was made artistic director. Old projects were resurrected and new ones developed in contravention of long-standing taboos. The Film Ministry even agreed late in 1989 to the formation of an independent film-production group outside DEFA -- the DaDaeR group, which took its name from its first completed film, Jörg Foth's Letztes aus der DaDaeR (' Latest news from the GeeDeeaR').
So, when at the end of 1989 the old Communist leadership was ousted and the Wall came down, DEFA had ready for release some critical films which mirrored the new political realities. But the audience was gone: they had either driven away to the west in their Trabis, or had simply lost interest in anything concerning the old regime.
Behn, Manfred, and Bock, Hans-Michael (eds.) ( 1988-9), Film und Gesellschaft in der DDR.
Jacobsen, Wolfgang (ed.) ( 1992), Babelsberg: ein Filmstudio.
Rülicke-Weiler, Käthe (ed.) ( 1979), Film- und Fernsehkunst der DDR: Traditionen, Beispiele, Tendenzen.
Schenk, Rolf (ed.) ( 1994), Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg.
The post-war cinema in east central Europe follows a chronology quite different from that of its western counterparts. Its main stages are signposted by a series of caesuras: 1945, 1948-9, 1956, 1968, 1970, 1980-1, 1989, each of which is connected with crucial political events in the eastern bloc and points to the major influence of politics and ideology on its development.
While 1945 itself marks the liberation of eastern and central Europe from German occupation, 1948-9 marks the negative side of that liberation. For it was then, with 'satellite' regimes established throughout the region (with the partial exception of Yugoslavia), that the Socialist Realist doctrine imported from the USSR was forcibly imposed on the cinemas of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and other countries under Communist rule. The year 1956 is then a major landmark for Poland and Hungary in particular, signalling the beginning of the slow but irreversible process of de-Stalinization; 1968 brought the 'Prague Spring', followed in August of that year by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia which cruelly wrote off the achievements of the Czech and Slovak 'New Wave'. In Poland (though not in other eastern bloc countries) 1970 in turn proved to be a political turningpoint, as did August 1980, with the birth of the Solidarity movement, and December 1981, with the introduction of martial law. Finally, in 1989 the fall of the Communist system was of paramount importance everywhere, though in Yugoslavia it signified the pending collapse of the federal state and the subsequent catastrophe of civil war.
This periodization, and the political factors that determined it, is a specific feature of post-war east central European cinema, and it is hardly surprising that for several decades cinema critics and historians were chiefly interested in the 'political' (i.e. 'anti-regime') film, and aesthetic criteria often took second place to political. Now that the old political contexts have lost their immediacy and relevance, artistic criteria can once again reassert themselves, making it possible to re-evaluate such masterpieces as Andrzej Wajda's war tetralogy A Generation, Canal, Ashes and Diamonds, and Lotna in the 1950s, Miloš Forman 's triptych Peter and Pavla, A Blonde in Love, and The Firemen's Ball in the 1960s, and Márta Mészáros's three- part 'Diary' -- Diary for my Children, Diary for my Loves, and Diary for my Father and my Mother in the 1980s.
Political circumstances, and film-makers' responses to them, led east central European cinemas in the post-war period to adopt a number of distinct strategies, which can be summarized as follows:
In the Hungarian and Polish cinema, and to a lesser extent the Czech, there is often an obsessive interest in national history seen through the prism of an evil fate and the notion of an irreversible catastrophe by which both individuals and entire communities are foredoomed. Over the years strategies have evolved for overcoming this fatalism through ironic distance and black humour, often highly suggestive, as in the films of Andrzej Munk ( Eroica, 1957; Bad Luck, 1959), Vojtěch Jasný ( September Nights, 1957; All my Good Countrymen, 1968), Jiří Menzel ( Closely Observed Trains, 1966; Cutting It Short, 1981), and Péter Bacsó ( The Witness, 1968; Oh, Bloody Life, 1983). In these films history remains crucial, but it is framed in the categories of tragicomedy, which triggers off a process of collective therapy in the form of often bitter, cathartic laughter.