DEFA Film Library
at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Cinema of East Germany
Shadows and Sojourners:
Images of Jews and Antifascism in East German Film
Die Schauspielerin (The Actress)
1988, East Germany
(DEFA), color, 92 min. Feature
Based on the novel Arrangement with Death by Hedda Zinner, The Actress explores the themes of forbidden love and sacrifice in the face of Nazi oppression.
The film is set in the 1930s in Germany. Maria Rheine and Mark Löwenthal, two young actors working in a small theater, are in love with each other. Their love affair is interrupted by Nazi racial policies; Mark is no longer allowed to perform in German theaters because he is a Jew. In order to continue acting, he joins the newly formed Jewish Theater in Berlin. Maria, who is not Jewish, faces no restrictions on her career, and she becomes a successful actress at a big theater in Munich. But her love for Mark eventually leads her to decide to sacrifice both career and security to remain close to him. She fakes a suicide, assumes a Jewish identity and, as Manja Löwenthal, joins the Jewish Theater
Born on March 14, 1935, Siegfried Kühn spent the war years at his grandmother’s in Ölschen in Silesia. His parents escaped to West Berlin, and in 1950 Siegfried Kühn moved to the GDR. From 1950 to 1958 Kühn worked in mining. In 1958 he began a year long study of directing at the Film Academy (Deutsche Hochschule für Filmkunst) in Potsdam-Babelsberg and continued his studies in Moscow. From 1959 to 1964 he studied directing with Sergei A. Gerassimov, eventually receiving a diploma for his work. After returning to the GDR in 1966, Kühn began working for the DEFA Film Studio in 1968. He had his film debut with Im Spannungsfeld in 1969, and in 1987 he directed Die Schauspielerin. His wife Regine Kühn adapted the script to the movie from the novel Arrangement mit dem Tod (Arrangement with Death) by Hedda Zinner. Siegfried Kühn lives in Potsdam.
Das rote Plakat (The Red Placard, 1967, documentary), Im Spannungsfeld (In the Area of Conflict, 1969), Zeit der Störche (Time of the Storks, 1970), Das zweite Leben des Friedrich Wilhelm Georg Platow (The Second Life of Friedrich Wilhelm Georg Platow, 1972/73), Die Wahlverwandtschaften (The Elected Affinities, 1973/74), and others in collaboration.
Kersten, Heinz. “Die Schauspielerin.” So viele Träume: DEFA-Film-Kritiken aus drei Jahrzehnten. Ed. Christel Drawer. Berlin: Vistas, 1996
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