NICOLAI CHURCH

Nikolaikirche

 (Frank Beyer, Germany, 1995) 133 minutes

NICOLAI CHURCH

Director: Frank Beyer
Screenplay: Frank Beyer, Eberhard Gorner, Erich Loest,
adapted from the novel of the same name by Erich Loest
Photography: Thomas Plenert, Peter Badel
Editor: Rita Hiller
Music: Compositions by J S Bach
Barbara Auer (Astrid Protter)
Ulrich Matthes (Alexander Bacher)
Ulrich Muhe (Reverend Ohlbaum)
Otto Sander (superintendent)
Annemone Haase-Wolf (Marianne Bacher)
Daniel Minetti (Harald Protter)
Ulrich Schnuck (Mr Schnuck)

Reviews and notes

The Story:
Leipzig in 1987. Albert Bacher, prominent officer in the East German police, dies of a heart attack. In the Nicolai Church, Reverend Ohlbaum begins his sermon with the following question: "You in power, why are you so callous?" Soon he receives a first warning from the state. At her job in the city administration, Bacher's daughter Astrid, who is married to the engineer Protter, refuses to sign a document and finds herself in a difficult crisis that even her brother Sascha, a captain in the state security forces, does not fail to notice. Astrid is expelled from the Party and is temporarily sent to a psychiatric clinic. Sascha has a new girlfriend, and he asks his superiors to give their consent to the relationship, which he, however, breaks off unemotionally when he learns that she has been temporarily arrested for collaborating with an environmental group... Meanwhile, the "Monday prayers" in the Nicolai Church are attracting more and more people; the massive countermeasures taken by the authorities have no effect. On October 9, 1989, the citizens of Leipzig achieve their decisive victory over the power of the state.

About the Film:

"We were prepared for everything", explained the Leipzig head of state security in the end, "everything except for candies and praying." And on October 9, 1989 Frank Beyer sees the moment "in which the backbone of the power in East Germany broke". What followed, until the end of the GDR, were the results of these events, even if they would not have been possible without the developments that were taking place in the USSR.

Although the film begins with the death of a successful official, Beyer does not interpret the events as the result of conflict between the generations. More important is the freedom that the citizens of Leipzig gained under the charge of a courageous clergyman. The point of departure here is not their basic opposition towards the existence of the socialist state in East Germany, but rather a changed relationship to their surroundings as well as the involvement of the peace movement in opposing the confrontation between East and West.

Frank Beyer's film - originally a two-part series for television, then adapted for the cinema by the director himself - dispenses with the numerous flashbacks that appear in the novel, in favour of the events taking place in the present. The three generations of the Bacher family are exemplary of this history of growing alienation and political estrangement in a totalitarian system.
-Hans-Gunther Pflaum, Frank Beyer Retrospective, Goethe Institut, 1996.

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