Broken Taboos
Insel der Schwäne (Swan island)

Insel der Schwäne © DEFA-Stiftung/Waltraut Pathenheimer

Language German
Subtitle EN
Genre Drama, Coming-of-Age
Country GDR
Year 1983
Director Herrmann Zschoche
Cast Axel Bunke, Mathias Müller, Sven Martinek, Britt Baumann, Kerstin Reiseck, Ursula Werner, Christian Grashof
Production DEFA-Studio für Spielfilme
Length 88 minutes
FSK movie 6 years
FSK trailer 6 years

Told through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy, this socially critical film depicts the reality of housing policy in East Germany. His family’s move to Berlin-Marzahn forces Stefan to find his way in an anonymous and harsh new environment in the capital city.

Stefan moves with his parents from their near-idyllic life in a village to Berlin, specifically to the new housing development of Berlin-Marzahn. While his father takes up a job as a construction worker, Stefan faces the challenges of integrating into his new social milieu. He soon discovers that everyday life and social interaction in Marzahn are completely different from what he is used to. The interactions between the young people are rough, and everyday school life is characterised by unfeeling routines. It’s not an easy time for Stefan until he finds his way in the new setting and resolutely faces the many conflicts.

Insel der Schwäne is an honest and socially critical film that stands up for the concerns of young people, not only in the former GDR, who are at risk of being emotionally suffocated. After its premiere, the film was sharply rebuked in a press campaign initiated by the government leaders as an “attack on the party’s housing policies.” Its screenwriter Ulrich Plenzdorf was accused of having a “distorted view of our reality.” The final scene therefore fell victim to subsequent censorship, but was reconstructed in 1990.

Watch the film online