1961-1970Amos Vogel: Film as a Subversive ArtDocumentaryGermanyPoliticsWalter Heynowski

Walter Heynowski – O.K. (1964)

This fascinating and unique film is unfortunately almost entirely unknown in the West. The girl Doris S. leaves East Germany in 1961 to join her father in West Germany. Three years later, she returns and tells the camera why she returned. The reason is simple: West Germany is a country or moral and sexual corruption, full of bars, American soldiers, American cars, alcohol, and prostitution. Doris S. succumbed to both commercial sex and drinking, but finally decided to return to clean living in East Germany. Clearly designed to discourage actual or potential emigration from East into West Germany, the film nevertheless operates on a second, unintended level as well. For in this lengthy interview, Doris reveals non-verbal and unmistakable signs of fear and coercion, reinforced by the stentorian, Prussian style of the interviewer (rather, cross-examiner). Hesitation on her part is met with a sharp ‘Out with it!’ and one suddenly realizes that the girl’s freedom is at stake and that she was in fact subtly coerced into making this film. (‘We have had access to your diary… tell us about it….’) Worse still, there is continued emphasis on sexual matters, with close-ups of this pretty, fearful girl: her relations with American soldiers are emphasized and, in a sensational aberration from ‘Communist’ ideology, the old German-Nazi bogeyman of ‘Rassenschande’ is trotted out in reference to her even having slept with Black soldiers. The result is sexual titillation for the East German petty-bourgeois audience, otherwise carefully protected from eroticism. The strenuous, lecherous, transparent attempts of the invisible interviewer successfully to elicit sexually titillating (‘Of course, you had to show your American clients your personal charms?’) and politically damning information from the coolly controlled, yet obviously tense girl are frightening, as nervous gestures of the victim quite clearly reveal her simply as having exchanged her presumable sexual bondage to the Americans with another, possibly more dangerous dependence. At the end, the invisible man truly becomes a pornographic Big Brother as, satisfied with her performance on camera, he magnanimously ladles out a (small) drink to this obviously alcoholic girl – to drink on camera. The implicit obscenity of this unfair interview is staggering. Though the social problem raised is real enough – the presence of large numbers of women-less and well-paid (by German standards) American soldiers – there has rarely been as effective an unintentional self-indictment as this film.

– Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art

483MB | 30mn 50s | 768×576| mkv



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