Original Title: Die Moerder sind unter uns Soviet Sector, 1946, 81 min., b/w
Dir. & Script: Wolfgang Staudte Camera: Friedl Behn-Grund Editing: Hans Heinrich Music: Ernst Roters Cast: Hildegard Knef (Susanne Wallner), Ernst Wilhelm Borchert (Dr. Mertens), Arno Paulsen (Herr Brückner), Erna Sellmer, Robert Forsch.
Synopsis: The Murderers Are among Us, the first German postwar film, for many years set the tone for the discussion of German guilt and atonement. Its lack of explicit references to Jews and their fate at the hands of the Nazis speaks to the state of the postwar German psyche.
His body intact, but mentally broken, the German Dr. Mertens returns home from the war only to find Berlin in ruins. As Mertens drowns his depression in alcohol, not even his much-needed skills as a doctor can draw him out of his cocoon of despair and immobility. Self-imposed isolation keeps Mertens from participating in the slow rebuilding of Berlin, the ruins of which reflect his inner feeling of hopelessness. He takes over a half-destroyed apartment as a squatter and cannot find the energy or the motivation to clean away the rubble inside. The apartment, however, belongs to Susanne Wallner, who returns home from a concentration camp where she had been sent by the Nazis for ties to communism. Like Mertens, she finds the city and the apartment in ruins. Wallner cleans up the apartment despite Mertens’ resistance and offers to share the space with him. Mertens, meanwhile, has found his former commander in Berlin; Captain Brückner is now the manager of a factory where army helmets are turned into pots and pans. During the war, Mertens had stood by as Brückner ordered the killing of civilians. These memories are at the root of Mertens’ trauma and anger. Brückner is wealthy and successful in postwar society and does not understand Mertens’ bitterness. Dr. Mertens holds Brückner personally responsible for his trauma and seeks revenge. Only at the last minute can Wallner stop the man she loves from killing his nemesis; she reminds Mertens that it is their obligation to bring criminals to justice, but not to deliver judgment.
Original Title: Berlin - Ecke Schoenhauser East Germany, 1957, 82 min., b/w
Synopsis: They are East Berlin teenagers. They want to be free – to dance to rock’n’roll, trade forbidden Western goods and get away from the constraints of their parents and the state. This classic 1950’s teen cult film – which stars Bertolt Brecht's son-in-law, Ekkehard Schall – is a perceptive social portrayal of a city in which political and economic division affects the entire population. Although the film became a box-office hit and was greeted with suspicion by East German officials. Ranked by film critics among Germany’s 100 Most Important Films, this Kohlhaase-Klein collaboration makes an important contribution to the international youth film genre.
OCTOBER 16th, 8PM
TRACE OF STONES
East Germany, 1966, 139 min., b/w Director: Frank Beyer
This East German story of a party leader in disgrace and a cynical leader of a worker brigade offered only the mildest criticism of the communist system, but was barred from being shown when it was made in 1966. Not only that, but its director Frank Beyer was forbidden to make films for a decade. In the story, a married Communist party secretary (i.e., a government big-wig) with a family of his own has fallen into disgrace as a result of having an affair with a young women and getting her pregnant. Consequently, he is accused of "immoral behavior, careerism and political and ideological failure." Strong, if puzzling words. Another type of man entirely is also in love with the young woman. He is the "brigade leader" (foreman) of a construction crew. His cynicism about the party's role in the workplace is possibly one of the reasons the film was banned until 1990. Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide
OCTOBER 9th, 8PM
THE LEGEND OF PAUL AND PAULA
East Germany, 1973, 105 min., b/w - color Director: Heiner Carow
Paul and Paula have had bad experiences with love: Paul is financially well off but has lost all affection for his wife, and Paula leads a troublesome life raising two children on her own. They meet and discover a strong passion for each other. Life seems like a dream when they're together - but their short flights from the burdens of reality are once and again interrupted by Paul's ties to family and career.
About the East German Film Nights
This series of films from East Germany will circle around the question of how architecture was used to create an image or reflect the image of a 'new society'. The first film will be the last one so to speak ('The Architects' from 1990) and from there on it will gradually go back in time until the early years of the GDR. These screenings are part of my thesis project, which will also deal with the above mentioned issues.
OCTOBER 2nd, 8PM
East Germany, 1980, 102 min., color Director: Konrad Wolf
Synopsis: Sunny (Renate Krößner, Go for Zucker), an aspiring singer, longs to be happy and recognized as someone special. Sunny gets kicked out of the band, but starts over in the "underground" scene of Prenzlauer Berg in East Berlin. Based on a true story, this smash hit by Konrad Wolf and Wolfgang Kohlhaase addressed the longings and frustrations of East German youth. The film also captures the East German “70’s style” in its gritty-glitzy visuals and its catchy soundtrack. Solo Sunny is ranked by film critics among the 100 Most Significant German Films of all time.
Sept, 25 th The Architects
Synopsis: Daniel feels like a stranger in his own land. His architectural plans for a new development have been rejected for not complying with standardized designs. His colleagues decide to leave Daniel to himself. Even Daniel's wife, Wanda, is despondent and wants to move westwards with her daughter like so many others. Daniel is left to wonder what happened to his country and its people in the years before 1989. A bitter cinema drama.