DEFA Film Library
at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Cinema of East Germany
Die Legende von Paul und Paula (The Legend of Paul and Paula)
1972, East Germany (DEFA), color, 106 min.
Still the most popular DEFA Film, this classic struck a chord with its portrayal of everyday life in East Berlin in this love story between a passionate single mother and a complacent, married bureaucrat. Paul, respectably employed but bored, is married to a woman whose only redeemable quality seems to be stunning beauty.
Paula, a single mother who works at a Prenzlauer Berg supermarket exchanging empty bottles for deposits, longs for a man and more passion in her life. Herr Saft, a tire salesman, tries tirelessly to win Paula’s heart. He is extremely decent and respectable, though much older than she, and seems he would be a good father to her children. Yet Paula isn’t passionate about Saft at all. Paula and Paul meet each other in a bar and end up falling in love. Paul avoids deciding between her and his wife. Paula feels betrayed and deeply hurt, and resigns herself to pretending he no longer exists. Only then does Paul realize how much he loves Paula. He decides to win her back – his effort is so moving that their love becomes a legend in the neighborhood, intensified by a tragic twist.
Featuring the music of the East German cult
rock band, the Puhdys, the film proved enormously popular, despite limited media
coverage. The Legend of Paul and Paula remains a cult favorite today.
"Heiner Carow directed this 'legend' - a word
already suggesting a detached approach to East Berlin reality - in an
imaginative and easy-going way, placing it between realtiy and imagination."
About the Director:
Heiner Carow (1929–1997) was born on September 19, 1929 in Rostock, the son of a businessman. As a young man, he took part in a youth theater, and in 1950 he spent the year in Berlin attending directing classes at the DEFA Studios for Young Filmmakers. Directors Gerhard Klein and Slatan Dudow were his mentors in the class. From 1952 to 1956 Carow worked as a director at the DEFA Studio for Educational and Industrial Films (Populärwissenschaftliche Filme). In 1956 Carow made his first feature film, Sheriff Teddy, which reveals many similarities to Klein's "Berlin Films." His film, The Russians Are Coming (1968), was banned and labeled as ”contaminated with modernism.” The Legend of Paul and Paula became an unparalleled success, however, and is said to have been the longest playing film in German cinemas. Carow’s penchant for creating films that candidly reflected everyday life in socialism often put him into conflict with officials, but his professionalism and artistic acuity gained him the position of Vice President of the Academy of Arts of the GDR (1982–1993). He was awarded many film prizes, including a Silver Bear at the 1990 Berlin International Film Festival for Coming Out, the only East German feature film about homosexuality. Since 1954 he was married to the film editor Evelyn Carow, who also had an accomplished career at DEFA. On January 31, 1997 Carow died in Berlin.
Sie nannten ihn Amigo (1959), Das Leben beginnt (1960), Die Hochzeit von Länneken (1964), Die Russen kommen (1968/1987), Die Legende von Paul und Paula (1973), Ikarus (1976), Bis daß der Tod euch scheidet (1979), So viele Träume (1986), Coming Out (1989), Verfehlung (1991).
About the Scriptwriter:
Ulrich Plenzdorf was born October 26, 1934 in Berlin. His father was an active member of the Communist Party and a photographer for the Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung. Plenzdorf attended an alternative school, then studied philosophy in Leipzig. From 1955-58 he worked as a stagehand at the DEFA studios. After completing military service he studied screenplay writing at the Film Academy in Babelsberg, then began working as a scriptwriter in 1964. Plenzdorf became one of the best-known GDR writers, recognized for his youthful, biting criticism in screenplays, novels, and short stories.
Karla (1964), Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. (1972), Die Legende von Paul und Paula (1973).
The Legend of Paul and Paula (Heiner Carow, 1973)
Heiner Carow’s The Legend of
Paul and Paula was the most popular East German film ever made. Together
with Konrad Wolf’s Solo Sunny (1980), it belongs to a select group of
films which achieved cult status in the GDR. Based on a script by the well known
writer, Ultrich Plenzdorf, Carow’s film was one of the first to profit from the
more liberal climate that was ushered in with the change of political leadership
in the GDR in 1971. After a difficult period for artists and writers – a period
that culminated in the series of bans in the wake of the infamous Eleventh
Plenum in 1965 – the replacement of Walter Ulbricht by Erich Honecker in 1971
seemed to hold out the promise of a new era of tolerance. In one of his earliest
speeches, Honecker went as far as to declare that ‘Providing one starts from an
established socialist standpoint, there cannot…be any taboo subjects for art and
literature’. Indeed Ulrich Plenzdorf with his highly acclaimed novel, The New
Sorrows of Young Werther (1972), was – at least to begin with – one of the
principal beneficiaries of the new improved relations between writers and the
State. But taboos or no taboos, the new climate of tolerance was short-lived, a
fact highlighted by the expulsion of the singer-poet Wolf Biermann in 1976. And
amongst those who, in the wake of the ‘Biermann affair’, decided to leave the
GDR of their own accord in the late 1970s and early 1980s were a number of DEFA
stars, including Manfred Krug, Jutta Hoffmann, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Katharina
Thalbach and, of course Angelica Domröse, the star in The Legend of Paul and
Rinke, Andrea. “From Models to Misfits: Women in DEFA Films of the 1970’s and 1980’s.” DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. Seán Allan and John Sandford, eds. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 183-203. Also appears in: Triangulated Visions. Women in Recent German Cinema. Ingeborg Majer O’Sickey and Ingeborg von Zadow, eds. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. 207-218.
For questions related to the website please contact