On Oct. 5, the German department held a showing of the German crime film, Das zweite Gleis, a relatively unknown film directed by Joachim Kunert in 1962. Das zweite Gleis is part of the German department’s film series which focuses on obscure films that contain unexpected criminals. The film, set in Soviet-controlled East Germany, revolves around a young woman named Vera, her father, Walter and the dark secret that Walter has kept hidden from Vera since she was a little girl following World War II. Das zweite Gleis, despite being a crime film, centers around elements of doomed romance, the effects of war and the danger of hiding one’s secrets.
The film was surprisingly well written, the dialogue was smooth and flowing and the overall plot was captivating. Like many other successful crime films, Das zweite Gleis keeps the audience wondering what will happen next, and it isn’t always clear who the real villain is until pieces of the puzzle finally come together in the final few scenes.
Despite the quality of the film, Das zweite Gleis isn’t a film that many people are familiar with, especially students at St. Olaf. The film was produced in East Germany, at a time when when films were highly censored and controlled by the government. Therefore, it is not surprising that Das zweite Gleis is an obscure film, and the chances that it even survived the Soviet occupation of East Germany and made it out of the region is nothing short of incredible. There is a good chance that other quality films made during the era didn’t make it very far, and many are probably lost in the annals of history.
After viewing Das zweite Gleis, it is clear that the German crime genre, from both West and East Germany, has a certain style that is much different from modern western film and even popular film from that era. The plots are dark and mysterious, and seem to contain a sense of eeriness that is always lurking as the films unravel. In fact, the German crime genre seems to resemble modern crime films, which now lean towards darker plots that are less black and white than traditional crime films. This straightforwardness and darker tone most likely stems from the memories of World War II. Many of the era’s filmmakers were alive during the war, and the effects and suffering from the war were all too fresh in the minds of those who survived. The aftermath of war inadvertently changed an entire genre and set German film on the path it is on today. If anything, the genre was certainly progressive, which is surprising considering that many of the films produced in post-war Germany dealt with lower budgets and scarce resources.
Das zweite Gleis, being the quality film that it is, is certainly just a starting point for the German crime genre. The department’s crime film series continues until Nov. 30th, so there is still time to catch some obscure yet quality films before the end of the semester. The next showing will be Kurz und schmerzlos on Nov. 2 at 7:00 p.m. So if you love films and want spice up a boring night, head on over to Dittman 305.