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Rick Steves' 'snapshot Berlin':
" enthusiastic historian who grew up behind the Wall..."

before and after


Berlin movies


It can be annoying when you are trying to drive some place in the summer months, and you come across a detour. But in Berlin in the summertime you’re likely to get held up because certain streets are closed off for the shooting of a film. This is actually a positive development for the city. Since the Wall came down, many famous movies have been filmed in Berlin. The aesthetics of this unique urban landscape have attracted filmmakers. Berlin’s streets and architecture span many different periods and offer so many settings that scenes from the 18th to the 21st century can be shot here. With the government providing generous subsidies to film companies, and the cost of living being relatively low, it is relatively inexpensive to make a movie in Berlin, compared to most other major European cities.


If you are planning to visit Berlin, an entertaining way to start learning about the city is to watch the following movies.


Kleiner Friedrich1  The downfall

Just imagine the place in Berlin where Hitler’s bunker used to be. Today, it’s a pretty dull-lookingopen field, very...
different from what it was in April 1945. Crushed vehicles of all kinds, masses of rubble, loose bricks, nothing green, just dust and grey. But below the surface of the earth, in the Führerbunker,Hitler still commands his armies...or better put, his illusions. Watch this movie! The renowned Swiss actor Bruno Ganz plays the maniacal dictator during his final days. The film recreatesevents as they actually happened and paints scenes in startlingly realistic detail. With amazing actors and precise dialogue,this is just an amazing movie!



Kleiner Friedrich1  Goodbye Lenin

For Germans who grew up in the Communist  East, life changed dramatically after the Berlin Wall...
came down. Some people found new opportunities and new freedoms, while others somehow lost control over their lives. Quite a few people in fact started to long for the past, turning the East German regime into what seemed to be a safe harbor of socialism. The movie portrays the diverse experiences of a variety of people. The main character is a woman who, because of an accident and an ensuing coma, misses the momentous changes that are taking place in East Germany during these months of social and political upheaval. When she wakes up, the doctors tell her son that the excitement of the current political events might kill her. So he makes up a fake East German world for his mother, who is lying in bed. It is a world that, even as he is creating it, is vanishing at the same time.



Kleiner Friedrich1  The reader

As time passed after World War II and the Nurnberg Trials, Germans forgot more and more about the events of the...
Holocaust. But did they really forget? Afterall, so many of them were present when the... Holocaust wastaking place. So who was responsible and to what extent? In the early 1950s and ’60s, the general notion was that it was better not to talk about what had occurred under the Nazi regime. In the movie, you see this wall of silence finally break down in the mid-’60s when the first trials against the guardsat Auschwitz take place in Frankfurt. The story is told from the point of view of a young boy who falls in love with a much older woman who has a background he never wouldhave thought imaginable....



Kleiner Friedrich1 Life of others

The central character of the movie is the director of a theater in East Berlin who strongly opposes the Communist...
government. His wife becomes a victim of the Stasi, the East German security service. Then, ironically, a Stasi officer whose job is to spy on the couple, discovers his compassion for her.What I found particularly impressive was the authentic style of the movie. The scenes reflect exactly the way everything looked at that time down to the smallest details, and the dialogue is also closelymatches the reality of people’s speech back then. At some point, I could almost smell what the atmosphere smelled like. The movie received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2007.



Kleiner Friedrich1  One, Two, Three 

The movie, directed by Billy Wilder, is a black and white picture. Made without any exciting animation or...
blockbuster technical features, it was shot in West Berlin in 1961. But even though this film is more than 50 years old, I have hardly ever laughed as much as I did when I watched it. The setting is 1950s Berlin, before the city was divided by the Wall. And the plot has to do with the local boss of the Coca-Cola Company, who is responsible for entertaining his American boss’s lively 17-year-old daughter when she comes to visit the city. The pair has many adventures as the local boss tries to keep the girl from marrying an East German Communistwhom she finds herself attracted to. Besides cracking up over the storyline, you can get a good picture of West Berlin during the early Cold War.




Kleiner Friedrich1  Bridge of Spies

The story itself is well known. It's about a pilot (Gary Powers) who flew spy missions over the territory of the Soviet Union ...
was shot down, survived, was sentenced to years of prison and was finally exchanged against a Soviet master spy (Rudolf Abel), on a bridge bordering east-Germany and west-Berlin in 1962.  It's not just Tom Hanks who makes that movie special. It is not only the breathtaking story which tells the events in a very correct way. Well ...  some places just don't look like that in real Berlin, e.g. in the movie Checkpoint Charlie is a narrow tiny place, in reality much bigger! The goose bumps came when I could feel the atmosphere of the Cold War because of the pictures, the tanks in the streets, the bitter faces of people, the tension that suddenly was in the cinema. If one wants to get a feeling what is must have been like for the people who lived in the epicenter of the Cold War - and that was Berlin for sure - watch that movie!


  Friedrichgold4 © Bernhard