Undoubtedly, most of the East Germans films that I have had the misfortune of encountering are even more contrived and emotionally phony than the typical Hollywood hack work of the same era despite their glaring anti-American sentiments. Not surprisingly, virtually any East German filmmaker that attempted to be artistically distinct, experimental, and/or culturally subversive found their work banned, hence the lack of artistic innovation in GDR cinema. For example, painter and documentarian Jürgen Böttcher's sole narrative feature Jahrgang '45 (1965) aka Born in '45—a sort of GDR answer to the French New Wave—was immediately banned upon completion and did not even receive its premiere until 1990 after the reunification. Of course, it should be no surprise that some of the most controversial and experimental films of the Teutonic Eastern Bloc country were made during the GDR’s final years when it became obvious that Soviet style communism was on its deathbed. In fact, DEFA’s first and last gay film, Coming Out (1989) directed by Heiner Carow (who was also responsible for the slightly subversive DEFA classic Die Legende von Paul und Paula (1973) aka The Legend of Paul and Paula), had its premiere the very same night the Berlin Wall came down as is briefly referenced in Rosa von Praunheim’s Ich bin meine eigene Frau (1992) aka I Am My Own Woman starring East Germany’s most legendary tranny Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. Naturally, it should be no surprise that the DEFA’s most controversial and experimental film was released not long after when the GDR was already in ruins.
Under the pretense of acting as her own personal glamour photographer, Georg basks in the highly intimate glory of having one-on-one photo shoots with Miss Albena that involve her posing in a variety of less than subtly alluring fashions where she demonstrates that she can flex her body so freely that her she could practically kiss her own pussy lips. While Miss Albena poses for his camera, which seems to be more important to him than his cock as a sort of substitute phallus (indeed, the film is full of tons of overt Freudian symbolism), Georg imagines all sorts of fantastic things, including oceanic waves projected off her rather tan tits and derriere. Of course, the protagonist is always both literally and figuratively chasing his highly flexible crush, even if she fairly blatantly demonstrates that she has no interest in him outside of a purely professional capacity. Indeed, when Georg offers to buy her some fancy wine, she swiftly blows him off like he is an annoying yet ultimately irrelevant little gnat. Somewhat inexplicably, Georg even manages to get his boss (Eberhard Mellies)—a proud ‘Socialist Unity Party of Germany’ member that enjoys swimming with the protagonist and taking showers with him in a curious unisex collectivist bathhouse—to let him do an entire article on Miss Albena for their newspaper under the innately dubious subject of, “exoticism in socialism.” While Georg’s boss—a seemingly gynophobic man who strangely regularly swims and showers with his favorite young employee—complains he feels “sick in my stomach” upon seeing a portrait of the exotic dancer, he likes his employee too much to deny him the opportunity, henceforth eventually leading to conflict when the protagonist spends more time following around Miss Albena than actually working.
As I discovered from talking to an Austrian-German friend, despite living in a commie nation that was set up by Jews, Slavs, and German communist traitors, East Germans were never brainwashed with the sort of anti-German guilt that was and is still quite typical in so-called free Germany, hence why PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) is a largely East German movement. In fact, West Germany’s most unrepentantly nationalistic and right-wing filmmaker, Prussian auteur Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (Hitler: A Film from Germany, Parsifal), was born in the GDR and spent nearly the first two decades of his life there. Of course, the great American neo-Spengerlian political theorist and revolutionary Francis Parker Yockey long ago predicated that American culture-distorting would ultimately have a more deleterious effect on the peoples of Western European than communist tyranny would have on Eastern Europe. As Cora Stephan wrote in an article that was later translated by Sarah Farmer for an article entitled Symbols that Face Two Ways: Commemorating the Victims of Nazism and Stalinism at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen in regard to the lack of self-loathing among East Germans, “The state ideology of the antifascist resistance [...] exonerated East Germans from guilt [for] Nazi crimes since, according to the [antifascist] myth, their country was free of malefactors, the high-level Nazis having fled west at the end of the war. Since the roots of fascism had been eradicated in the GDR, where antifascists had won out and established a state committed to peace, there was nothing to apologize for. This sense of distance from the Nazi perpetrators and of moral superiority [over] the Federal Republic permitted some in the post-war generation of East Germans to develop a sense of national pride rare among their West German counterparts.” Certainly, quite unlike much of West German cinema, one does not get the sense while watching Der Strass that the director is plagued with guilt and/or has a deep-seated death wish. In fact, the film even features excerpts from the Siegfried's funeral march segment of Richard Wagner's “Götterdämmerung,” which would be somewhat taboo in West Germany due to the great Romantic composer's associations with the Third Reich as was made obnoxiously apparent in sexually degenerate Judaic Bryan Singer's big budget agitprop piece Valkyrie (2008).
While you will probably learn more about the facts of the innately corrupt commie police state that was the GDR by watching Frankfurt-born Hebrew Marcel Ophüls' doc Novembertage (1991) aka November Days or even Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's popular kraut blockbuster Das Leben der Anderen (2006) aka The Lives of Others, Höntsch’s ambitious debut is indubitably the best film to see if you are a young mensch that wants to experience how much it sucked for a young horny mensch to live in East Berlin during the final year or so of the GDR. Unfortunately, not unlike the seemingly semi-autobiographical protagonist of his film, Höntsch’s filmmaking career seemed to more or less end soon after the dissolution of the GDR as he would never get the opportunity to direct another film aside from the WDR TV movie Die Vergebung (1994) aka Forgiveness starring Lena Stolze and Sylvester Groth. Notably, DEFA apparently produced about 950 features between its founding in 1946 and demise in 1992, so it is only a great irony of kraut commie film history that the studio's first film created after the collapse of the GDR, Der Strass, is probably the freshest and most idiosyncratic, challenging, titillating, and aesthetically intriguing cinematic work that they ever produced. An oneiric one-man journey set in a decaying urban dystopia that truly gives off the powerfull illusion that grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (or, in this case, the other side of the wall), Höntsch’s film is ultimately an unforgettable obituary for a wholly inorganic nation that should have never existed yet nonetheless still managed to produce at least one good film during its all too long existence.