Torn Curtain, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Lives of Others, Good Bye Lenin!, One two three, Wings of Desire, Divided Heaven… What do these films by Hitchcock, Wenders, Wilder and Ritt, have in common? They tell of the Cold War in Berlin before and after the building of The Wall in August 1961, separating East Germany – the GDR – from West Germany – the FRG – and stopping the growing exodus of East Germans to the West. This “Wall of Shame”, as it was known, remains the symbol of the Cold War between the USA and the URSS, the so-called free world and the Communists. We have deliberately limited the selection of films about this war to those taking place in Berlin, the former capital of the Reich, divided in 1945 between the Allies and the Soviets. There is such a choice of films, including most of the James Bonds, that we had to be very selective. We mention James Bond because the Cold War gave rise to an explosion of spy movies. The genre already existed, including Hitchcock’s wonderful pre-war film, The 39 Steps, with characters who turn out, as in many of his other films, to be spies. In Torn Curtain, Hitchcock used East Germany instead of America, replacing Cary Grant with Paul Newman from the Actor’s Studio, with whom he had a complicated relationship; he asked too many questions, the English director complained. The spies in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (adapted from the book by John le Carré) and in Funeral in Berlin are disillusioned, having lost faith in just about everything in this parallel world in which good and bad are often hard to distinguish. Billy Wilder had no such hang-ups in his virulent satire One Two Three in which James Cagney tries to sell Coca-Cola to the East. During the post-Wall years, what happened “on the other side” was told with more detail and sometimes humour, such as the joyful Good Bye Lenin! and the striking The Lives of Others.
Divided Heaven, a 1965 East German film adapted from a book by Christa Wolf, bears witness to the divisions in a society into which it is difficult to fit. With Wings of Desire (1987) Wenders gives us an overview. High up above a Berlin torn apart by history, the wonderful angel played by Bruno Ganz choses to give up his immortality for love. All that was left for The Wall was to fall down.
- Olivier Broche
ONE, TWO, THREE (1961), de Billy Wilder - USA
DIVIDED HEAVEN (1964), de Konrad Wolf - Germany (RDA)
THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (1965), de Martin Ritt - United Kingdom
TORN CURTAIN (1966), de Alfred Hitchcock - USA
FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966), de Guy Hamilton - United Kingdom
WINGS OF DESIRE (1987), de Wim Wenders - RFA / France
GOODBYE LENIN! (2003), de Wolfgang Becker - Germany
THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2006), de Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck - Germany