East Germany: Film Indusry (1945-89)


Figure 1.--The voluminous output of the East German film industry provide numerous films showing the clothes worn by ordinary German boys. HBC is not sure yet, however, how fashion varied in East and more affluent West Germany. A typical hime scene in the 1970s is shown here. Click on the image for another view from the same film.

The industry in East Gernmany (DDR) continued to be burdened with the heavy hand of censorship, this time Communist ideology. HBC knows little about the East German film industry. There does not appear to have been any films that proved a commercial success in the West. The industry did participate in a variety of joint productioins with other east-bloc countries and there films were distributed in East Germany. While the industry may not have produced a lot of notable films, many of the films they did produce nicely chronicle children's fashions. Given the limited budget of many productions, HBC believes that the clothing the children wore, especially children that were not the main characters, was probably the clothing that children in East Germany normally wore.

Communist Idelogy

The industry in East Gernmany (DDR) continued to be burdened with the heavy hand of censorship, this time Communist ideology. While the ideological censorship no doubt affected the content and vitality of East German films, it may made the films a more use vehicle for show casing the clothes worn by the average film. The subject matter for films was often the life of every day workers. Although often viewed critically, some film historians as an icreasing number of the East German films have come to light, have begun to reconsider the East German film output. The East German film industry was less prone to creating child movie stars. Often children were chosen for the films with limited acting experience. These children often showed up for shoots in their own clothes--at least for films with a contempoary setting.

Germany's other Cinema: The DEFA Story

(Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA) was born in the rubble of World War II. DEFA quickly became East Germany's movie-making powerhouse. As a state-owned studio, DEFA's immense product --over 750 feature films between 1946 and 1992, along with thousands of documentaries and short works--undoubtedly reflected the imperatives of East Germany's "really existing socialism." Yet DEFA also answered to the demand of everyday East Germans for popular entertainment, and developed a remarkable roster of talent to meet that need. Suspense films, historical dramas, musicals, and the ever-popular Western indicate the range of DEFA output; stylistically, DEFA directors explored every avenue of 20th-century possibility, from socialist realism to expressionism, modernism, neo-realism, and film noire. Now, as the "East Germany"fades into history, the DEFA story is gaining a second look, from film critics and fans alike. A recent poll of Germany's 100 best films found DEFA movies capturing a respectable share. As restoration work in the DEFA archives introduces this cinema to new international audiences, directors such as Wolfgang Staudte, Frank Beyer, Kurt Maetzig, and Konrad Wolf have attracted growing reconsideration and acclaim. International Historic Films has joined in this project of rediscovery.

Directors

We do not have much information on East Germ film directors. We do not one such director, Konrad Wolf who after his family fled the NAZUIs went to school in MOscow.

Weimar Filmology

The East German films I have noted do not appear to be very impressive films technically. This is interesting give the technical brilliance of film making in Weimr Grermany, some of which continued in the NAZI era. The film industry of the Weimar Republic, before the NAZIs seized power (1933), was one of the most vibrant in the world, competing with Hollywood in Europe. The film industry wonderfully chronicled the turmoil and uncertainty of post-World War I Germany. The defeat of Germany had shattered all the certainties and stability of German life. France and England experienced similar trends, but given the enormity of defeat, abdication of the Kaiser, and the resulting Vesailles Peace Treaty--the impact German on German society was even more severe. The era stimuklated creativity as it did political disorder. Most of the output of the German film industry during the Weimar era were silent films. I'm not sure when "talkies" were first made, but it would have been about 1930. This is significant because before sound, German and other European films could be easily viewed in different countries. It was a simple matter to translate the text pannels.

International Exposure

The industry did participate in a variety of joint productioins with other east-bloc countries and there films were distributed in East Germany.

Accuracy of Clothing Depictions

While the industry may not have produced a lot of notable films, many of te films they did produce nicely chromicle children's fashions. Given the limited budget of many productions, HBC believes that the clothing the children wore, especially children that were not the main characters, was probably the clothing that children in East Germany normally wore.

Garments

Some of the garments seen in East German films included:

Caps

I have not noted a lot of boys wearing caps in East German films. Berets are notably absent. Surprisingly, one style seen in the 1970s is a baseball-style cap, but with an unsually large peak or bill.

Suits

Boys in East German films are not commonly seen wearing suits. This may because they were not commonly worn. Idelogy focusing on working class families where the boys were less likely to wear suits may have been another factor.

Jackets

Many boys can be seen wearing informal, light-weight jackets.

Shirts

East German boys are depicted as wearing a wide variety of shirts. "T"-shirts were very popular for summer wear. Many are bright collars orr striped. Some have Rugby collars. A wide variety of collar shirts were worn in many different colors and patterns.


Figure 2.--The Trebant in the background clearly marks this as an East German film. Just as in West Germany, East German boys common had book back packs. Note the suspender lederhosen.

Pants

Knickers were still worn in the 1940s, but little seen by the 1950s. Many boys wore short pants, even older boys in the 1940s and early 1950s. By the 1960s they become more for younger boys and worn during the summer. Long pants become more common in the 1970s and even jeans can be seen in the 1980s. The boys that do wear short pants in the 1970s and 80s wear quite short cut shorts. Lederhosen are often seen.

Hosiery

Kneesocks are common in the 1940s and 50s. Many boys wear quite elaborately patterned kneesocks. While kneesocks become less common in the 1970s they never entirely disappear. Some younger boys werar tights in the wiinter. Most boys during the summer wear ankle socks.

Shoes

Most boys wear leather shoes. Some boys wear sandals, mostly open toe styles. They are almost always worn with socks. Sneakers are not commonly seen until the mid-1970s.

Uniforms

Most schools did not have uniforms, but almost all boys had to join the Young Pioneers.

Schoolwear

Most schools did not have uniforms and the children wore their own clothes. HBC does not yet have information on how schoolwear was depicted in East German films.

Young pioneers

Almost all boys had to join the Young Pioneers. HBC does not yet have information on how the Young Pioneers were depicted in East German films.

Chronology

The East German film industry operated for over four decades. Substantial changes in children's fashions during that period. German boys were commonly wearing short pants and knickers at the end of World War II (1945). During the war more boys began wearing long pants, but short pants were still very common during the post-war era in the 1940s and 50s. Shorts began to decline in popularity during the 1960s, especially for older boys. East German films less commonly depicted noys in suits than was common in the West. Jeans began to become popular in the late 1950s, but as they were associated with America, they were discouraged by officials. Thus they did not appear in East German films for sevefal years. Younger boys continued to wear shorts, especially drung the summer. The popular style during the 1970s and 80s were quite short shorts. Kneesocks were much less coomon, but in the 1960s younger boys began wearing tights.. By the 1980s jeans became more prevalent.

Differences with West Germany

We do not yet have enough information on East German films to assess differences with West Germany. This included both plots and costuming. Hre we would be interested in any information that German can provide. We do not know, for example, if East Germany made the Heimat films that were so popular in West Germany. An HBC contributor believes that the characters in East German movies are wearing clothes that are a good reflection of the styles at the time. He suspects that most of the characters are wearing whatever clothes they turned up in. As aresult the styles can be compared to those worn in West Germany. He thinks the styles were the same not only in East and West Germany, but throughout much of Europe. HBC hopes to pursue this tooic.


Figure 2.--This scene from "Trompeton--Anton is one of many showing the informal summer clothes worn by East German boys.

Individual Films

We do not yet have much information on East German films. We have Some information on a few individual East German films. Hopefully German readers will ne able to tell us more. They provide a great deal of information about contemprary children's fashions in East Germany. HBC knows little about the East German film industry. There does not appear to have been any films that proved a commercial success in the West. We are mot entirely sure to what extent they were shown in the West.










HBC






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Created: August 18, 2000
Last updated: 6:08 PM 5/19/2010