Five films that made a GDR’s legacy

6 min read

A era ago, a East Germans led a pacific array as a Berlin Wall collapsed, and moulding Germany into a nation it is today. With a reunification of Germany came a finish of a GDR, along with all of a horrors and all of a singular charms.

For a infancy of a world, a categorical means of accessing GDR story and a singular practice of a race is by art. More specifically: film. 

GDR themed films make adult a vast cube of Germany’s many internationally eminent films. The Local spoke with Dr Jochen Staat, a domestic scientist and GDR dilettante during Free University in Berlin, about how these films are suspicion of in former East German.. 

Goodbye Lenin 

Wolfgang Becker’s ‘tragicomedy’ follows Alex Kerner, a immature East Berliner who tries to disguise a tumble of a Berlin Wall and a finish of a GDR from his fixed comrade mom after she wakes adult from a coma in sequence to forestall a startle of a news causing her a second heart attack.

Goodbye Lenin is arguably one of a many iconic German films, with roughly each German libel tyro examination a film during slightest once, or study it in class. It’s a César leader and it’s both Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated.

The film captures East Germany by a lens of Ostalgie (nostalgia for a GDR) and shows a assembly how apropos partial of a entrepreneur Germany wasn’t as easy as putting adult Coca Cola banners and opening a Burger King.

According to Staat, Goodbye Lenin was widely well-received by those in a former East Germany since it deftly creates a possess singular world. We don’t see a genuine East Germany, though rather we see Alex’s East Germany, a nation he illusory and dreamed of as a child.

Through a hostile perspectives of Alex and his mom Christiane, we are offering an discernment into a incompatible perceptions of a GDR according to generation, extenuation an East German assembly mixed avenues to bond with Becker’s characters.

Sonnenallee (Sun Alley)

Sonnenallee is a entrance of age comedy, expelled in 1999, about flourishing adult in East Germany. For these “Eastie Boys”, bootleg song from a West is an essential aspect of teenage rebellion. 

The doubt of possibly Sonnenalle, a comedy, does probity to a savagery of a East German regime has been adult for discuss for 20 years. In a examination for

Der Spiegel, Marianne Wellershoff settled that a film saved a GDR and played down a disastrous aspects of life in East Germany underneath Erich Honecker.

READ ALSO: Honeckers: a many absolute family in former East Germany. What happened to them?

However, Staat forked out that a film was well-received by East German viewers, and it is set towards a latter duration of a GDR, when a regime was losing control over a population. 

He annals that a impression Wuchsel, who lives and (almost) dies by a Rolling Stones, is quite relatable for a era of former East Germans, who like him would scour a black marketplace to find copies of annals from a West.

Despite a lightsome approach, there are moments in Sonnenallee that reminds a assembly that life in a GDR isn’t all stone song and residence parties, such as when Mario, another of a boys, is forced to pointer adult for troops use in sequence to support his family.

And, when Wuchsel is shot by a limit guard, flourishing usually since a bullet gets lodged in his Rolling Stones LP, it highlights how song unequivocally was salvation for some East German youth.

READ ALSO: How a Stasi unsuccessful to overpower Rolling Stones fans in East Germany

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

Das Leben der Anderen focuses on a commanding participation of a Stasi in 1980s GDR, as Stasi representative Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) spies on a playwright before he becomes increasingly sensitive to his struggle.

In Western eyes, a film about a horrors of a Stasi and a pang that took place opposite East Germany would substantially seem some-more historically accurate than comedies such as Goodbye Lenin and Sonnenallee.

However, Staadt, emphasises that each notice of a GDR is biased and former East Germans would bond with films that many accurately simulate their experience.

For those who were teenagers when a Wall came down, and lived as a Regime mislaid a hold on a public, a comedy would potentially be some-more relatable. However for those who suffered during a hands of a Stasi and gifted a Regime during a progressing and worse days, Das Leben der Anderen would substantially be a harrowing watch that is uncomfortably tighten to home.

Staat settled that since they are an “easier” watch, it is generally a comedies that are many widely noticed in a former GDR.

Deutschland ’83

Though not a film, Deutschland ’83 is a initial German libel array to atmosphere on a US network and is a many renouned unfamiliar libel play in a story of British television. The internationally successful array tells a story of a immature East German, Martin Rauch, who is sent to West Germany to view on interest of a Stasi’s unfamiliar comprehension agency.

Unlike a other films in this list, Deutschland ’83 doesn’t concentration quite on East German life, rather dedicates equal amounts of airtime to both a Western and Eastern sides of a Wall.

Not usually does this extend a assembly entrance to both sides of a divided Germany, Staat highlights that viewers also knowledge varying levels of dispute by a drama. He explained this was pivotal to a programme apropos a “sleeper hit” with viewers opposite Germany.

Whilst a array is formed around domestic dispute on a wider scale, small-scale patrimonial and personal conflicts plays a vast purpose in a storylines. For example, a AIDS predicament and infidelity are only dual of many personal issues to impact a politically-charged characters in a series.


In a 2012 film Barbara, life in farming East Germany is depicted, rather than city life in East Berlin. The pretension impression is a alloy who before worked in a prestigious Charité sanatorium in East Berlin, though is eliminated to a farming sanatorium by a Baltic Sea as a punishment from a State after requesting to leave for a West. She is still monitored by a Stasi, even in this tiny town.

Staat highlights that Barbara’s conditions wasn’t surprising for former East Germans, and a one that many from a former East Germany can describe to.

It was an ongoing and augmenting problem for a GDR’s economy opposite a existence that many of a learned workers were mislaid to a more-attractive ostensible West, if they were peaceful to go by a vapid though probable routine of an “Ausreiseantrag” (an concentration to leave a GDR).

For those requesting to leave, they’d typically face amicable ostracism and denunciation, most like in Barbara’s experience, both as a punishment and as a halt to others. 

What does a destiny demeanour like for GDR focused films?

By remembering a GDR by iconic, classical films such as Goodbye Lenin, Das Leben der Anderen and Sonnenallee, Staat stated, it means we concentration on a latter duration of a GDR, a late 70s and 80s when a films were set.

A probable reason for a bent to set films in a late GDR is a this is a GDR that directors remember. The directors of these 3 films possibly weren’t alive, or were children, during a progressing half of a GDR in a 50s and 60s, when a regime was stricter and life was harder.

Whilst these iconic films are a means of accessing a story of a nation that no longer exists, it’s critical that we don’t forget a progressing story of a GDR.

There are newer films about a GDR, such as Der Zukunft Zugewandt (Facing a Future), set in 1952, about a woman’s attainment into a immature GDR from a Soviet work camp. Films such as these are bringing a GDR’s progressing days to larger general attention, and could good play a poignant purpose in a destiny of German cinema. 

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