Movie Diary 6/25/2018

Naked Among Wolves (Frank Beyer, 1963). Set in Buchenwald, in the final days before the Americans arrived in 1945. A child is smuggled into camp, and at first this threatens to become a sentimental story hook. But soon the film turns to the strategies of survival in the camp (including the Nazis’ anxiety about what their status will be after the liberation), and it becomes an absorbing study of inhumanity and endurance. Beyer also directed the very funny Carbide and Sorrel and the later banned Traces of Stones. The cast here includes Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Berlin Around the Corner (Gerhard Klein, 1965/1990). A sincere, if sometimes disjointed, portrait of factory workers – both young and old – who may be feeling the shortcomings of the socialist dream. Klein and screenwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase had previously made Berlin – Schönhauser Corner, a film that caught the wave of the youth movement in 1957; this one was not so lucky, and before it was edited it was banned by a new regime of state censorship. It was finally put together and screened after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

For Eyes Only (Janos Veiczi, 1963). An East German spy picture, sometimes hilariously campy though fairly tiresome overall. All the usual conventions are in place, but done in a cheapjack manner. The inspiration was an actual spy who brought documents back from West Germany that were trumpeted as proof that the West was going to attack the GDR; it was decades later that the revelations turned out to be entirely fake.