Currently browsing the "East Germany" tag.

Review: Balloon (Ballon)

Seems like all I’m seeing lately are film based on true stories. In this one, two families living in Cold War East Germany in 1979 plan a daring escape to the West in a homemade hot air balloon with a Stasi officer hot on their tail. It’s one of those films where you’re holding your breath and hoping for the best, since the first scene is of a group of border guards being instructed to shoot to kill. What follows is an entertaining political thriller set in the horrifyingly claustrophobic surveillance state where everyone you meet might be the informer who gets you killed.

Barbara

East Germany in 1980 really must have been a dystopian hell on earth. In the film Barbara, a doctor is exiled from Berlin for a minor offense and forced to work in a small town in the hinterlands. She’s subjected to round the clock conspicuous surveillance, and the not so secret police also search her apartment and force her to submit to cavity searches on a regular basis. So it is understandable that she is not all that open and trusting. Anyone she meets could turn her in and have her sent to an even worse place. One of her patients, a young girl named Stella is from one of those places that she fears, a forced labor prison Barbara refers to as a death camp. She doesn’t want to release the girl who is pregnant, to send her and her baby to their certain deaths, but she is forced to let her go.

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)

This first feature won Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck the Oscar in 2007 for Best Foreign Film and I can see why. What a wonderful film! It takes place in East Germany in 1980s and concerns a successful playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his gorgeous actress girlfriend (Martina Gedeck) who are put under surveillance by Stasi, the secret police, in order to find something to use against the writer because a high ranking minister has a thing for the actress and wants him out of the way. Their apartment is bugged and an agent is set up in the attic listening to their every conversation, taking notes, making reports. Friends come and go and anything they say may be used against them without any court of law. But it is mostly just regular old boring conversation. Then a dear friend, a talented but blacklisted director, kills himself and the writer feels compelled to say something. So he decides to write a piece for Der Spiegel in West Germany, thereby putting himself directly in the police state’s sights if they find out who wrote the piece. The article is about how the East Germans decided to stop keeping statistics on suicides.