This year’s Berlinale devoted an entire retrospective to the year 1966. Maybe also because the festival itself celebrated its 66th birthday. Film Programmes bring you a small part of abundant film selection, even though they may be its most relevant

Germany 1966 – East and West of the Wall

Germany, year 1966. For some it may not be as relevant and important as Germany in the early 1970’s (code: Deutschland, im Herbst) when Fassbinder fought with his mother and channeled his aggression to his partner Armin. However, it is no less intriguing. Change was in the air even though the mythical 1968 had not happened yet. This year’s Berlinale devoted an entire to the year 1966. Maybe also because the festival itself celebrated its 66th birthday. Film Programmes bring you a small part of this abundant film selection, even though they may be its most relevant. Even though the program includes films from both sides of the wall, their preoccupations are similar.

On the western side of the Wall, filmmakers were facing contradictions of the economic wonder of the post-Adenauer Germany. On the eastern side their comrades questioned their lives in socialism. In the west, new German film was already making a name for itself on the international film festival scene, which started four years before when a group of German Authors, led by Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz, at the initiative of the film maker Haro Senft, signed the Oberhausen manifest with the motto “The old film is dead. We believe in the new one.” At the same time most of the films directed by their colleagues from the GDR with the stamp of studio DEFA were placed in bunkers, in accordance with the 11th plenum of the Central Committee of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). Even though they were supposed to be regularly distributed in that same year, most of them ended up having their premieres in late 1980’s or after the fall of the Wall.

West. Same year. At the Berlin Film Festival Peter Schamoni was awarded the Silver Bear award for his debut film Schonzeit fur Fuchse (No Shooting Time for Foxes), and the director was called the “new Godard”. The film follows of German bourgeois from the Rhein region during the Adenauer era, their hunting and military rituals, alienation and social privileges, starring the former UFA star Willy Birgel who emblematically embodies the “stable Self-confidence” of his ancestors. In that same year, film adaptation of Musil’s novel Young Torless directed by Volker Schlöndorff, which follows the unsettling rituals and turbulent friendships in one boarding school, was shown in Cannes. In it the author’s references to Nazism, its brutality and humiliations are more than obvious. A lucid piece of direct film with a shattered narration, Abschied von Gestern directed by its most radical icon Alexander Kluge won the Silver Bear at the Mostra in Venice. It is based on the author’s short story 'Anita G' and it was made under great influence of the French new wave. It stars the director’s sister Alexandra as the maladjusted girl who is portrayed as the archetypal incarnation of the German post-war generation who is trying to discover freedom, independence and happiness in a new environment after moving to the West with her family. However, her life seems to resemble “borrowing” of her friend’s sweater when by mentioning the tragedy her family had to go through during the Holocaust she tries to gain the court’s trust. Kluge states in the introduction to the film: “What sets us apart from yesterday is not a gap but rather a change of place”.  

East. Same year. Painter and documentarist Jurgen Botticher made his film Jahrgang 45 (Born in '45), which was banned and had its premiere in 1990. The author chose a team of amateur actors who portrayed the cynical youth involved in the development of the socialist society but often clashed with the old political cadre who had no understanding for their insurgence (Honecker called their conflicts “manifestations of hooliganism”). In this same film the grey and unpresentable façades on Prenzlauer Berg, which are these days occupied by hipsters and bankers, represent an utter antipode to the new skyscrapers on the edges of the city whose building had not been finished yet but that offer a seductive vision of an ideal life. His character of a young mechanic who “will wear jeans even when he retires” flirts with his ex-girlfriend but returns to his mother’s home and flies on his motorcycle throughout the city in constant search for something that he himself cannot name. However, all that was enough for the government to label the author’s film as a story that “glorifies perversion”. In another film, director Zschoche’s free-spirited teacher Karla, portrayed as combination of idealism and naiveté, refuses to stick to the given curriculum but soon discovers the opportunism and inhibitions of her students whom, with the support of the school’s director, she tries to free from the rigid discipline. Therefore, she is in danger of being transferred to a different school. Even though things began to change at the time when this film was made, since in 1963, the Politburo issued a proclamation that somewhat liberalized its politics towards the youth, the director was advised to postpone the premiere of his film until further notice even before the notorious 11th plenum.  

West and East in the year that defined German film. In a year of parallel changes. In a year of openness and uncertainty. Ina year of economic wonder on one side of the Wall and planned economy on the other. In a year of new esthetics, censorship, insurgence and censorship. (Dragan Rubeša)