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Berlin, Divided Heaven: From the Ice Age to the Thaw
Touring Film Series

A Berlin Romance (Eine Berliner Romanze)

1956, East Germany (DEFA), b/w, 81 min.
Dir.:  Gerhard Klein.
Script:  Wolfgang Kohlhaase.
Camera:  Wolf Göthe.
Editing:  Ursula Kahlbaum.
Music:  Günter Klück.
Cast:  Annekathrin Bürger, Ulrich Thein, Uwe-Jens Pape, Erika Dunkelmann, Erich Franz.
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:

Synopsis:

A Berlin Romance is a love story about the seventeen-year-old Uschi, an East German saleswoman, and Hans, an unemployed auto mechanic from West Berlin. The city is reflected though their eyes and feelings.  The bright shop windows in West Berlin are much more appealing to Uschi than the plain gray buildings in the East, so she leaves her parents’ house for the West.  Together with her, the audience takes a glance behind the façade of the West German “economic miracle.”  In the end, she returns home to her parents along with Hans, who finds a job and makes a living in the East.

This film was the second work of director Gerhard Klein and scriptwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase after the children’s detective story Alarm in the Circus.  Inspired by Italian neo-realist film, these artists accurately depict the day-to-day life of the divided city.  However, the frank images of dreams and longings of Berlin youth found little support in the Ministry of Film in the GDR.  Among other criticisms, the film was said to encourage East German youth to search for adventure in West Germany.  Klein and Kohlhaase didn’t let these obstacles get in their way and later filmed the movie Berlin – Schönhauser Corner (1957), another realistic Berlin film.  These films are now considered the best and most precise portrayals of the East Berlin youth scene during the Cold War.

About the Director:

Gerhard Klein was born on May 1, 1920 in Berlin.  Klein was a trained cartoonist with a background in short, popular film.  In 1946 he began working for DEFA as a scriptwriter, and he worked as a member of the short film department.  Klein eventually earned a position as an assistant director.  As of 1949 he worked as a popular science and documentary film director, a position which he held for many years.  Klein died in 1970 at the age of fifty in Berlin.

Major Films: 

Alarm im Zirkus (1953), Eine Berliner Romanze (1956), Der Fall Gleiwitz (1961), and Berlin um die Ecke (1965/90)

About the Scriptwriter:

Wolfgang Kohlhaase was born on May 13, 1931 in Berlin.  He began writing while he was in school in Berlin, and in 1947 he was a volunteer as well as an editor for a youth newspaper.  He also worked for the FDJ newspaper Junge Welt.  He began his career at DEFA in 1950; by 1952 Kohlhaase was a freelance scriptwriter and author. 

Major Films: 

Alarm im Zirkus (1953), Eine Berliner Romanze (1956), Berlin - Ecke Schönhauser (1957), Der Fall Gleiwitz (1961), Berlin um die Ecke (1965/90), Ich war neunzehn (1968), Solo Sunny (1980), Der Aufenthalt (1983), Der Bruch (1989), Nach dem letzten Schuss (1999).

Related Reading:

Claus, Horst.  “Rebels with a Cause:  The Development of the Berlin Filme by Gerhard Klein and Wolfgang Kohlhaase.”  DEFA:  East German Cinema, 1946-1992.  Seán Allan and John Sandford, eds.  New York:  Berghahn, 1999.  93-116.

Kohlhaase, Wolfgang.  “DEFA:  A Personal View.”  DEFA:  East German Cinema, 1946-1992.  Seán Allan and John Sandford, eds.  New York:  Berghahn, 1999.  117-130.

- - - .  “Some Remarks about GDR Cinema.”  Studies in GDR Culture and Society, 7. Selected Papers from the Twelfth New Hampshire Symposium on the German Democratic Republic.  Margy Gerber, ed.  Lanham, MD: UPs of America, 1987.  1-6.

 

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