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"Personal Vendettas and Their Public Appropriations: Sibylle Schönemann's Verriegelte Zeit and the Politics of Film Reception,"
1. While dispute about the most politically and historically accurate appellation for the events of Fall 1989 is not a focus of this paper, this discussion can be retraced in the 'Special Issue on German Reunification' in New German Critique 52.
2. For an interesting panoply of viewpoints on the collapse of communism, see the special issue on "Understanding Communism," New Left Review 183.
3. To understand the prominence of the DEFA in proportion to a modest nation of 16 million citizens, one has to consider that, as a result of the former Ufa holdings, DEFA maintained the largest studio park (i.e. studio space, costumes, props, etc.) in Europe and by 1989 maintained 50 full-time directors on its payroll - an impossibility in Hollywood even during the cartel era of the 1930's. For a more extensive description of the DEFA film enterprise and its fate following reunification, I recommend Marc Silberman's "Post- Wall Documentaries: New Images from a New Germany?"
4. Organized under the title "1989/90: Post-Wall Germany," the film package included Leipzig im Herbst, Die Mauer, November Days, Sperrmüll, Im Glanze dieses Glücks, Berlin Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, Verriegelte Zeit, Countdown, Ein schmales Stück Deutschland, 10 Tage im Oktober, Deutschland, Deutschland, Ausgerechnet Bananen, Wandlitz mit neuem Antlitz, and DDR-Ohne Titel.
5. It is worth noting that Schönemann's filmic revisiting is not the first time that the decaying 13th-century walls of the women's penitentiary Hoheneck in the village of Stollberg (a precinct of the former Karl- Marx-Stadt) were captured on celluloid. In 1980, four years before Schönemann was to experience the debilitation of forced labor and appallingly squalid cell conditions, DEFA screenwriter Günther Rücker and director Günther Reisch filmed Die Verlobte, a historical romance set within the milieu of antifascism, at the same site.
6. Critic Brigitte Pätzold made a similar observation: "Umgekehrtes Rollenspiel: die Verfolgte wird zum Verfolger, sie ist es nun, die die Akten durchforscht, die Fragen stellt, mit ihrem Mikro die gewundenen Ausreden registriert, mit der Kamera die verlegenen Gesichter und Gesten erheischt."
7. Schach is personally imbricated in the Protokolle, not only through his role as editor, but also because he himself was born within the prison infirmary of Hoheneck. His mother was sent there during her fifth month of pregnancy after a failed attempt in 1950 to flee to the West with her Russian fiance. A few months following childbirth in prison, her son was taken away from her and placed in a foster home elsewhere in the GDR. Included among the protocols are not only that of his mother, but also that of his wife, who also served time in Hoheneck in 1976 prior to their later acquaintance in the FRG.
8. The Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany) was the ruling party in the GDR until Fall 1989.
9. While the term "feminist" refers to a political stance concerned with the position and welfare of women within societies historically perceived as maledominated, i.e. patriarchal, the term 'feminine' generally either has an essentialist connotation or implies a gender specific socialization which results in a gendered aesthetic labeled 'feminine.' Helke Sander's comments in an early speech, "Feminism and Film," in 1977 still effectively summate the dilemma of the latter term. She argues that it is problematic to talk about a feminine aesthetic, because mere descriptive features in women's artistic production easily become programmatic and prescriptive: "But just as a progressive social theory has led to a dogmatic aesthetics, that is, the equation of 'social realism' with a thesis about knowledge (about how we experience the forms of knowledge), feminism has also had the tendency to make certain aesthetic categories a measure of the aesthetic experience" (Rentschler 78).
10. "The studio actually wanted to support me because I was a woman, and they needed women for the studio. There were very few female directors. But they didn't want my husband who was also a filmmaker in the studio, because he had the reputation of being a wrong-headed thinker with a very critical perspective. He wrote stories about outsiders, those who did not function in society and did not adapt so unconditionally as was desired. And always at the moment, when I said that I was going to work together with my husband, the projects died" (Fröhlich 21).
11. The cinematography and imagery employed in Verriegelte Zeit bear striking resemblance to that in Baser's Abschied vom falschen Paradies (1988/89), which chronicles a Turkish woman's incarceration in a German prison after she kills her abusive husband in self-defense.
12. See her discussion of Herbert Biberman's film "Salt of the Earth" in the revised edition of her Women s Pictures: Feminism and Cinema (136-42).
13. "Der Beginn der Entstasifizierung: Sibylle Schönemanns Dokumentarfilm 'Verriegelte Zeit,'" Wupper Nachrichten, 11/91.
14. According to Lacan, even inanimate objects possess the gaze insofar as we feel ourselves apprehended by them: "I can feel myself under the gaze of someone whose eyes I do not see, not even discern. All that is necessary is for something to signify to me that there may be others there. This window, if it gets a bit dark, and if I have reasons for thinking that there is someone behind it, is straightaway a gaze" (The Seminar 215).
15. Or as Barbara Kunze sums it up in a review: "Die Täter dagegen, die keine gewesen sein wollen, (und die heute immer noch in Positionen arbeiten, in denen sie Verantwortung tragen), werden von niemandem zum Reden gezwungen. Aber die Kamera hält fest, wie sie sich winden, herausreden, verweigern und sich - ohne es zu merken - selbst entlarven" (19).
16. Sibylle Schönemann, about her film: "Wen auch immer ich traf, oder wer auch immer sich vor mir versteckte, meine Spurensuche wurde immer mehr von der Gewißheit beeinflußt, den oder die Täter nicht finden zu können, weil es sie nicht gibt. Begriffen aber habe ich, daß es einmal wieder dieses ewig deutsche Geflecht von 'nur' Ausführenden, Befehlsempfängern, einer höheren 'Notwendigkeit' Folgenden und Ahnungslosen war, in deren Mechanismus ich gefangen war." (Publicity brochure, Ex Picturis, Berlin)
17. Hannes John, "In memoriam: politischer Alltagshorror in der Ex-DDR."
18. In this respect I share the sentiments expressed by Rolf-Rüdiger Hamacher, who writes, "Daß der schon auf der Leipziger Dokumentarfilmwoche 1990 mit einer 'Silbernen Taube' ausgezeichnete Film 'Verriegelte Zeit' auch auf der diesjährigen Berlinale Ovationen erhielt und derzeit auf vielen Festivals gefragt ist, liegt nicht so sehr an seinem 'Stasi- Thema,' das schon mehrere Dokumentarfilme aufgegriffen haben, sondern eher an seiner Art, wie er sich diesem nähert. Sibylle Schönemann geht das Wagnis ein, ihre Person physisch wie psychisch in den Film einzugeben, ohne Wenn und Aber tritt sie die Reise in die Vergangenheit an."
19. Michaela Lechner, "Begegnung auf dem Wäscheplatz."
20. In a discussion of women's film in West Germany, Helen Fehervary has said: "The relationship between history and so-called subjective processes is not a matter of grasping the truth in history as some objective entity, but in finding the truth of experience. Evidently, this kind of experiential immediacy has to do with women's own history and self-consciousness" (176).
21. About screenings of her film in the two Germanies, Schönemann recalls: "In the East, the film was shown very little because the entire organization had collapsed. The movie theaters had been bought by large American distributors, and the people in the East didn't quite know how they could organize the films they were interested in now. In the West, the film received a lot of media attention and the eight copies that exist were constantly circulating somewhere" (Fröhlich 23).
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Verriegelte Zeit, (BRD) 1990, B/W, 35 mm, 93 min.
Director: Sibylle Schönemann
Script: Sibylle Schönemann
Camera: Thomas Plenert
Cutter: Gudrun Steinbrück
Music: Thomas Kahane
Producers: Bernd Burckhardt, Alfred Hürmer, Alert,
German Distributor: Ex picturis, Berlin
U.S. Distributor: Zeitgeist Films, New York
Premiere: November 24, 1990, Leipzig