Thursday, July 23, 2009

let your kite fly! go to her!

Sorry for the delay, beloved blog readers. This week's excuse is I have a cyst in my hand & it's been causing a lot of pain (and insurance hassle) and I just haven't had the time to write without serious pain.

Today's recommendation, the third of this week's quintet of postwar German films, is Heiner Carow's

The Legend of Paul and Paula

I bet you've never seen an East German film. I bet you don't know anything about East Germany except that they used to have a wall and don't anymore but maybe once someone you knew was in Berlin and they brought you back a rock which they said was part of the wall; you may or may not believe them. You still know nothing about Germany.

This is your chance to learn something!

The Legend of Paul & Paula is about 2 people named, for real, Paul and Paula. Paul is a successful military officer who marries the daughter of carnies because, hey, it's a socialist utopia now. He should bring her up, his colleagues say, and she shows a lot of cleavage. Improve her mind. Paula is a charwoman with two children from two different men who is weighing a marriage proposal to marry herself up to a nice (old) tire salesman with a dacha. Incongruously and intercut, old buildings are imploded, making way for the glorious, classless future of a unified DDR, a slouching and silent third character in the film. The shots of demolishing buildings function as sorts of intertitles within the film.

Paul & Paula is about failed relationships and failed government systems. It's about fate, in a way. It's about the peculiar German taxonomy of fairy tales & legends and how they are transmuted into and animate the otherwise grim and lifeless Plattenbauen of 1970s east Germany. Paul and Paula are less fleshed out characters than they are symbols, functioning human widgets in a complicated moral drama. Maybe.

This is a movie about social class in the classless utopia of the DDR. It comes to troubling conclusions - our bleeding liberal hearts recoil at the notion that, say, Paul's vulgar wife is the way she is because of some social Darwinism, although I suppose our collective minds, indoctrinated from birth into American determinism, agree with the socialist critique.

Paul & Paula also features some AWESOME tunes by an East German band called Puhdys. When I was teaching in East Germany, my colleagues were amazed I had heard of the band.

As you can imagine, the government censors did not love this film, and they loved it even less because it played for a period of time before they realized it was like, all political and shit.

So, in order to become more worldly, I Recommend that you watch The Legend of Paul & Paula. The DVD is available both on Amazon & through Netflix.


  1. Love this movie! And wrote a really terrible paper about it and it's book version (which I was assuming was written before the movie until I sat down to write the paper at the last minute. Hence, bad paper.)

  2. The movie sounds great; I will try to catch it when I have the time. BTW, my chunk of the Berlin wall was given to me by a Berlin native who made a point of returning to the city just to be there as the wall was coming down. Seeing that happen, she said, was probably the happiest moment of her life.


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