The Rabbit Is Me (1965)
The Rabbit Is Me was made in 1965 to encourage discussion of the democratization of East German society. In it, a young student has an affair with a judge who once sentenced her brother for political reasons; she eventually confronts him with his opportunism and hypocrisy. It is a sardonic portrayal of the German Democratic Republic's judicial system and its social implications. The film was banned by officials as an anti-socialist, pessimistic and revisionist attack on the state. It henceforth lent its name to all the banned films of 1965, which became known as the "Rabbit Films." After its release in 1990, The Rabbit Is Me earned critical praise as one of the most important and courageous works ever made in East Germany. It was screened at The Museum of Modern Art in 2005 as part of the film series Rebels with a Cause: The Cinema of East Germany.
- Maria Morzcek (Angelika Waller) lives in East Germany with her Aunt Hete (Ilse Voigt). Maria narrates a lot of the story. Recently, her brother, Dieter (Wolfgang Winkler), has been jailed for three years for subversive behavior and she's been seduced by her gym teacher at school. The school principal tries to get her to condemn her brother's behavior. She refuses. After finishing school she is rejected by the university she applied to enter and becomes a waitress. By chance, at a concert, she meets the judge responsible for her brother's sentencing. He is attracted to her and pursues her until they become lovers. At first she had no idea who he was but during a visit to her brother, Dieter, in prison she learned the name of the judge was Paul Deister (Alfred Müller).
He is pleasant middle-aged man who courts her and wins her affection and they begin an affair. When she is diagnosed with Spondylitis, requiring six months rest in a warm climate, he offers her the unrestricted use of his holiday home. He visits her on Sundays and Mondays and they make love. He also asks her to do some translations of Russian files he is working on, which he pays her for, making her feel more like his equal. She also gets a job as a waitress in a local bar. She tries to petition the court for Dieter to be pardoned but she recognizes it is beyond her capabilities and knowledge.
Deister learns of the connection between them and is furious, thinking she is trying to manipulate him, when it is has been quite the reverse. A wedge begins to separate them. Despite everything, they are in love, and the relationship survives a few months of building tension and frustration. In the town where Maria now lives, a man's body is found in the lake. One of the searchers, Grambow (Rudolf Ulrich), in a drunken moment, denounces the German Democratic Republic when he reveals in a public bar that the dead man was a non-commissioned officer. He compares the importance of a commissioned officer with the dead man and denounces the elitist attitude towards working class people, who were the people who enlisted and earned their rank, and those who feel entitled. Deister witnesses the situation and defuses. As a hard-liner he believes it requires the full penalty the law can adjudicate. The local Mayor (Helmut Schellhardt) tries to reason with Deister about the level at which the offense should be regarded.
A local court is convened and evidence is heard, including testimony from Maria, but she and the town refuse to condemn Grambow. He is let off with a suspended sentence of 90-days compared with the three-years that Dieter received for a similar offense. This leniency incenses Maria and causes the divide, between Paul's beliefs and her experience, to widen.
One day a car pulls up at the house in the country. She expects Paul but it is Deister's wife, Gabriele (Irma Münch). She's quite restrained in her manner as she meets the 19-year old mistress, and Maria learns that Judge Deister tried to commit suicide recently, but failed. It appears that the relationship is over until Deister runs into Maria again and attempts to win her back by showing that he has listened to what she has said to him and changed. He tells her, "A new wind is blowing." He's willing to write to the court regarding Dieter, to get him an early release. Maria realizes that he's actually looking to service his own career yet again by going with the popular belief, of a judicial system that should now show more compassion and be more lenient in sentencing. She tears his letter up and ends the relationship.
When Dieter is released from prison he learns that Maria had an affair with the judge who sentenced him. He beats her. She recovers from the beating and resolves to move out of her Aunt's flat and make her own way in the world. She will work as a waitress as long as she needs to. Rejected from studying at a university she will try to be responsible for her own progress, using her Russian-language skills to get a position as an interpreter. She is wiser and a more mature nineteen-year old than less than a year before. There's a determination in every step she takes to show she will make something of herself and stand up for herself. She won't be pushed around anymore, by Deiter or Diester, or anyone.