Directed by Amie Siegel
According to artist Amie Siegel, her newest film, DDR/DDR, is part of a series of works about "voyeurism, psychoanalysis, memory, surveillance and modernist architecture," as well as "objectivity, authority and performance." Unafraid of big themes or broad gestures, Siegel clearly studied filmmaking at the Godard school of thematic overdetermination. Which isn't at all a bad thing—DDR/DDR is almost certainly the most interesting film opening in New York this week.
The movie is anchored by a series of interviews with ex-members of the old German Democratic Republic (East Germany or the DDR) concerning life before and after "Die Wende"—which refers to the "Peaceful Revolution," the fall of the Berlin Wall and the messy business of re-unification that followed in its wake.
The film spends a long time contemplating the Stasi's ban on psychoanalysis, while state surveillance is compared to a kind of Freudianism in reverse: the employment of all available tools of analysis in order to ensure repression. The Stasi's obsession with recording its citizens is also compared to the creative activity of filmmaking. In a similar vein, an interesting digression traces the way that, throughout the history of moving image media, the camera has been symbolically linked with a gun. "Was cinema always deadly from the start?," Siegel wonders. She would know something about the violence of recording; violence is exactly what we feel when Siegel interviews an ex-Stasi operative using an actual decommissioned Stasi surveillance camera.
The movie re-peoples what is often remembered as a purely ideological battle. What we tend to remember of the Wende is a media event in which a shrewd snake-oil salesman announced the final, symbolic death knell of a program that had held such sway in the liberal imagination for more than 140 years. What we tend to forget is the individual people that hung in the balance. Siegel gets some of those people to speak, and with a candor that is always illuminating. The interviews show things to be more complicated than a simple happiness at getting rid of the Stasi. One interviewee observes, "There's a kind of existentialist fear built into the market economy that didn't really exist [before]." Something to think on in these dark economic times.
May 7-13 at Anthology Film Archives