When one thinks of East Germany, images of barbed wire and the Berlin Wall spring to mind, as well as stories of the state’s political police – the dreaded Stasi. Yet there was a lively (albeit state-controlled) cultural scene in East Germany. Though artists, authors, and film makers were supposed to promote the Party line, they also aimed to entertain and, in some cases, test the limits of what the regime was prepared to tolerate.
This series of films made in East Germany by the state’s DEFA film studios offers the chance to look behind the Wall and see what citizens were able to watch in the cinemas of East Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig. Espionage film ‘For Eyes Only‘ represents the East German response to James Bond, while ‘The Legend of Paul and Paula‘ recounts a tale of love in East Berlin. ‘The Rabbit is Me‘, meanwhile, contains the kind of criticism of life in East Germany that the state was not prepared to allow; it was banned soon after its release in 1965.
The series finishes with ‘The Lives of Others‘. This story of the destructive operations and methods of the Stasi was a major hit upon its release in 2006. The screening of ‘The Lives of Others‘ will be followed by an interview and Q&A session with Antje K. Antje was born in East Germany in the early 1960s and will talk about her life there, her run-ins with the authorities, and her eventual emigration in the late 1980s. Dr Richard Millington, Senior Lecturer in German at the University Of Chester will conduct the interview with Antje, and will also give short introductions to each film screening.
This season has been co-curated by Dr Richard Millington, University of Chester, who will introduce each film.