Sitting on the suitcase in the overcrowded interzonal train from Hanover to West Berlin. Push the car forward in a traffic jam in front of the Dreilinden border crossing. Stand in the check-in boxes at the Friedrichstrasse border crossing. Such East-West impressions only raise question marks in the eyes of people born after reunification. All the more important is a documentary film like Vera Brückner’s “Sorry Comrade” that conveys a lot of contemporary color but doesn’t groan a bit underneath.
Shown at the Berlinale in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino last year, the love story of the 1988-born HFF Munich graduate tells of the everyday madness of life in two Germanys that were also at the heart of the Cold War. What “Sorry Comrade” also illustrates using original material from the 1960s and 1970s, ranging from the moon landing to military parades to Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev.
But the real story in the big world gear is a teenage love. Hedi and Karl-Heinz, both around 70 today. The pensioners, he a mischievous, wiry T-shirt wearer, she a cheerful brunette, tell the filmmaker about the time when they were surrounded by summery views of landscapes and cities like Berlin met.
The fact that Vera Brückner is not just acting as a cool observer is documented by her whispering narrator’s voice, which initially seeks agreement with the audience: “Hey, just between us, I’ve fallen in love with the story of Karl-Heinz and Hedi.” Brückner later directs its protagonists with props and colored backgrounds, just like in a feature film, and uses an animated map to illustrate the confusion of the flight from the Republic.
Despite such jokes, it is clear every minute that it is about a tragic separation and criminal circumstances from which the young people have suffered for years. However, the distance of the retrospect allows Brückner to exhibit the absurdity of the German-German reality. And that combined with Hedi and Karl-Heinz’s attitude to life, which was shaped by the student and peace movements and was quite related across the border, to which Ton Steine Scherben songs provide the soundtrack.
The later Jena medical student and the prospective Frankfurt teacher training student actually come from the same village: Oberellen in Thuringia. Except that Karl-Heinz came to the West with his parents when he was one year old. They met each other on Taunt Clärchen’s birthday in 1969, when Hedi was just 17.
It sparks between both of them, and an intimate pen pal friendship develops. When Karl-Heinz comes to West Berlin on his graduation trip, they want to meet in East Berlin in 1970 in front of the State Opera. Because a letter is not delivered, they miss each other and wait in vain for each other on different days. Unimaginable in the age of the internet and mobile phones.
Despite the bitter disappointment, love goes on. At meetings in Prague and when Karl-Heinz illegally stayed with Hedi in Jena in 1972. When he applied for naturalization in Berlin in order to move to the GDR, the Stasi became aware of the long-haired leftist and tried to recruit Karl-Heinz as a spy.
Black-and-white photos from a summer vacation in the Eastern Bloc show a happy hippie couple hanging out in front of their tent with a guitar. The Stasi is increasing the pressure behind the scenes and manipulating the naturalization process. Hedi, who previously had not fundamentally questioned her life in the GDR, decides to flee the republic via Romania. “Sorry Comrade” tells the nail-biter as a thriller and farce at the same time. An effective way to reduce the arbitrariness of political systems to absurdity.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years now and I have worked for some of the biggest news websites in the world. My focus has always been on entertainment news, but I also cover a range of other topics. I am currently an author at Global happenings and I love writing about all things pop-culture related.