Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: Changing Skins (Andreas Dresen, 1997)

Sunday 4 February 2024, Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: RAUS AUS DER HAUT * 1997 * (Changing Skins) * Directed by Andreas Dresen * 90 minutes * In German with English subtitles * free screening * doors open at 8pm * intro & film start at 8.30

The setting is mid 1970s East Germany, and our story revolves around two high school students, Anna and Marcus, who are inspired by news reports coming from West Germany. What are they excited by? Some new product on the western market, or a Hollywood film? No, they are captivated by the real-life terrorists Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof who were robbing banks and kidnapping corporate executives. When their teacher threatens to demote them, which would prevent them from entering university because of their unruly behavior, they decide to drug their teacher, kidnap him, and keep him hostage in a cellar until after they graduate. This little gem is a ‘feel-good’ terrorist film by the East German director Andreas Dresen. It is a romance, but with a sharp wit and sense of humor. Personally, I adore this little gem, and it’s totally unknown.

After the fall of the Berlin wall, few directors from the former East bloc were able to make films in the new ‘united’ Germany. They were mostly run out of the industry, and thrown into unemployment. They were treated as if they had been contaminated by the plague. Andreas Dresen is one of the few voices in cinema that can accurately portray the life and dreams of his former East bloc GDR. And he does this with magic and charm…. and in the process he dispels many of the myths people in the West have about East Germany.

This is a mind-opening flick, with a series of wild twists and turns, but also a down-to-earth sense of humanity that was typical of the GDR. Here there is no trace of the arrogance of big-budget American movies that seem fueled by cocaine and cash. This is a low budget flick with a beautiful sensibility. Even within Germany this film is extremely difficult to see, and outside Germany it is utterly unknown. That makes this an extremely rare screening of this discreet masterpiece.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Free entrance. You want to screen a movie, let us know: joe [at] lists [dot] squat [dot] net

Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: Divided Heaven (Konrad Wolf, 1964), GDR series

Sunday 11 September 2022, Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: Divided Heaven / Der geteilte Himmel (GDR series), 1964 adaptation of Christa Wolf’s novel by Konrad Wolf, 109 minutes, in German with English subtitles. Doors open at 20:00, film starts at 20:30.

This film is part of the GDR / Why Women Had Better Sex under Socialism series

Based on the famous novel by Christa Wolf about two lovers who are torn apart as the Berlin Wall is about to be constructed, dividing the country in two. Rita has a lover, but over the course of their relationship it becomes clear they have different political points of view. The movie is great in laying out excellent arguments for both sides… the socialist East Bloc and the consumer-orientated West.

The film embraces the structure of the novel, which begins with a woman waking up in a hospital, and through flashbacks, recounts the recent events that got her there. This wild structure matches well with the film’s French New Wave feel. It is often quite experimental – using angular photography and scenes overlapping between the present moment and the past. The cinematography is crystalline, with an endless array of exquisitely composed black-and-white images. The soundtrack is also bold, with an experimental electronic music score giving the story a modern, ‘in transition’ sort of mood.

It makes sense that since each character is a different gender, they make different decisions. In the West men are in control and have more advantages… and Rita stays in the East where there was much more gender equality. But the real argument is much more than that, it is more about if a person should fight for a cause, or just live as easy as possible.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Free entrance. You want to screen a movie, let us know: joe [at] lists [dot] squat [dot] net

Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: Die Beunruhigung / Apprehension (Lothar Warneke, 1982)

Sunday May 19th 2019, Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: Die Beunruhigung / Apprehension (Lothar Warneke, 1982). 100 minutes. In German with English subtitles. Doors open at 20.00, Jeffrey’s intro and film start at 20.30

These days we have such a prejudiced view of the former East Bloc, as if it was totally a one-sided thing that never changed, and in our arrogance, we demonize it without the slightest idea what we are talking about. Believe it or not, in the former East Germany there was an effort to make a cinema that was free of propaganda – both the so-called ‘Soviet realism’ of Russia, but also the fake romantic propaganda of Hollywood. And in two areas the East German cinema thematically excelled – they were ‘anti-war’ and ‘pro-women.’ So in the GDR there was an entire genre exploring the real-life situation of women. By contrast, in the so-called “democratic” west women were mostly relegated to side roles in movies – often as secretaries or housewives or love interests. Today we have female super-hero films, but they are as ridiculous as the former roles, and are about as empowering as a shot of arsenic. Because of the recent ‘me too’ movement, there have been a few more films highlighting the female situation… but they don’t hold a candle to what was happening in East Germany 40 years ago.

What is this film about? It doesn’t have a huge overarching story, but rather focuses more on a specific situation. Our main character Inge is a mid-thirties social worker and a single mother, magnificently portrayed by actress Christine Schorn. She is told she has breast cancer, possibly malignant. The entire film is about her thoughts and emotions, her conversations and behavior. It is based on an autobiographical novel by the popular GDR writer Helga Schubert. The style is stripped-down, allowing real discussions to occur about real things. In a way, this film is like a cinematic detox session that cuts the audience off from all spectacle, cheap tricks and quick thrills. Personally, I found it exhilarating. It’s a biting flick, made even more heart-wrenching by its unsentimentality, and Its documentary-like edge also makes it valuable as a poignant document of East Berlin in 1981.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Free entrance. You want to play a movie, let us know: joe [at] lists [dot] squat [dot] net

Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: Latest from the DaDa-ER

Sunday August 5th 2018, Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: Latest from the DaDa-ER (Letztes aus der DaDaeR). Directed by Jörg Foth, 1990, 86 minutes. In German with English subtitles. Door opens at 20:30, film and presentation from 21:00.

After the Berlin wall fell the East-German film scene went haywire, since there was suddenly a small window of time that meant it was no longer under the authority of the previous GDR government, and as of yet were not forced to become commercial by the capitalist system. In this small period they knocked out some truly wild and exceptional off-beat cries of rebellion. This film is a marvelous example. It couldn’t have been made a year earlier when the GDR was still strong, and it wouldn’t have been made a year later when the DEFA studio was bought by a French conglomerate.

What we have here is a avant-garde picaresque story of two East-German clowns rummaging through the ruins of the GDR, and although the clowns seem relieved that everything is loosening up, at the same time everything is falling apart and they also show no interest in the glamor and spectacle of the ‘other’ half of Germany. This film was made at a very acute point in time. The main forces behind this freewheeling creation were two visionary performance artists – Steffen Mensching and Hans-Eckardt Wenzel. The are both the writers and the main actors in this surreal flick about two clowns trying to survive the last days of East Germany. Their journey is almost like Dante’s inferno, as they are let out of prison, and they venture through garbage dumps and down rivers into unbelievable situations. Each stage of their quest is set up like a cabaret piece, complete with songs they sing that describe their plight. They find themselves in an almost no-man’s land, and their observations are critical of both East and West Germany.

The title of the movie is a play of words merging of the word ‘Dada’ and the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). This highly unique flick also surprisingly features Rainer Werner Fassbinder regular Irm Hermann in a cameo role. Another outrageously rare screening of totally forgotten cinema.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Free entrance. You want to play a movie, let us know: joe [at] squat [dot] net