We start our Jürgen Böttcher season with Born in ’45 (Jahrgang 45), Böttcher’s only fiction feature. A story about love, indecision, searching and aimless wandering – light and atmospheric, yet firmly grounded in the reality of 1960s East Berlin. Stars, Böttcher’s first of several films to portrait women at work, will open the screening following an introduction by Franziska Nössig, King’s College London
Born in ‘45
Al (Alfred) and Li (Lisa) haven’t been married for long, but somehow they don’t get on anymore and have filed for divorce. While Li, who is a nurse, continues going to work, Al has taken a few days off from his job as a car mechanic, using his free days to wander through the city to spend time with his neighbour Mogul, to see his friends, re-connect with an old girl-friend, visit his mother. In contrast with Li, who keeps up her routine and seems clear about what she wants from her life, Al obviously needs time and space to find out what seems to be missing from his life.
When he started to make films, Böttcher said, it was with the aim to direct feature films. But he saw his documentary work as a vital preparation for this goal. An admirer of the Italian Neo-Realism of de Sica, Visconti, and Rossellini, he wanted to make films that reflect the harsh reality of everyday life. There may not be so much harshness in Born in ‘45
. Yet, the difficulties depicted feel real and comprehensible, not only because they are, as the title suggest, those shared by many of that post-war generation that turned twenty in the mid-1960s. Al’s and Li’s problems also come across as so authentic because they are embedded in a narrative that moves naturally from scene to scene in an unobtrusive rhythm, that feels more observed than staged and that unfolds in the summary atmosphere of the parks, squares, and streets of East Berlin at the time.
Born in ’45
remained Böttcher’s only fiction feature film. The realism that he was aiming for in terms of story and of style, was exactly what the GDR officials objected to, one of them condemning it as the “Heroization of the Deviant”. Consequently, the film was banned at the stage of the rough cut and only completed in 1990, when it finally had its premiere. Böttcher returned to making documentaries, “an almost crazy vision of a future film” (Böttcher) and his painting keeping him going.
Born in ’45 (Jahrgang 45), GDR 1966 / 1990, b/w, DCP (35mm), 91 mins. With English subtitles.
Directed by Jürgen Böttcher. Written by Klaus Poche, Jürgen Poche. Cinematography: Roland Gräf. Music: Matthias Suschke, Wolf Biermann (songs). With Monika Hildebrand, Rolf Römer, Paul Eichbaum, Holger Mahlich, Gesine Rosenberg, Walter Stolp, Werner Kanitz, Ingo Koster, Anita Okon, Ruth Kommerell, Richard Rückheim, Ralf Winkler alias A. R. Penck.
Böttcher’s first film to document women at work is a group portrait of an all-female brigade at the NARVA light-bulb factory in Berlin, where each worker examines more than 30,000 filaments a month through a microscope. We see the women interact, talk and joke and hear them discuss the pros and cons of working or staying at home after childbirth.
Stars, GDR 1963, b/w, DCP (35mm), 20 mins. With English subtitles.
Directed by Jürgen Böttcher.
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The screening will be introduced by Franziska Nössig.
teaches in the German Department at King's College London, where she recently completed her PhD on Jürgen Böttcher. She has published on his experimental trilogy Transformations and has presented his films at the German Embassy London and the Weimar Art Society.