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Berlin, Divided Heaven: From the Ice Age to the Thaw
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The All-round Reduced Personality – REDUPERS (Die allseitig reduzierte Persönlichkeit - REDUPERS)

1977, West Germany, b/w, 98 min.  English subtitles
Dir. & Script: Helke Sander
Camera: Katia Forbert
Editing: Ursula Höf
Cast: Beate Kopp, Eva Gagel, Frank Burckner, Gesine Strempel, Helga Storck, Helke Sander, Joachim Baumann

35mm, English subtitles


“Most women work harder than men. They do the things they want to do when they have already spent sixty hours working on something else. Edda is tough, like so many others.” These are the words of Helke Sander, who both directed and played the leading role in her first fiction feature, which reveals three days in the life of a woman and photographer - and three days in the life of West Berlin in March 1977.

Edda works as a freelance press photographer, usually on commission earning little for uninteresting jobs:  taking pictures of cocktail parties, meetings, and reunions. She struggles to maintain her commitment to herself as a woman, artist and single mother, and to support herself and her daughter financially and spiritually. She joins a small team of photographers who have been commissioned to take pictures of West Berlin. The women approach the “wholeness” of the divided city with a critical eye, much to the chagrin of the men who meant to exploit feminism for profit while promoting West Berlin to attract business investors.

Sander’s film is a brilliant yet subtle meditation on representation - how to visually and aurally depict both women in their personal and professional lives, and Berlin in its dialectical process of “being” a city; the film questions the construction of identities of both women and the city in conflict with common perceptions about them.

“Her film proved a great success at the International Young Film Forum in Berlin in 1978 and is anything but a tearful lament on the situation of a woman who pays for her independence by restricting her other needs in life, her political and private interests and plans, to an absolute minimum. Helke Sander presents the everyday life of her stressed heroine with a great deal of irony and sympathy and just as much remoteness. Because Edda’s life is representative of that of most modern women, she is a figure with whom the viewer could identify if the director did not always carefully undermine any tendency towards illusionism, be it through her comments, her citations from films and literature, by inserting newspaper excerpts and radio broadcasts and above all through the pictures of Berlin, the Wall, the refuse, the piles of rubble and the graffiti. This women’s film is simultaneously about Berlin, a city that is torn asunder in the same way as the heroine’s life, a life in installments. In bits, yet complete, ‘because everything is complete and if you break it into parts, it will become complete again, each part for itself’ - a citation from the East German author Thomas Brasch who emigrated to the West in 1976.” (Annette Meyhöfer)

Described in The New York Times as a “feminist film as earnest and clear and chilly as its elegant black-and-white photography.”

About the Director:

Helke Sander was born in Berlin on January 31, 1937. After completing school in Remscheid, she attended the Hamburg Theater Acting School. In 1959 she married Markuu Lahtela, a Finnish writer, and had a son very soon thereafter. The family moved to Helsinki, where Sander took up German studies and psychology at the University of Helsinki from 1960 to 1962. She worked as a traveling theater director in 1963, staging plays in a number of Finnish cities. In the same year she taught improvisation to theater groups comprised of Finnish emigrants. Beginning in 1964, she worked as a director for Finnish television. Sander returned to Germany the following year, but she was denied work as a director. In 1966 she applied to the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin, where she studied from 1966 to 1969. She was involved in the student movement of the late 1960s, and in 1968 she became the co-founder of the “Action Council for the Liberation of Women” in Berlin and worked as a television reporter while studying there.

Sander was deeply involved with the women’s liberation movement in West Germany. In 1973 she was the co-founder of the women’s group “Bread and Roses,” and she helped organize the first International Women’s Film Seminar in Berlin. She founded the feminist magazine Frauen und Film in 1974 and remained its editor until 1981. From 1974 to 1975 she taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg. Her first feature film, Die allseitig reduzierte Persönlichkeit—REDUPERS, was completed in 1977. She taught at the German Film and Television Academy in 1980, and as of 1981 she worked as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg. In 1984 she became a member of the West Berlin Academy of the Arts.

Major Films: 

Brecht die Macht der Manipulateure (1967-68), Kindergärtnerin, was nun? (1969), Kinder sind keine Rinder (1969), Macht die Pille frei? (1972), Die allseitig reduzierte Persönlichkeit—REDUPERS (1977), Der subjektive Faktor (1980-81), Der Beginn aller Schrecken ist Liebe (1983), Nr. 1 - Aus Berichten der Wach- und Patrouillendienste (1984), Felix (1987), BeFreier und BeFreite (1992), Dazlak (1998).

Related reading:

Berg-Ganschow, Uta. "Contradictory Reality: Redupers." Ramona Curry, transl. Jump Cut 29 (1984): 63.

Gentile, Mary C. "Helke Sander's Redupers: Personality-In-Process." Film Feminism: Theory and Practice. Westport, London: Greenwood Press, 1985. 113-31.

Gleber, Anke. "The Woman and the Camera - Walking in Berlin: Observations on Walter Ruttmann, Verena Stefan, and Helke Sander." Berlin in Focus. Cultural Transformations in Germany. Barbara Becker-Cantarino, ed. Westport, Connecticut and London: Praeger, 1996. 105-24.

Hansen, Miriam. “Frauen und Film and Feminist Film Culture in West Germany.” Gender and German Cinema. Vol. II. Sandra Frieden et al, eds. Providence, Oxford: Berg, 1993. 293-298.

Katzman, Lisa. "Women's Art in Public: The All-Around Reduced Personality: Redupers." Jump Cut 29 (1984): 60-62.

Knight, Julia. Women and the New German Cinema. London: Verso, 1992.

Mayne, Judith. "Female Narration, Women's Cinema: Helke Sander's The All-Around Reduced Personality." New German Critique (Fall-Winter 1981/82): 155-71.

Rich, B. Ruby. "She Says, He Says: The Power of the Narrator in Modernist Film Politics." Gender and German Cinema. Vol. I. Sandra Frieden et al, eds. Providence, Oxford: Berg, 1993. 143-61.

Sander, Helke. “Feminism and Film.” (1977) West German Filmmakers on Film: Visions and Voices. Eric Rentschler, ed. New York, 1988. 75-81.

- - - . “Men Are Responsible That Women Become Their Enemies: Tales of Rejection.” (1980). West German Filmmakers on Film: Visions and Voices. Eric Rentschler, ed. New York, 1988. 25-29.

Silberman, Marc. "Interview with Helke Sander: Open Form." Gender and German Cinema. Vol. II. Sandra Frieden et al, eds. Providence, Oxford: Berg, 1993. 163-65.


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