DEFA Film Library
at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Cinema of East Germany
Berlin, Divided Heaven: From the Ice Age to the Thaw
Die Mauer (The Wall)
This unconventional documentary highlights the Berlin Wall, its last days, and its highly anticipated destruction. Both seemingly banal and historical moments are captured and presented without verbal commentary. On the broken-down Wall, memorable motion-picture footage was projected - from Emperor Wilhelm's ride through the Brandenburg Gate, the torch-lit procession of the Nazis, the well-known filming of an East German policeman jumping over barbed wire into the West as the Wall was being built, to the fall of the Wall. The images are shown with a painter's sensitivity, shot against the acoustic backdrop of construction equipment, curious masses, and a relentless media. This masterpiece reflects the soul of Berlin.
About the Director:
Jürgen Böttcher was born on July 8, 1931 in Frankenberg. After the Second World War, he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden from 1949 to 1953. He then worked as a freelance painter and as a university lecturer. In 1955 Böttcher began to study directing at the Film Academy in Potsdam-Babelsberg, and in 1960 he received his degree upon completing the film Notwendige Lehrjahre. From 1961-1990, Böttcher worked in the DEFA Studio for Newsreel and Documentary Films. He began having professional difficulties following an exhibition at the Academy of Arts in which one of his works caused a stir and led to his being labeled the "gangster painter." After this incident, Böttcher worked with a group at the DEFA Studios making informational films for foreigners. Beginning in the mid-70s, his attention turned increasingly to painting, and led to occasional exhibits of his work throughout the GDR. Upon the opening of the border between East and West Berlin in November of 1989, Böttcher began filming The Wall with cameraman Thomas Plenert. The film was completed in August 1990. His first and only feature film Born in '45 (Jahrgang 45) was banned during production in 1965 for its brutally honest portrayal of socialist life. It was shelved until 1990, when it was completed and screened, earning it, and his thoughtful and his many artistic documentary films high acclaim. Böttcher continues to concentrate primarily on painting under the pseudonym "Strawalde."
Ofenbauer (1962), Jahrgang 45 (1965/66), Wäscherinnen (1972), Martha (1978), Rangierer (1984), Die Küche (1986), In Georgien (1988), Die Mauer (1989/90).
Böttcher, Jürgen. "Der Moment, der ist." Dokumentarisch Arbeiten. Europäischer Dokumentarfilm Institut, ed. Berlin: Vorwerk 8, 1996. 10-27.
Kilborn, Richard. "The Documentary Work of Jürgen Böttcher." DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. Seán Allan and John Sandford, eds. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 267-281.
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