THE WALL is both an enduring record of the deconstruction of the border between East and West Germany and a requiem to the very country filmmaker and painter Jürgen Böttcher was bound to for 40 years in an intense love-hate relationship. Japanese tourists take snapshots of it; children of Turkish descent break off and sell chunks of it; countless camera teams from all over the world use it as a dramatic backdrop: the Wall, glorified by GDR officialdom as the “anti-fascist protection wall”. Böttcher and his cameraman Thomas Plenert chronicle the various activities taking place along the former death strip in a phenomenological fashion, conscious of the fact that any valuation of events would shatter the power and uniqueness of these images at this moment in time. The film contains magnificent sequences shot in the underground ghost stations where border soldiers – now unarmed – were still performing their duties. Other noteworthy scenes are those filmed on New Year’s Eve 1989: a drunk man launches into chants of “Gorbi! Gorbi!”, while waving a bottle of vodka with the same name. THE WALL is brimming with these kinds of moments, symbolic yet never staged. The only historical commentary – simultaneously a magnificent work of art – takes the form of a projection of archive footage on a segment of the wall. Presented in this way, the thousands of images taken from the period around 13 August 1961 not only become bearable; their striking constellation also adds an entirely new dimension. The director’s artistic device transforms this monstrous structure, which cut through the centre of Berlin and symbolized the Cold War for more than 25 years, into a silver screen which recounts its own story. Shortly after finishing the film, Jürgen Böttcher announced that THE WALL was to be his last film as he planned to devote his energies exclusively to painting.
Claus Löser (on www.goethe.de)