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Rebels with a Cause: The Cinema of East Germany
Jahrgang 45 (Born In 45)

1965-66/90, b/w, 94 min. Feature
Dir.: Jürgen Böttcher
Script: Klaus Poche, Jürgen Böttcher
Camera: Roland Gräf
Music: Henry Purcell, Wolf Biermann, Matthias Suschke
Cast: Monika Hildebrand, Rolf Römer, Paul Eichbaum, Holger Mahlich, A.R. Penck
35mm, English subtitles - renting information
16mm, English subtitles - renting information
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:

Synopsis:

The only feature film by the painter and documentary filmmaker, Jürgen Böttcher. Inspired by the Italian neo-realists, he developed a sensitive style characterized by accurate social observations and poetic verse. This film tells the story of Al and Li, a married couple living in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin. They have only been married for a couple of months but decide to divorce. Alfred, a motorcycle enthusiast, especially pushes for the divorce. He fears losing his independence and freedom to experiment. Alfred takes a couple days off to clear his head, and rides through Berlin meeting friends and strangers. The fact that he ultimately returns to Lisa is possibly a good omen, but the ending remains open. Born in '45 was caught in a wave of politically motivated film bans in the summer of 1966 and was not allowed to be shown. The film was described by an official as "indifferent and insignificant." Böttcher chose settings that were "gloomy, unfriendly, dirty and neglected. Characters and surroundings were created to reflect more a capitalist view of life as opposed to a socialist view of life." Only in the spring of 1990, when the film was shown in cinemas, were the true beauties of the film discovered: its rhythm, its lacunae, its disposition. Jürgen Böttcher grasped the life of 20-year-olds in Prenzlauer Berg with social and regional exactness and was able to translate it into an elementary world language.

About the Director:

Jürgen Böttcher, also known as the painter “Strawalde,” was born in 1931 in Frankenberg. He studied at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts from 1949 to 1953, during which time he worked as an independent artist and taught night school, where he met the now famous painter A.R. Penck. From 1955 to 1960, Böttcher studied directing at the Film Academy in Potsdam-Babelsberg and worked as a director in the DEFA Studio for Documentary Films until 1991. Having made more than 30 artistically provocative films, he has attained cult status among cineastes. Jürgen Böttcher has been working as an independent artist since 1991 and currently lives in Berlin.

"This film is like a kind of ballet, expressing what cannot be said with words. There are the most beautiful arrangements. The naive nature of the performance and the beauty of the camera movements and angles are stunning. Every-day life is shown as both powerful and trivial - as space for movement in which we can study and develop ourselves and in which we define ourselves by means of endless repetitions and attempts to break out. The director's tools are sensitive feelers. He does not flaunt his professionalism; rather, he displays an excellent sense of timing." 
                                                   -Rolf Richter in the Berlin Filmspiegel, 1/1991

Born in ’45 (Jürgen Böttcher, 1966/1990)

Born in ’45 seems to me like a clear-sighted daydream, like a memory of such accuracy that I would swear by it. Watching this film, I experience images as I would expect from a movie, but understand them immediately as part of my life. I take them for my own with such naturalness, just like you take the morning sky as your own sky, the streets as you own streets and keen, aromatic smell the pavement emits as exactly the smell you need to fully wake up. I sometimes get strange looks from people when I talk about his film so effusively, but I’m not exaggerating—it is my film!

At the beginning, a young man walks out onto his balcony and stares for a long time at other houses, at walls, at trees. This neighborhood is Prenzlauer Berg, where I have lived and where I still live, a gray place, but still also somehow green, like the trees that grow there despite the very limited space. And I know I’m not the only one; a whole generation has stood and stared down from the balconies in a rare, impatient kind of waiting: is something still to come, or is that it? Many have silently and defiantly yearned and protested with this waiting, and many, suddenly, just up and left, broke out. These young people (though in my time they were a little older) wanted to know what the future held for them, still not believing or accepting that it would end up being what finally came—uniformity, disappointment, loneliness, confusion. There were no words for this situation at the time, but through body language, movements, the situation could be sensed and expressed. 

Born in '45 is truly a kind of ballet through which the unspeakable is captured. There are gorgeous arrangements. Almost like a dance with a feather, it is an elegy about tenderness, including the wish to escape, to disappear and if nothing else works, to explode, just to do something completely different afterward. In his performance, actor Rolf Römer presents a stunning combination of understatement and magnificent, shameless exaggeration, in which the unspeakable elements of the future emerge. Director Jürgen Böttcher guides him into situations and spaces that, in a most elegant way, protest the caged-in feeling, the frustration and bitterness, granting the character his desperate desire for something different, something more like freedom. The naïveté of this performance, along with the certainty of the camera movements and the scenes they capture, is unbelievable.

Everyday life, with its power and triviality, appears as space for movement. Space in which we experience and develop ourselves, where we become who we are through endless repetition and attempts to escape. The film is both a candid snapshot and a deciphering. In its fascinating portrayal of a young person’s many attempts to not lose his footing, to defend himself, to form alliances and to get to know himself carefully, without hurry, time is used as an indication of this search for another rhythm. The director’s tools are sensitive antennae; he doesn’t exhibit professionalism, but rather presents his piece with the slogan: “It happens like this, but it doesn’t have to be this way.” That is his creative way of protesting. The film is then to be seen as a sign, an offer.

Böttcher was 34 when he made this film; he was a documentary filmmaker and a painter whose talents were known and respected. The film, however, was banned and never released. Finally reaching the screen in 1990, Born in '45 is one of the most informative depictions of the life of young people in the Sixties, a prophetic document that not only those who are interested in the art of the time period should watch, but everyone.

Rolf Richter
Filmspiegel: 1991, Heft I


Rolf Richter (1932-1992)
was a teacher, film critic and publisher who lived in East Germany. He published reviews and books about African, Latin American and Arabian cinematography and about the East German DEFA films.

In October 1989 he was appointed chairman of the commission that worked on the rehabilitation of the banned films of East Germany. His personal commitment helped make possible the restoration of at least a few of these forbidden films. In 1990 eight of these banned films were shown at the Academy of Art in East Berlin for the first time in 25 years. The presentation of these films at the Berlin Film Festival brought them enormous international attention.

Acting as chairman of an association for the preservation of the art house cinema Babylon, located in Berlin, he took action to insure the continued support of Babylon as a place for international film art, especially for European and East European productions. 

Rolf Richter was not only interested in film; he was also an accomplished graphic artist and poet.

 

 

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