Cinema Europa / 9th May / 16.00

Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser (Gerhard Klein, 1957)

Youngsters deemed rebellious by the powers-that-be were a problem in both Germanies, essentially for the same reasons: Postwar values, also the experience of US popular culture, made them question the (essentially autocratic) world of their elders. Especially the pop aspect might come as a surprise for some with regards to the GDR, but mind: this is before the Wall, when there was a certain (partly illegal, albeit ordinary) back-and-forth between the sectors in Berlin – and Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser, just like Die Halbstarken, is very much a Berlin-movie; it should therefore not come as a surprise when the youngsters in Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser talk eg. about watching movies in the West sectors and having a thing for Marlon Brando. Another telling parallel between the two Germanies is the fact, that juvenile dissent is seen as something criminal. Halbstarker (an FRG-expression that took roots in the GDR, albeit only semi-officially and with a strong negative slant suggesting capitalist corruption) means nothing more than a teenager with a bit of attitude; a Halbstarker is not a juvenile delinquent – and yet, films about Halbstarken always deal with crimes, thereby identifying dissent with antisocial behavior. Which in the GDR was of a far more varied nature: A common crime like theft was as suspicious as not wanting to join the FDJ (the SED’s youth organization) or trying to leave the country illegally. In Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser, all this plays a part in the extremely intricate weave of stories that unfold here. Unsurprisingly enough, the film got into serious trouble, starting with the fact that Gerhard Klein started shooting the film without official permission and showed it to the Authorities when it was finished; it only escaped the shelf because the FDJ (!) considered it important – and was proven right when Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser became one of the most successful productions in DEFA history.