Compulsive collective farming, or: Leninism is a religion
Rauhreif is a story about an ugly period in the East-German history. The Leninist government had always clearly voiced its ideological preference for collective businesses in the agriculture. But in 1960 the remaining independent farmers were actually forced to abandon their homestead, and become member of a collective (the so-called LPG, G for Genossenschaft = Association). Since farmers are especially attached to their Independence, the measure caused lots of mental suffering. So unless the enjoyment of others' mishaps is your thing, Rauhreif is not a pleasure to watch. The policy is even more objectionable, since it is merely Leninist prank. For in reality small-scale farming can be at least as productive as industrial farming. Up to the present day within the European Union the Polish small farms remain competitive. On the other hand, it must be said that Rauhreif is not more depressing than for instance "The grapes of wrath". Joke: an American farmer says to a Polish one: "It takes me hours to drive through my estate". The Pole replies: "I once had a car like that". In Rauhreif a party functionary in the Oder marshland tries to improve the production of the compulsory local LPG. Especially the procreation of the livestock is poor. I'm not kidding! Evidently the farm-workers sabotage all efforts, hoping that the project will fail. It begins to dawn to the functionary, that indeed a mistake has been made. But then the party sends his father (!) in order to support him. The father is a Leninist of the old type ("the party is always right") with an impressive track record and ditto reputation. Remember that Stalin had died merely a decade ago. He boasts being imprisoned under the Hitler regime and other qualities. And he is indeed convincing: those workers who do not produce (enough), will simply not eat. Problem solved. His approach is food for believers. The workers even get the instruction to adapt their personalities in order to be more fruitful! His actions bring relief in party circles, and the film producers probably indeed believed to narrate a success story. Technically the film is certainly satisfying: the shots of the marshland and its inhabitants are impressive, the texts are sound and poetic, and the characters are convincing. The craftsmanship of the Defa Studios is unquestionable, and made for instance the Spanish war-film "Fuenf Patronenhuelsen" into a classic. In addition I like in Rauhreif the appearance of Armin Mueller-Stahl. No, Stahl is not his fathers' name. Other films about the LPGs are "Schlosser und Katen" (with subtitles!) and "Wege uebers Land". In these films the foundation of the LPGs is voluntary, albeit under political pressure. We witness how the doubting Thomases become convinced with the promises of future rewards. And the incorrigible opponents of the idea appear to be plain crooks. Amazing. But "Rauhreif" makes no excuses. It proves that Leninism is a religion. The party is God in a human shape.
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