To Hell with Harbolla

(Zum Teufel mit Harbolla – Eine Geschichte aus dem Jahre 1956)

GDR, 1989, 88 min, color/b&w
In German; no subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)


Even the military academy can't stop kind-hearted officer Gottfried Engelhardt from seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. Everything in the young GDR is blooming: Engelhardt's career, the socialist state, the black market, and maybe even a chance at love.


But then Engelhardt is sent to retrieve his predecessor, Harry Harbola, who was arrested for being absent without leave and for dancing to rock-and-roll music in a bar. But Harbolla has no interest in returning to the barracks and instead leads Engelhardt on a series of bizarre adventures. After a series of comic episodes involving a former Nazi, a Free German Youth meeting, and accidental smuggling, the unlikely pair realize they have become good friends.


To Hell with Harbolla is an often absurd look back at the "Hurrah Socialism" of the post-war GDR, where the official view of things doesn't always align with the realities of everyday life. Harbolla's rallying cry "You gotta stay human!" encapsulates the prevailing mood of this sarcastic comedy, which parodies and pokes fun at many of the sacred cows of East German society. 


Bodo Fürneisen's only DEFA film premiered in February 1989, right before the Wende.


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