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In Memoriam



Obituary Profiles of Entertainment Industry Figures And The Legacies They Leave Behind


Ulrich Plenzdorf: East German Scenarist

 Ulrich PlenzdorfUlrich Plenzdorf

Thursday, August 16--------For almost 50 years, the film industry in the former East Germany was one of the most profitable and prolific in European cinema. However, because of political considerations and trade embargoes, few of those films ever got seen in the West. A result is an almost total familiarity with the films and the auteurs, who worked under an oppressive and meddling regime, and yet who still found an "individual voice" for their films.

One of those voices was stilled last week, when word came of the death of Ulrich Plenzdorf, a celebrated East German scenarist, who worked extensively on the stage and in the local film industry. He was best known for his play THE NEW SUFFERINGS, which was first performed in Halle in 1972 and became a success in both East and West Germany. It tells the story of a young apprentice rebelling against his everyday existence in East Germany. He discovers parallels to his own life in Goethe’s classic novel “Sorrows of Young Werther.” The novel version appeared a year later. Since then, more than four million copies have been published in more than 30 languages.

Starting in the 1960s and continuing through the past decade, Plenzdorf also wrote a number of original and adapted screenplays for the film industry in the GDR. He authored more than 20 feature titles, both for theaters and for the small screen. His best known work was for the 1973 film DIE LEGENDE VON PAUL AND PAULA (The Legend of Paul and Paula), the love story of a single mother and a married bureaucrat that featured the music of the Puhdys, an East German rock band. It was considered a somewhat radical film in its day and was tightly controlled by the fierce East German censors. But the film's strong response with its core audience and its subsequent tour of the international festival circuit made it one of the best known of pre-unification Germany.

Plenzdorf was born in 1934 in the working-class Berlin district of Kreuzberg. His parents were active members of the German Communist Party and were persecuted by the Nazis. After the war, they moved to East Berlin. After breaking off his studies in Marxism and Leninism in Leipzig, he became a stagehand at the DEFA film studios in Babelsberg, near Potsdam, where he also studied. That began his career in film, theater and television. After German reunification, Plenzdorf wrote screenplays for television, translated literature and became a guest lecturer at the University of Leipzig. A few of the films he wrote are available on dvd, but we will probably need to wait for some adventurous film society to bring the films to a new public awareness.

Sandy Mandelberger, In Memoriam Editor

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)




Obituary Profiles of Entertainment Industry Figures And The Legacies They Leave Behind

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