A sympathetic portrait of a single mother and unskilled worker who rejects her dehumanising work and commits insurance fraud to survive, Evelyn Schmidt's film shows a keen eye for milieu and that the class divisions also existed in East Germany's socialist society. The film was never released in the GDR as it did not correspond with the GDR officials’ idea of the worker and responsible motherhood.
With an introduction by Helen Hughes, University of Surrey.
Susanne is a single mother. As an unskilled labourer, she is on the lower end of the professional and social hierarchy, even in theoretically egalitarian East Germany. Her friends and acquaintances are all from the margins of society. She finds her job as a punch press operator burdensome and quits. As her money starts to dwindle, she sees a way out. Urged on by a friend, she reports her bicycle stolen and collects the insurance. But just as she seems to be doing better and enjoying a relationship with ambitious engineer Thomas, her fraud is discovered and she is threatened with prosecution … Evelyn Schmidt portrays her protagonist’s emotional crisis with empathy and understanding. With a keen eye for the milieu, her film exposes the class divide in East German society, which reaches all the way down to romantic relationships. A story of emancipation, the narrative ellipses and concise storytelling make it feel very modern, even today. Dismissed by critics and the studio heads as “confusing” and “flawed”, The Bicycle offers up a realistic depiction of East Germany – its hardened social mores as well as its alternative breathing spaces – without idealising them. (Berlinale)
GDR 1982, colour, DCP, digitally restored version 2018, (35mm), 90 mins. With English subtitles.
Directed by Evelyn Schmidt, Script: Evelyn Schmidt, based on a scenario by Ernst Wenig, Director of Photography: Roland Dressel, Editor: Sabine Schmager, Music: Peter Rabenalt, Sound: Gerhard Baumgarten, Brigitte Pradel, Production Design: Marlene Willmann, Costumes: Ursula Strumpf. With With Heidemarie Schneider, Roman Kaminski, Anke Friedrich, Gertrud Brendler, Birgit Edenharter, Heidrun Bartholomäus, Gisela Bestehorn, Johanna Clas, Detlef Plath, Andrej Hoffmann
Helen Hughes teaches film studies at the University of Surrey. She has published a number of journal articles and chapters on German-language cinema as well as the book Green Documentary. She is currently finishing a book with the title Radioactive Documentary: Filming the nuclear environment after the Cold War.
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