The Bicycle

(Das Fahrrad)

GDR, 1981, 89 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)


Susanne is a young, single mother who lives a somewhat alternative, unstructured lifestyle. After quitting her job, she finds herself in trouble financially and attempts a minor insurance fraud to make ends meet.


Despite its rare view of everyday socialism from a woman's perspective, East German officials were critical of this frank portrayal of a less-than-ideal socialist citizen and turned down all invitations for the film to be screened abroad. In West Germany, however, Evelyn Schmidt’s film received much praise for its critical feminist approach.


The Bicycle was part of the 2005 Rebels with a Cause: The Cinema of East Germany retrospective shown at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.


2019 Retrospective, Self-Determined. Retrospective of Woman Filmmakers, Berlin International Film Festival
2018 Images of the Future: The Cinema of East Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Press comments

“A sensitive portrait of a woman by DEFA director Evelyn Schmidt … Remarkable are the sympathetic portrayal of a work-rejecting outsider and the realistic description of East German daily life.”
Lexikon des Internationalen Films


“A rare feminist view of socialist Germany.”
— San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


“What succeeds most, to my mind, is the way the film grasps and addresses the character's social context - it is judgmentally unobtrusive and completely accurate (Camera: Roland Dressel).”
— Günter Sobe, Berliner Zeitung, July 24, 1982


The Bicycle is a little story packed with tremendous hope ... it raises the important and essential questions of personal responsibility and what we can expect from life."
Norddeutsche Zeitung, August 9, 1982


“Evelyn Schmidt portrays her protagonist’s emotional crisis with empathy and understanding. With a keen eye for the milieu, her film exposes the class divide in East German society, which reaches all the way down to romantic relationships. A story of emancipation, the narrative ellipses and concise storytelling make it feel very modern, even today. Dismissed by critics and the studio heads as “confusing” and “flawed”, The Bicycle offers up a realistic depiction of East Germany – its hardened social mores as well as its alternative breathing spaces – without idealizing it.”

— 2019 Berlin International Film Festival



Buy the DVDStream
DVD Bonus Features:
  • Biographies & Filmographies
  • Introductory Essay
  • A Short Conversation about "a" Bicycle, 2008

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