The Architects

(Die Architekten)

GDR, 1990, 97 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)


Daniel, a young and enthusiastic architect, has high hopes as he pulls a team together to design a vibrant community space for a new housing development. When their nonconformist plans are rejected, he starts to feel alienated. His team members grow more distant. Even his wife becomes despondent. She asks for a divorce and leaves for West Germany with their daughter to be with a new partner. Daniel knows that he won’t be able to see his daughter again and he is left to wonder what happened to his country and its people.




This somber, finely-drawn portrait of life in East Berlin depicts a young architect whose life and goals are strangled by the communist dogma of an older generation. The Architects was one of the first fiction films to deal with the experience of both East Germany and unification periods. Filmed as East Germany crumbled and the Berlin Wall was dismantled, the crew had to rebuild the Wall to shoot the final scenes. 


Interesting fact: 

One option to leave the GDR during the existence of the Berlin Wall and the border between East and West Germany was to apply for permanent exit. This was a long and difficult process that involved unbearable harassment, including ban from universities, observing family members by the Stasi, or losing the job. In many cases, the application was simply rejected after several months or even years. However, as soon as the exit permit was granted, people had sometimes only 24 hours to leave the country and were only allowed to take limited luggage with them. Former GDR citizens had to leave for good and were never allowed to return to their birth country. The only option was a secret reunion with loved ones in certain former East Bloc countries, like Hungary or Czechoslovakia. These reunions were often monitored or circumvented by the Stasi.



2018 Images of the Future: The Cinema of East Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2013 Censorship in Films, Chiaroscuro International Film Series, USA
2012 Chennai International Film Festival, India
2011 International Film Festival of Kerala, India
2009 Touring Retrospective, WENDE FLICKS: Last Films from East Germany, Los Angeles, USA
2005 Touring Retrospective, Rebels with a Cause: the Cinema of East Germany, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1991 Berlin International Film Festival, Germany  
1991 Recent Films from Germany, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA


Press comments

“The decay of a society isn't always signified by a flashy Roman orgy. As The Architects suggests, it can be synonymous with a pervasive, soul-deadening dreariness.”
 — Stephen Holden, The New York Times, Oct. 29, 1993


“The story behind the making of this tragedy is integral to understanding the picture itself. Shooting started in September 1989 as multitudes took to the streets throughout East Germany. By the time the film was finished, East Germany no longer existed. Then and now, East German filmmakers are faced with unemployment. Many of the DEFA studio executives who initially approved this picture are no longer working. Kahane deftly shows the bureaucratic inner workings of the former East German centrally controlled economy. His protagonist (Kurt Naumann) assembles a team of irreverent architects who intentionally goad the powers that be. They want to see just how much they can get away with, and that turns out to be precious little.”
Variety, March 11, 1991


“Telling, finely drawn, superbly acted!”
The New York Times


“The story about the building is fascinating, particularly the main character's dilemma as a young architect trying to make it.”
— Jen Livingston, filmmaker, Paris is Burning


"It is incredible that this film was released at all, and just as incredible how effectively it both challenges the old East German government and touches on universal themes."
— Joel Pearce, DVD Verdict


Buy the DVDStream
DVD Bonus Features:
  • Turn Subtitles On/Off
  • Short film: A Regular DEFA Film?
  • Director Interview: Ralf Schenk talks with Peter Kahane
  • Q & A with screenwriter Thomas Knauf
  • Introductory Essay
  • Original Theatrical Traile
  • Set Design Sketches
  • Photo Gallery
  • Biographies & Filmographies

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