“If you think watching it is going to be tedious, you should check out the commentary.”
How fitting that we wouldn’t see this one coming. When Ulrich Daedler, former head of East Germany’s fearsome secret police, the Stasi, from 1977 to Die Wende and reunification in 1990, announced a press conference in New York on 9 December, few people could give a steaming shit. Not least because these days we appear to like our repressive, can’t-be-arsed-to-conceal-the-fact regimes much closer to home. Okay, actually at home. So what could a nonogenarian from the long defunct, irredeemably unfashionable Soviet satellite have to say that could permeate our pleasantly anaesthetising cultural brain fog? We, who wallow in the blunt trauma fucktardary of Real Housewives and Made In Chelsea and leave a bunch of off-gridders we wouldn’t allow into our homes to struggle for Democracy on our behalf.
Well, plenty, it seems. For when Daedler was wheeled up to the mic, he didn’t announce a too-little-too-late memoir or attempt to out some minor celebrity super spy. Instead he revealed that the Stasi’s incredible and well documented efforts to keep tabs on its people and taps on all their phones weren’t in fact a tool of political oppression. Rather, they represented a 39-year-long production schedule for the most ambitious fly on the wall (and microphones in your lampshades) documentary ever conceived.
As Daedler tells it, East Germany’s first President, Friedrich Pieck was a bit of a film buff and conceived of a film documenting the GDR, the new kid on the Eastern Bloc in the Summer of 1951 while he and Stalin were having their backs, sacks and cracks done at Joe’s summer Dacha. Production was meant to last for three months, but when Pieck caught Syphilis off a poorly sanitised beer stein lid and went batshit crazy coconuts, he forgot to close the unit down and, to quote Daedler “It all just got a bit out of hand.”
So why the 21-year wait between German reunification and this announcement? Well, according to Daedler, it’s taken this long to edit the bastard down from decades of film, audio and latterly video footage stored the Stasi’s city-block-sized-archive to a more manageable and Multiplex-friendly 2,168 minute running time. As for the fall of the Berlin Wall - was Daedler surprised by how quickly the GDR dissolved once the cracks began to show? “On the contrary”, he said, “How the hell else were we going to end a movie this big? If Hasselhoff hadn’t been tied up filming Baywatch, that wall would have come down in ‘88.”
East Germany: The Movie! goes on limited release worldwide on 3 January 2012.