DEFA Film Library
at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Cinema of East Germany
Berlin, Divided Heaven: From the Ice Age to the
This film chronicles the history of West Berlin from the end of the Second World War to the days following the building of the Wall on August 13, 1961, from the perspective of the leaders of the GDR.
Director Karl Gass begins his film before the construction of the Wall. With montages of rare authentic images, Look at this City was intended to prove how important and necessary the closing of the border was for the preservation of the GDR. The director provided an account of the political, social and ecological development from a communist perspective: the Eastern section of Berlin was portrayed as a city of peace, while the West was portrayed as a "front" city and "spearhead against the East." The source of constant disruptions, West Berlin could only be resisted by forcefully isolating it. The film argued that the GDR, with the creation of the Wall, would be able to secure the possibility of peace in Europe and throughout the world.
Today, Look at this City remains a provocative and informative time-capsule from the Cold War. The film contains the caustic commentary of Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, who later became the chief commentator on GDR television and manager of the agitation program "The Black Channel." At the same time, the film offers a series of strikingly witty and formally innovative satirical montages, which attempt to expose the Western ideas of freedom as mere chimeras.
About the Director:
Karl Gass was born February 2, 1917 in Mannheim. Before being called to military duty in the Second World War he worked as an intern in commercial economics in Cologne and was a champion rower. After the war and time as a POW he became the business editor at Nordwest Deutscher Rundfunk in Cologne, until he relocated to Berliner Rundfunk in 1948. In 1951 Gass began a prolific career in the DEFA studios: as a writer and director for the studio for Wochenschau und Dokumentarfilme; editor for the series Augenzeuge; artistic director at the studios for Populärwissenschaftliche Filme. He was a co-founder of the Leipzig Film Festival for Documentary and Short Films introduced in 1951. Gass remained active in the DEFA studios until 1990.
Freundschaft und Frieden (1951), Der Weg nach oben (1951), Turbine I (1953), Schaut auf diese Stadt (1962), Die verdammten Toscaner (1976), Das Jahr 1945 (1985), Nationalität: deutsch (1990).
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