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This picture, which has been shown in East Germany for only a week until political censors understood its impact on the people, is a very realistic East German view of life in post war East Berlin. It's mainly about the romance of Paul, a privileged but unhappy secret service agent, and Paula, an underprivileged and single girl with children. Since it is one of the very few movies which portraits honest details of real life in East Berlin at that time, it now serves as a reminder of emotions and feelings for a lot of East Germans. Despite the heavy use of symbolism (pretty old houses are blown away for the construction of uniform socialist buildings) it still doesn't draw a too pessimistic picture and leaves space for dreams and hope. I really love this movie, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to catch a glimpse idea of how life was at that time in a socialistic system. The film is available with English subtitles which gives foreigners the chance to understand it, too.
The Legend of Paul and Paula seems simple yet not boring. However, the film has profound ideas to tell gender roles, social inequality and escapism. I like the film's way portraying of everyday life in East Berlin. You can almost see and feel the city. The love story between a passionate single mother and a complacent, married bureaucrat is not your typical Hollywood movie. The film also has a psychedelic and hippie feel. The soundtrack suits the film. I like the portions of the film where some elements (like the band that plays music while Paul and Paula are making love) are placed for no reason. The movie has a simple charm that captivates audiences. I guess that the film's success lies in its way of making the ordinary scenes of life extraordinary.
If you want to get the feel of life in East Germany and of life in the 70s, this is your film. It is critical of the socialist system (national socialism ended in 1945, afterwards there was no Nazi-propaganda anywhere anymore, especially not in the East! Sorry, but another reviewer got this wrong), offers a romantic story and good acting by well-known actors. It is still cult in Berlin, where you can regularly see in the cinema. It kicked off the wave of east-German nostalgia. The film was so successful that today you can still see references to it in other films (eg. "Sonnenallee") and that the city decided to name a path along a lake "Paul und Paula Ufer" with a Paul und Paula bench to sit on. Also the soundtrack is worth listening to (especially the lyrics) and marked the beginning of the Puhdys'huge career.
"Die Legende von Paul und Paula" (1973), co-written and directed by
Heiner Carow, is a famous film in Germany. The story seems tame enough
now--a young woman is dissatisfied with her life and takes active steps
to improve it.
Angelica Domröse plays Paula, a single mother who has a dead-end job and no social life. Winfried Glatzeder portrays Paul, who is unhappily married and is drawn to the free-spirited Paula. (Glatzeder has been called East Germany's Jean-Paul Belmondo. He didn't look much like Belmondo, and wouldn't have struck me as leading man material. However, I don't know enough about East German cinema to be aware of his competition.)
I've been told that the reason for this film's popularity in East Germany was because it contained subtle criticism of the regime, as well as depicting some PG-13 sex. I know East German films were subject to strict censorship, and, as in any similar regime, directors inserted criticisms in ways that were necessarily very indirect and symbolic.
The problem is that this movie only works if you can think of how you would have viewed it in East Berlin in 1973. I don't believe it's strong enough to succeed on its own merits in 2006.
Heiner Carow's "Die Legende von Paul und Paula" is the first GDR film
I've watched which centered on a woman and her development as an
individual, which was new to DEFA within that period of time. "Die
Legende..." is different from other films made before it since the
story was about a woman who seeks for self-fulfillment and follows her
heart in spite of the rigidity of societal norms.
In this film, Paula is the epitome of what women were mostly portrayed as in the 1970s: emotional rather than rational.
Paula is a quirk of a character. She wears her heart on her sleeve and cares not one bit what happens as long as she is happy. She seems a bit over the edge at some points in the film, though. As if she were about to break down at a moment's notice. Her character is intense and Angelica Dumrose fully consummates the part.
Die Legende von Paul und Paula captures the spirit of the changes and
upheavals of the late 1960ies / early 1970ies upheaval like no other
film. Outstanding acting and the on-screen chemistry between Angelica
Domröse and Winfried Glatzeder (basically they're the Brangelina of
early 1970ies East Germany) make up for the movie's slow and somewhat
inane first third, and some dated flourishes such as the Sergeant
Pepper-style scene on the barge. The movie manages to convey that the
GDR wasn't the worker's paradise many like to remember it as, without
ever being in-your-face type of critical.
Unlike some reviewers have hinted, the movie was never banned in the GDR, although it can't have been popular with the party big whigs. In fact it was even the most popular homegrown movie on the other side of the wall.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film "Die Legende von Paul und Paula" is the answer of DEFA to the western Flower Power movement in the sixties. And although normally the Bolshevist film makers have a habit of ridiculing western (bourgeois) cultural phenomena, in this film they look kindly upon the sensual life of the hippies. The result is a bitter-sweet story. Bitter, because Flower Power is a counter culture, that revolts against the powers that be. The relation between the young lovers Paula and Paul is passionate and bold. For Paul is still married, albeit with a pawky and deceitful woman, a pauper and a pouter, in an affair that from the start never had a chance. And Paula is a mother of two children, just separated, because her husband could not remain faithful. Evidently marriage can be a vexation. The relation between Paula and Paul develops on feelings of passion and attraction. For on the level of cognition they are very different. Paul is a well-paid worker in the medical profession, and looks forward to a brilliant career. Paula works as check-out lady in a supermarket (does this mean something?). Some would call her a Paul Pry. But she possesses a fantasy, a despairing joy and a cheerful nature, that gradually undermine Pauls narrow-minded objections against a new steady relationship. There is sorrow too, for instance when Paulas little boy is killed in a road accident. Finally, after much amorous pow-pow, in the end the couple is united. But the union will not last. For Paula insists on having a child from Paul, even though because of physical inaptness the birth will most likely kill her. She is passionate until the end. Her death is the rebirth of Paul, who now under his own power adopts her sensual and joyous life style (with three kids, two from their former marriages, plus the mutual one). The timeless freedom of their affair is supported by the music of the GDR rock band "Die Puhdys", and by psychedelic scenes of Paula and Paul in a bed of flowers, floating on a river. The contrast with an earlier scene, where they make love in a pound, is immense. Of course this film is not unique. It follows the typical pattern of those days, just like for instance the Dutch film "Turks fruit" (also ending with the death of the female), and the American "Hair". But although I grew up in those years, I am still unable to give a convincing interpretation. There is something about sexual liberation and ill-fated relations. Beyond that, the behavior of the main characters is clearly unhealthy - just like Flower Power itself was unworldly and not viable. Perhaps the message is that there is always hope, and you should smile even in times of humanitarian shortcomings. We are just pawns in life's game. Let us call it a kind-hearted film with many qualities, that deserves more than it gets - like often on IMDb.
It's kind of weird. Angelica Domröse speaks in the movie of a Banana
and why it's bent, yet she as an actress has probably never seen one.
Also her parents most likely chose her name 'Angelica' (note: the name
is spelt 'Angelika' in any German-speaking country) to mock the Soviet
system and give credit to the American way of life. Just like pretty
much anyone else in the GDR (note: if ever you meet a girl in Europe
named 'Doreen', 'Melissa' or 'Mandy', it's pretty safe to say that
she's from East Germany).
Pretty much all of the home appliances shown are authentic, yet they had to introduce coffee and cosmetics (which didn't really exist in the GDR at that time) to make it suitable for the political demagogues. Imagine it: the fact that there is a sentence in English ("excuse me, only one glass for you") could have led to a total ban of the entire movie.
What else is there to say? Try to understand the lyrics of the Band 'Puhdys' featured manifold in this flick and the in-between-the-lines-messages and how this was important to get thoughts of freedom past the GDR's government's census.
Well you guys probably don't and will never understand what kind of fruit GDR's socialism sprouted, but watching 'Paul and Paula' could theoretically help you get at least a glimpse.
Paul and Paula go through life picking the wrong partners until they happen to hook up with each other and the legend begins. Low-budget German film has the look of a cheesy porno movie. The script is pretty standard boy-meets-girl story. The acting by Domrose (as Paula, who seems to work in an amazingly busy grocery store or something and has wild mood swings) and Glatzeder (as the goofy Paul) is not bad, considering the clichéd characters they are playing. The direction is amateurish, with incongruous shots of buildings being demolished thrown in. The soundtrack is filled with bad German pop songs, although it is interesting that they get the lyrics to rhyme even after translating to English.
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