Stasi comedy. That sounds so premeditated, more scary than laughable. And wasn’t Leander Haussmann’s “NVA” already a mistake? Some things may simply not be repeated – the lightness, the nice joke, the poetry of “Sonnenallee” for example. That was 23 years ago. And then suddenly this: A miracle happens.
“Stasi comedy” greets “Sonnenallee” for a quarter of a century. Except that the hero here isn’t an East boy from the shorter end of Sonnenallee. Micha Ehrenreich, then played by the young Alexander Scheer, would certainly not have stopped at a red light on a deserted street. But Ludger Fuchs does exactly that. And the State Security notices it.
The authority faces major challenges. In a suggestive scene, the chief of state security later explains this to the young traffic light man, played by David Kross, using an apple as an example. He is round on the outside, red and healthy like the GDR. But inside – the agent splits the apple – full of maggots. These are the young people from Prenzlauer Berg. The order given to Fuchs: make a dummy maggot in the service of apple health!
The height of the fall is clear in the first scene: the pseudo-maddie from back then is now a successful writer who has so far resisted all coercion to look at his Stasi files. Special sovereignty, even modesty?
But the pressure is growing, and when Ludger Fuchs finally shows up in the door with the file under his arm, his wife Corinna (Margarita Broich) has already organized a party. Now Jörg Schüttauf plays the celebrated, hesitant-uneasy – in such a way that all sympathies are involuntarily on his side. The perpetrator as victim? Last but not least, the great thing about this film is that it subverts such categories in a relaxed manner.
The intro, the inspection of the files, is an all-round success, much of it objectively a joke: nobody is surprised that the Stasi photographed the couple in bed. But what is this love letter from another woman? And why does she write that a butt in jeans has never looked more perfect than his? If you like, you can see an indiscreet reference to Sascha Anderson, the most prominent informer in the Prenzlauer Berg scene: women have also described him from behind. The party becomes a scandal, the hero flees, and the audience gets a hunch. This could be something.
“East Berlin, early 1980s. The sun is still shining,” is written above a city panorama with a television tower. Well, hard on the joke. And then this young man is waiting on the empty Karl-Marx-Allee just in front of the equally empty Lenin Square. The traffic light is red, the traffic light stays red. So Ludger Fuchs pulls a paperback out of his pants, it’s “On the Road”. Kerouac had just been published in the GDR, exactly this edition. Accuracy in the little things will keep the film going.
Of course, reading “On the Road” at a red light isn’t funny per se. And yet at this moment it becomes noticeable that “Stasikomödie” follows a secure, inherent rhythm. Even better, the cut comes a moment earlier than you might expect. Not bad.
One cannot help but think of Haussmann’s film adaptation of Sven Regener’s “Herr Lehmann”. The opening scene, man and dog, alone in the street. It seemed almost impossible to match Regener’s description, but it did happen, and in a way that was crucial.
In “Stasikomödie” follows Ludger Fuchs’ reluctant involvement in the state security service: someone who has never learned to go through a red light; who never learned to say no. If the credits are right, it was the last head of the Stasi records authority, Roland Jahn, who informed the director about the state security aptitude test with a permanently red traffic light.
David Kross is the ideal cast for the young fox, he has the air of a somewhat narrow-minded man, but that can change in the blink of an eye – and then the same face seems to glow with sharpness and focus. Wonderful also Antonia Bill and Deleila Piasko as main wives, no, main challenges in Ludger’s early years.
At some point you give in to the flow of the scenes; even the attempt by the Stasi quartet to bug an apartment is hilarious. When an officer lights a cigarette next to an open gas stove and the kitchen explodes, and you hear Reinhard Mey’s “Good night, friends, it’s time for me to go,” it’s quite a joke. But the way the film optically dissolves the scene, it almost becomes a cinematic apotheosis.
For all these scenes there would be at least 99 ways to spoil them. Leander Haussmann chooses the only right one. One scene carries the other, a sublime network. This film seems to float, every contact with the ground is immediately canceled again. So no one will succeed here, despite sincere will, to admit their own guilt. That too can clarify.
Not even the Stasi people are just crackpots. Whereby: Henry Hübchen as Fuchs’ superior is definitely one, but at the same time a bit above – and below. The boy from “Sonnenallee” is also back: Alexander Scheer, 23 years later, in a major role as a Prenzlauer Berg transvestite.
Also wonderful are Steffi Kühnert as Erich Mielke’s secretary (“I’m small, but not nice!”) or Detlev Buck in his ever-star role as the People’s Policeman. He asks a man who crosses the street when it’s red: “What did we do wrong?” A question that suddenly bursts all context. Only the cinema can do this kind of historical reappraisal. Or to paraphrase Haussmann and the Apache chief: “The hatchet is only buried when no one knows where it is”.