The beginning and the end of the 1980s in Berlin were polar opposites, and this collection of films depicts the turbulent nature of the decade as well as the city’s unique character. Music and art scenes grew from this split city and the underlying political struggle that formed the backdrop for them all. Coming Out, the first and last DDR film to depict Berlin’s gay scene before the fall of the DDR in 1989, and Christiane F. offer an insight into this troubled decade as it was captured on film.
1. Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo
Inspired by Christiane Felscherinow’s story, Edel’s film depicts the dark side of Berlin through the eyes of a young drug user. However, despite the fact that the film was shot in 1981, it depicts a cultural and spiritual component of New York City that continued into the 1980s and influenced the next decade. It became a cult classic in Europe because to David Bowie’s score, shocking audiences with its grim tale of a young girl’s drug addiction and the prostitution she undergoes to fund it. The fact that Christiane F. is based on a genuine story only adds to its poignancy.
An East German doctor who applied for an exit visa to transfer to the West was exiled to a rural East German hospital. Barbara recounts the extreme paranoia of the time’s oppression, having been removed from her employment in Berlin and under the watchful eye of the Stasi. Barbara is a lovely and haunting depiction of a horrific time, with underlying feelings seething beneath the concealment – there’s a tension in the lingering frames and withholding soundtrack. In the midst of her job, the East German occupation’s intrusions and frustrations are ever-more apparent.
3. The Lives of Others
“The Lives of Others” chronicles the account of writer Georg Dreyman’s life in occupied Berlin in 1983, when the city was still under Soviet control. It is a story delivered with unavoidable resonance that captures George’s sense of isolation and anxiety and illustrates the extremes of snooping and intervention within a state under surveillance. Spy agents become entangled in his life, and this remarkable film paints a haunting and paranoid portrait of life in Communist East Berlin. In recognition of its high level of realism and attention to detail, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
4. B Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin (1979-1989)
In the decade leading up to the collapse of the Wall, B-Movie is a compilation of primarily unreleased film and television material that chronicles the West Berlin sub and pop cultures that evolved during this time. When he moved to Berlin in 1978, Manchester-born Mark Reeder, a singer and producer, narrates the video, which depicts Berlin as an enigmatic and intriguing place that no longer exists. As well as well-known historical characters like Blixa Bargeld and Nick Cave, B-Movie is filled with a peculiar nostalgia for a metropolis that could only have existed at that time.
5. Wings of Desire
Der Himmel über Berlin by Wim Wenders is an ethereal reminiscence of Berlin in the 1980s. In the metropolis, angels can be seen perched on the roofs of buildings, chatting about the world below. Because of their role in the film, angels serve as both witnesses and guardians, but the plot centers on a particular angel who, after falling in love with a trapeze artist, decides to become human and travel to the planet Earth. While the film is shot in black-and-white, it has a dreamy appearance, allowing viewers to observe the residents of a metropolis. Many institutions and critics hailed it as a classic film almost immediately, and because it was released two and a half years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it examines the city’s differences while also celebrating its people.
6. Geniale Dilletanten – No Wave
Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds, Mora Mur and Malaria!, director Jim Jarmusch are featured in this experimental music documentary. As a result of the city’s political and cultural unrest, artists flocked to Berlin in search of acceptance, companionship, and the opportunity to disrupt the status quo. Geniale Dilletanten examines the ‘cultural upheaval’ of artists during this time period, which resulted in music, periodicals, galleries, endless partnerships, and new ideas from the artists.
7. Coming Out
When it comes to LGBT problems, this is the first film in the DDR to address them. The film had its East Berlin premiere the night before the fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 1989. This East Berlin-set cult classic tells the tale of a teacher who has a love affair with a young student. It was a significantly different social and cultural landscape in the post-DDR metropolis shown in the film.
8. Herr Lehmann
This is the account of a bartender who worked in Kreuzberg, Berlin, just before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The LGBT community has long relied on the pub, SO36, in Berlin, which is still open today. Mr. Lehmann, who is nearing 30 and has become increasingly introverted, is unaware of the seismic events taking place around him because he is preoccupied with his bartending career, his relationships, and his friends. Herr Lehmann captures the vibe of Kreuzberg and the kiez that abuts the Berlin Wall.
9. Rabbit à la Berlin
With its clever allegory of the Berlin Wall fall, Rabbit à la Berlin examines how the city has altered since it was divided by the two walls over the past 28 years. The fall of the Berlin Wall is seen via the prism of Konopka’s use of Cold War archival video, bringing a fresh perspective on history. Unique and captivating, Rabbit à la Berlin was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject in 2010 for its exploration of authoritarian regime collapse and subsequent wall demolition.
10. Goodbye, Lenin!
In 1989, Alex Kerner’s mother fell into a coma just before the Berlin Wall came down. There are many changes in both the city as well as country when she wakes up a few months later. The doctors say their mother couldn’t take any more shocks, so the family is doing everything they can to maintain the pre-revolutionary city’s fantasy. Next, they go on a series of hilarious missions, including covering up Coke advertisements and stockpiling DDR-era pickles. The comedy Goodbye, Lenin! takes aim at the reunion of the Soviet Union. By Harriet Blackmore.