In 1957, Post-War Berlin was still coming to terms with its new reality. There isn’t a wall just yet but the mutual distrust that East and West Berlin have for each other is more than clear. The new ins and outs of everyday life in this confusing time and place are depicted through the eyes of East Berlin teenagers in the black and white film Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser (Berlin – Schönhauser Corner in English). Think of the film as the East German answer to Rebel Without a Cause.
Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser focuses on a group of bored teenagers who are trying to get by in ’50s East Berlin. The group’s unofficial leader, Dieter, works hard at his job in construction but can’t seem to help getting into trouble with his friends at night. When one in the group, Karl-Heinz, gets involved in crime, Dieter and friend Kohle have an unexpected confrontation with him. Thinking they killed Karl-Heinz during the struggle, the two flee for West Berlin leaving their friends and Dieter’s girlfriend Angela. But life isn’t any easier there, as the two quickly find out.
Regardless of the fact that Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser is considered an important East German film, it seems more than that: just an East German film. One might expect an East German film to be strongly patriotic but the film isn’t. It takes shots at both East and West. The film depicts attitudes and beliefs on both sides of what would eventually become a city literally divided. But it’s also a classic film that holds its own as a tale of young people coming of age and trying to determine where they fit in with society and their peers. Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser is universal.