The Break-In

(Der Bruch)

GDR, 1988, 118 min, color/b&w
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Themes & Genres:


Post-war Berlin, 1946: Three small-time, oddball crooks plan the heist of their lives. They want to break into the vault of the German Traffic Credit Union to steal the weekly Reichsbahn payroll. In preparation, they rent the top floor of the building and use it to spy on the bank. Despite several unforeseen incidents, the robbers are able to make off with the loot, but a motley police team gets on their heels. 

This crime comedy, with a stellar cast including Otto Sander, Götz George and Rolf Hoppe, is based on a true story that scriptwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase (Solo Sunny, Berlin – Schönhauser Corner) turned into a tour de force of sharp, witty dialogues and a detailed portrayal of Berlin just a few months after WWII.



1990 Int. Film Festival Kolkata, India
1990 Int. Film Week Verona, Italy 
1990 Ernst Lubitsch Award, for Frank Beyer and Wolfgang Kohlhaase, Germany
1989 Chaplin Shoe for Best Actor, Munich Film Festival, for Otto Sander, Germany
1989 Out of Competition, Berlin Int. Film Festival, Germany


Press comments

There is a wonderful canary in a supporting role. Berlin just after the war, between winter and spring, is backdrop for these city-dwellers who find themselves in difficult but also humorous situations.”   —39th Berlin International Film Festival


“The cinematography is by Peter Ziesche, whose work with shadows and darkness here is on a par with the films of Gordon Willis and Jack N. Green.” — 


“The film is a pleasurable, laconic and socially pithy story.”   —Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg


“Outstanding performance, thoroughly outfitted to the detail and with very witty dialogues.”  —Lexikon des Internationalen Films


“A nostalgic crime comedy with a fabulous script—the likes of which few but GDR author Wolfgang Kohlhaase can achieve—and a wistful, taunting affection for postwar Berliners (exceptionally performed) on both sides of the law. German history, broken open in a robbery, shortly after a Berlin in rubble and before a Berlin divided.”   —Der Spiegel, 1989



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