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

Divided Heaven (Der geteilte Himmel)

1963, East Germany (DEFA), b/w, 109 min.  English subtitles
Dir.: Konrad Wolf
Script: Christa Wolf
Camera: Werner Bermann
Music: Hanns-Dieter Hosalla
Cast: Renate Blume, Eberhard Esche, Hans Hardt-Hardtloff, Hilmar Thate
16mm, English subtitles - renting information


Produced during the brief cultural thaw in the early 1960s, this film was strongly influenced by Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour in its form and its exploration of the dangerous quest for a female identity against the backdrop of momentous historical events, in this case the building of the Berlin Wall.  Christa Wolf's work on this adaptation of her novel, with its bold cinematic with narrative fragmentation, also influenced her ground-breaking novel from the same period, The Quest for Christa T.  This film anticipated by one year the numerous films banned in 1965 for being too much influenced by the "decadent" new waves of the West, and disappeared with them into the archives.  Greeted by the Süddeutsche Zeitung as "perhaps the best German film since the war," the rediscovery of this film in the context of German unification prompted a Western television journalist to claim, "The New German Cinema happened first at DEFA.”

About the Director:

On October 20, 1925 Konrad Wolf was born in Hechingen.  His father, Friedrich Wolf, was a prominent doctor as well as a writer, known especially for his anti-fascist activism. Because of Friedrich Wolf’s political activities, the family went into exile in 1934.  In March of that year, they settled in Moscow. Konrad and his brother Markus attended the German Karl-Liebknecht-School in Moscow.  In 1936 the Wolf family became citizens of the Soviet Union.  In December of 1942, at 17 years of age, Konrad voluntarily enlisted in the Red Army.  In January he was sent to the front, where he served primarily as an interpreter.  He took part in the liberation of Warsaw in 1945 and was later awarded the Red Star for his military service.  After the war ended, Wolf worked for the Berliner Zeitung as a reporter of local news and took part in the founding of DEFA. In 1954 Wolf began his career as a director with DEFA.  Over the course of this career, he directed numerous films and became internationally renowned for his work, especially his anti-fascist films.

Wolf took over the position of President of the Academy of Arts in 1965, a post that he held for 17 years.  He died on March 7, 1982 before completing his final film Busch Singt.  He received numerous awards for his filmmaking, such as the Karlovy Vary Grand Prize for Lissy in 1957, the Special prize of the Jury at Cannes 1959 for Sterne, and Prize for the Arts of the Society for German-Soviet Friendship for Sonnensucher and Ich war neunzehn in 1975.

Major Films: 

Einmal ist keinmal (1954/55), Genesung (1956), Lissy (1957), Sonnensucher (1958), Sterne (1959), Professor Mamlock (1960/61), Der geteilte Himmel (1963/64), Der kleine Prinz (1966), Ich war neunzehn (1968), Goya (1971), Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz (1974), Mama, ich lebe (1977), Solo Sunny (1980), Busch singt (1982).

Related reading:

Byg, Barton.  “History, Mourning and Theories of Feminine Identity:  Der geteilte Himmel and Hiroshima mon amour.  Ms.  Currently available in DEFA Film Criticism in English:  An Anthology.  University of Massachusetts Amherst, DEFA Film Library, 1999.

- - - .  “Konrad Wolf:  From Anti-Fascism to Gegenwartsfilm.”  Studies in GDR Culture and Society, 5: Selected Papers from the Tenth New Hampshire Symposium on the German Democratic Republic. Margy Gerber, ed. (1985): 115-124.

Coulson, Anthony S.  “Paths of Discovery:  The Films of Konrad Wolf.”  DEFA:  East German Cinema, 1946-1992.  Seán Allan and John Sandford, eds.  New York:  Berghahn, 1999.  164-182.

Joyce, Steven.  “The Politics of Love: Ideology and Romance in Christa Wolf's Der geteilte Himmel.”  New German Studies. 13.1 (Spring 1985) 31-49.

Silberman, Marc.  “Remembering History:  The Filmmaker Konrad Wolf.”  New German Critique 49 (Winter 1990):  163-191.


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