This will certainly not be the last and ultimate documentary made about the events that precluded and picked that night of November in 1989 when the infamous Wall of Berlin fell, signaling that the process of ending the Communist rule in Europe had reached the point of no return. It was screened by the European culture channel ARTE a few months ago at the anniversary of two decades from the events. The timing was good and the main chance and value of the film is that it caught alive many of the protagonists of the drama that took place in 1989 and received direct testimonies from some of the heads of the former regime like Egon Krenz, Hans Modrow, Gunther Schabowski. No doubt that future documentaries will use the footage and especially the interviews.
Although the end of the drama is well known, it is still amazing to get back in time in the last year of the German Democratic Republic ruled by Communists, to see and hear about a regime unable to cope with the reality, unwilling to talk and hear with its own people, caught in its own web of lies and propaganda, paralyzed and incapable to act. The focus of the film is on the individuals and the state and party apparatus that was leading the DDR. While some of the politicians at the top had at least a partial understanding of the problems of the country, there never was a real move towards reform and the change came too late and was thought as being too small in order to be able to save the system.
Some of the external aspects of the situation are less dealt in the film. While the relationship with the Soviet Union and the role of Mikhail Gorbachev is widely described, little is being said about the role played by Ronald Reagan's United States or Kohl's West Germany. The popular movement that started in the summer with the massive flux of refugees crossing the borders open in Hungary increased in intensity with the workers movements that shadowed the operatic festivities put together by Honecker at the 40th anniversary of the DDR, and culminated with the night of the fall of the wall and opening of free circulation in Berlin.
The documentary is well made, but relies too much on the interviews, and film footage leaving an impression of monotony. These were great events in the history of Germany and Europe, and more emotion would not have been out of place. The rare moments that break the routine are the ones when the human dimension of the principal players of the drama is caught on screen, The policeman who arrested Honecker tells the story of the omnipotent leader of yesterday reduced to his feeble human dimension. And then the final image on which the credits are run showing Egon Krenz, the last leader of the party and of the politburo standing in the plaza in the center of East Berlin while bulldozers tear down the monstrous building of the Palace of the Republic, the ugly architectural symbol of the deceased East Germany.
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