Thursday, July 4, 2019, 7pm
»The Bicycle» (Evelyn Schmidt, GDR 1981)
In the frame of the film series DEFA-Women’s Films
SCALA Programmkino, Apothekenstrasse 13, 21335 Lueneburg
In the frame of the series »DEFA Women’s Films» dealing with the image of women in socialist societies, Halle fuer Kunst presents »The Bicycle» by Evelyn Schmidt from 1981.
Susanne is a single mother. As an unskilled worker, she is at the bottom of the professional and social hierarchy even in the GDR. She looks for friends and acquaintances among outsiders. After quitting her job as a punching shop worker, which she found monotonous, money is running short. Incited by a friend, she reports her bike as stolen and pockets the insured sum. Just as she seems to be picking up courage and hopes to find happiness in a relationship with the ambitious engineer Thomas, the fraud is discovered. Susanne is threatened by criminal proceedings. When she admits what she did and the upcoming trial to Thomas, she is met by incomprehension. Although he supports her, he can’t accept her way of life. They separate, and Susanne is determined to change her life.
As a precise sociological study, »Das Fahrrad» draws a realistic picture of the GDR – both of its social ossification and its alternative spaces, without idealizing them. The film succeeds in sensitively tracing the divide between the classes in GDR society, thus addressing a taboo issue.
Evelyn Schmidt (*1949 in Goerlitz) studied direction at the Hochschule fuer Film und Fernsehen in Potsdam-Babelsberg. She was the first female graduate of the film academy. After her studies she worked as a director for the DEFA and shot four feature films between 1980 and 1990: »Seitensprung», »Das Fahrrad», »Auf dem Sprung» and »Der Hut». They are idiosyncratic films critical of society, and »Das Fahrad» in particular was largely rejected by reviewers in the GDR as »confusing» and »failed». After German reunification, Evelyn Schmidt was not able to realize any more feature films.
Thursday, June 20, 2019, 7pm
»Unser kurzes Leben», GDR 1981, directed by: Lothar Warneke
SCALA Programmkino, Apothekenstrasse 13, 21335 Lueneburg
In the frame of the film series »DEFA Women’s Films» dealing with the image of women in socialist societies, Halle für Kunst presents »Unser kurzes Leben» by Lothar Warneke from 1981. »Unser kurzes Leben» is a DEFA screen adaptation based on motifs of the autobiographically tinged novel »Franziska Linkerhand» by Brigitte Reimann, which remained incomplete and was published posthumously in East Berlin in 1974.
After her divorce, and also to liberate herself from her professor with whom she had worked together until then, the young, ambitious architect Franziska Linkerhand decides to move from Berlin to the easternmost province of the GDR for a year. After arriving there, she is assigned to the existing municipal architects office, where she encounters a collective that has long capitulated in the face of practical restraints. But Franziska doesn’t want to give up her dream of building with the needs of people in mind. She resolutely champions her ambition to bring ideal and reality in accordance with each other and to overcome the separation between housing, working and life, as it is currently being cast in concrete in the suburban prefab settlements. Her ambition comes into strong conflict with the economic constraints and the fossilized ideology and resignation of her colleagues. Fights are bound to occur. She finds a new partner in the dump truck driver Trojanovicz, but their relationship falters due to his conformist attitude. Cooperating with her new boss, on the other hand, turns out to be much more positive, after initial difficulties. Following her probation year, Franziska decides to stay in the province.
Lothar Warneke (* 1936 in Leipzig; † 2005 in Potsdam) first studied theology in Leipzig and then studied to become a film director at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen in Potsdam-Babelsberg. After graduating, he first worked as an assistant director at the DEFA before making his own films. Warneke ranks among the most significant DEFA directors of the 1970s and 80s. In 1980 he was appointed vice president of the Verband der Film- und Fernsehschaffenden der DDR (Association of Film and Television Workers of the GDR). He also taught at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen in Potsdam-Babelsberg. After the collapse of the GDR, Lothar Warneke no longer received funding and was therefore no longer able to make films.
Film series DEFA women's films
06.06.2019 - 11.07.2019
The film series deals with the image of women in socialist societies based on Women’s Films produced by the DEFA, the state-run film studio of the GDR.
Both in the FRG and the GDR, Women’s Films were made, meaning movies that were predominantly shot in the 1970s and 80s and with an emancipatory aim revolved around female characters. In this respects, Women’s Films strongly contrasted »classic» cinema whose image of women was mostly reduced to role clichés – the woman as mother or femme fatale. In the wake of the second women’s movement that evolved in parallel with the social revolt of the 1960s, Women’s Films sought to disrupt one-dimensional and stereotypical depictions of women.
What is interesting here is that the conditions under which Women’s Films were made differed greatly in East and West Germany. While the official image of women in the GDR propagated and also promoted the compatibility of work and motherhood starting in the early 1970s at the latest, the bourgeois image of women in the still young FRG was based on patriarchal marriage and family structures. Accordingly, women were socially and economically dependent on men and mainly responsible for the domestic and family sphere.
But the socialist image of women propagated in the GDR contradicted the everyday life of most women, for equality was achieved only in the participation in paid production work, not in regard to relationships, family, raising children, and performing »unproductive» domestic labor. The socialist image of women is by no means based on emancipatory thinking, but owed to the rapidly declining birthrate and economic bottlenecks. Therefore, the faltering socialist planned economy simply needed women as part of the workforce.
So even if – despite purported equality and the widespread gainful employment of women – traditional gender relations were ultimately not questioned in socialist societies either, the invoked and demanded image of women did lead to (financial) independence, so that from an early point in time, women in the GDR no longer defined themselves exclusively via the private sphere and the family, but strongly linked their self-understanding to their professional occupation, leading to both self-affirmation and self-realization. This discrepancy as well as the resulting difficulties – e.g., additional burden and overload, wage inequality and lower chances of professional advancement – were explicitly addressed in the Women’s Films of the DEFA and are in the focus of the presented films.
The starting point of the film series is a reflection on the fact that all of the described problems, questions and conflicts were the same as the ones we are still struggling with and failing to overcome today – 50 years later and under entirely different social conditions. What is also of interest is the idealization or assertion that many lives are possible in one. And how confusing it is that precisely concepts such as the compatibility of family and work – or the concepts of self-realization and sexual liberation – which have been fought for over decades, are now in danger of being integrated in the catalogue of (self-realization) demands in neoliberal societies and degenerating into a travesty. The resulting contradictions are still left to the individual and not resolved on the level of society.
»Kaskade rueckwaerts», GDR 1984, directed by: Iris Gusner, 94 min
Thursday, June 06, 2019, 7pm
»Karla», GDR 1965, directed by: Herrmann Zschoche, 128 min
Thursday, June 13, 2019, 7pm
»Unser kurzes Leben», GDR 1981, directed by: Lothar Warneke, 116 min
Thursday, June 20, 2019, 7pm
»Solo Sunny», GDR 1980, directed by: Konrad Wolf, 104 min
Thursday, June 27, 2019, 7pm
»Das Fahrrad», GDR 1982, directed by: Evelyn Schmidt, 90 min
Thursday, July 04, 2019, 7pm
»Bis dass der Tod euch scheidet», GDR 1979, directed by: Heiner Carow, 96 min Thursday, July 11, 2019, 7pm
The Film series and the annual program at Halle fuer Kunst Lueneburg is generously supported by Land Niedersachsen, Sparkassenstiftung Lueneburg and Hansestadt Lueneburg.