idolizes her but she does not share his limited ambitions. Instead she falls in love with the philosopher Ralph, who betrays her. After resisting a sexual assault from a fellow musician and verbal abuse from the band's emcee, Sunny gets kicked out of the band. Depressed by this and Ralph's indifference, she combines alcohol and sleeping tablets and winds up in the hospital... Finally, she starts over, in the "underground" scene of Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin.
Somewhere in Berlin (Irgendwo in Berlin)
# DFA 107
English subtitles, 1946; 79 mins.; b&w, Director: Gerhard Lamprecht builds on his successes of the 1920s and 30s with the 1946 film Somewhere in Berlin. Before the war, he was famous for his socially critical Berlin films which were based on the popular drawing s by Heinrich Zille. Lamprecht brought the world of prostitutes, beggars and day laborers to the screen. The setting is the devastated landscape of postwar Berlin. SOMEWHERE IN BERLIN realistically portrays the inhabitants of this shattered society with psychological precision and grace. A moving story about hope and courage. Somewhere in Berlin is about the "little people." The film takes place in the ruined landscape of Berlin, in which children perform feats of bravery by playing with un detonated bombs and climbing in the rubble. One boy is disappointed with his father, who comes home powerless and hopeless from a POW camp. Somewhere in Berlin shows how the children convince this weary man to clean and restore his bomb-damaged garage, managing in the end to give him new hope. Lamprecht wanted this story to urge his audience to take similar actions.
**No longer Available**
Spur der Steine (Trace of Stones)
English subtitles, 1966, b&w, ca. 133 min. - Director: Frank Beyer. This film, which tells the story of a socialist construction worker and his unconventional methods, was banned for 25 years. Arguably the most important DEFA film of the 1960s, 'Trace of Stones' was shelved by East Germany following its 1966 release and was the catalyst that forced director Frank Beyer out of the DEFA Studios.
Sun Seekers (Sonnensucher)
English subtitles, 1958; 116 mins.; b&w, Director: Konrad Wolf. In the fall of 1950 Lutz and Emmi are arrested after the police raid a bar-room brawl. They are not sentenced to prison but instead they are forced to work in a uranium mine in Wismut. Their new "home" is full of characters with unusual destinies: old anarchists working next to former SS members and Russian officers. Emotions collide, as well as fists. Director Konrad Wolf (1925 - 1982) began his work on the film in April, 1957. Despite Wolf's attempt to tell a dramatic story with truth and humanity, his work on the screenplay raised constant objections from both the GDR government and the Russian cultural authorities. The uranium mine Wismut in the southern GDR appeared as chaotic as a wild west gold rush town. Wolf was also accused of undermining the leading role of the communist party with the film. Politicians as high as Party Chairman Walter Ulbrichts got involved in the making of the film. Shortly after the planned premiere in 1958, Sun Seekers was forbidden. The Soviet government vetoed the film to avoid depicting how uranium for atom bombs was being mined in the GDR. Sun Seekers was not released until 1971, but even today it impresses with its political complexity, variety of characters and the realistic portrayal of daily work in a forbidden zone of the industrial landscape.
That Was the GDR
Unterm Birnbaum (Under the Pear Tree)
1973, color, ca. 86 min. - Director: Ralf Kirsten. A gripping, methodical treatment of a classic crime. Based on the novella of the same title by the great German realist Theodor Fontane. Gastwirt Hradschek steht vor dem Ruin. Als sich ein Schuldeneintreiber ankuendigt, ersinnt er mit seiner Frau einen Plan. Obwohl die Anwohner den Geldeintreiber davongehen sehen, findet man seine Kutsche in der Oder, von ihm selbst jedoch keine Spur. Nun geraet das Ehepaar unter Mordverdacht. Die Nachbarschaft fuehrt die Gendarmen zu einem Birnbaum, wo man Hradschek des Nachts hat graben sehen...
Der Untertan (The Kaiser's Lackey)
English subtitles, 1951, b&w, ca. 103 min. - Director: Wolfgang Staudte. An historical satire of biting sharpness and grand comedy. Staudte's wonderfully successful adaptation of Heinrich Mann's world-famous novel has become a film classic. Diederich Hessling is a wimp. He obeys authority like a scared little kid. Soon he realizes an important lesson of ambition: one has to first serve power if one expects to gain power for oneself. From then on, his motto in life is: bow to superiors and kick underlings. One of his biggest dreams finally comes true when he is able to give the keynote address at the dedication of an Emperor's monument.
Wozzek DFA 67
1947, b&w, ca. 94 min. - Director: Georg C. Klaren. A film, based on Georg Buechner's taut drama, with exceptional visual power. Both sharply realistic and uncannily visionary. Der Fuesilier Franz Wozzeck erduldet jede Demueting seiner Vorgesetzten um mit Marie, die er liebt, spaeter ein bescheidenes Leben fuehren zu koennen. Doch als der Tambourmajor ihm Marie nimmt, wird Franz zum Moerder... Dieser Film basierend auf Georg Buechners Dramenfragment, besitzt eine aussergewoehnliche Bildkraft, sowohl im scharf Realistischen als auch im unheimlichen Visionaeren.
Zar und Zimmermann (Tzar and Carpenter)
Who is the real Tzar? Marie sees before her an impossible task. A comic opera about Tzar Peter I of Russia and Peter the carpenter in the small Dutch town of Saardam. Wer ist denn nun der wirkliche Zar? Marie sieht sich vor eine fast unloesbare Aufgabe gestellt. Ein Verwechslungsspiel um Zar Peter I. von Russland im hollaendischen Staedtchen Saardam. Albert Lortzings populaeres Opernlustspiel als Filmerlebnis.
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