Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser (1957)

schoenhauser

Berlin, Schoenhauser Corner (German: Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser…)[1] is an East German crime film directed by Gerhard Klein. It was released in 1957.

Plot summary

Dieter, Angela, Kohle and Karl-Heinz are part of a group of delinquent youths who prowl Schönhauser Allee, in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg. The four, each with his troubled life, are often in trouble with the police. Karl-Heinz steals an identity document and uses it to enter West Berlin, where he murders a man while committing armed robbery. The police suspect that his friends assisted him. When he returns, Kohle and Dieter confront Karl-Heinz about an unpaid debt; he threatens them both with a pistol, and Kohle knocks him unconscious. Karl-Heinz recovers and runs away. But Dieter and Kohle believe they have killed Karl-Heinz. Kohle and Dieter get assistance in fleeing to West Berlin, and are staying in a home with other young men. They plan to get to the Federal Republic of Germany. Before long Dieter wonders whether Karl-Heinz is really dead, and whether it would be safe to return to East Berlin. He is threatened by some of the young men in the home where they are staying. Kohle is concerned that the two friends will be separated. He drinks a solution of coffee and tobacco to feign illness, so he can’t be sent away. On the next day, Dieter discovers Kohle dead, poisoned by the beverage. Dieter returns home, where Angela awaits his child, and explains the situation to the police. He is released, while Karl-Heinz is imprisoned.

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Cast

  • Ekkehard Schall as Dieter
  • Ilse Pagé as Angela
  • Ernst-Georg Schwill as Kohle
  • Harry Engel as Karl-Heinz Erdmann
  • Raimund Schelcher as Police commissioner
  • Helga Göring as Angela’s mother
  • Erika Dunkelmann as Kohle’s mother
  • Maximilian Larsen as Kohle’s stepfather
  • Ingeborg Beeske as Karl-Heinz’s mother
  • Siegfried Weiß as Karl-Heinz’s father
  • Manfred Borges as Dieter’s brother
  • Hartmut Reck as member of the Free German Youth
  • Gerd Michael Henneberg as American man

Production

The screenplay of Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser… was written in summer 1956 – during the early months of the Khruschev Thaw – and severely criticized by officials in the Ministry of Culture’s Cinema Directorate upon its completion. It was seen by the authorities as portraying only the negative side of the life in the country. Director Klein did not receive an approval to begin filming, but did so anyhow, starting at October. When Klein held a screening of Ecke Schönhauser in the Ministry of Culture, the officials present strongly disapproved of it, and intended to ban it. But when it was presented to the Central Committee of the Free German Youth, Hans Modrow praised Klein’s work and declared that it would be beneficial for the populace. The film was approved for release.[2]

Reception

The film was viewed by 1.5 million watchers in the first twelve weeks after its premiere.[3]

Mira and Antonin Liehm wrote that, while still attacking “West Berlin with the same propagandistic undertone of all DEFA films”, it also “took into account the shady aspects of life in the East”.[4] Dagmar Schittly noted that the film acknowledged the East German youth’s wish to emulate the life in the West, at least partially: on one occasion, Angela states that her model of the ideal man figure is Marlon Brando.[5]

At 1995, Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser… was selected as one of the 100 most important German films in history.[6]

References

  1. Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser… on DEFA Foundation’s website.
  2. Ralf Schenk (editor). Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg. DEFA- Spielfilme 1946 – 1992. ISBN 978-3-89487-175-8. Pages 127-130.
  3. Markus Münch. Drehort Berlin. Wo berühmte Filme entstanden”. ISBN 978-3-8148-0154-4. Page 63.
  4. Miera Liehm, Antonin J. Liehm . The Most Important Art: Soviet and Eastern European Film After 1945. ISBN 0-520-04128-3. page 261.
  5. Dagmar Schittly. Zwischen Regie und Regime. Die Filmpolitik der SED im Spiegel der DEFA-Produktionen. ISBN 978-3-86153-262-0. Pages 97-100.
  6. Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser… on PROGRESS’ website.
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