Filmmaker's Series

Life Lessons: The Films of Herrmann Zschoche

[East] German director Herrmann Zschoche’s films explore the lessons we learn through living. Poignant stories, often told through the experiences of young people and strong female protagonists, Zschoche’s films cover different genres to critically and honestly examine the heart of everyday life.


Herrmann Zschoche, born in Dresden, Germany in 1934, worked at the East German DEFA Studio for Feature Films from 1960 to 1991. Prominent themes in his work are the emancipation of women and the critical confrontation between young people and older generations. Although his films were shown abroad, some of them were censored and banned in the GDR. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Zschoche  mainly made films for major German TV stations. He has also written books, including on the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich and the important 19th-century German novelist Theodor Fontane.


Herrmann Zschoche on Tour!

  • Goethe-Institut Mexico (10/25-29)
  • UMass Amherst, MA (10/30-11/7)
  • Amherst Cinema, Amherst, MA (11/2)
  • Goethe-Institut Boston, MA (11/4)
  • New Haven Free Public Library, New Haven, CT (11/5)
  • Clark Univ. & Assumption College, Worcester, MA (11/7)


Amherst, MA, Screenings!

  • Sun. Oct 30, 5-7:00 pm, UMass TBA

Sci-Fi Night and Special Screening! Dress code: Space traveler (or) 1970s jetsetter


Eolomea (GDR, 1972, 79 min., color)    

Eight spaceships disappear without a trace! Suddenly, contact with the orbiting space station is lost! The space council cancels all flights… but one spaceship secretly takes off for the space station.


  • Tues. Nov 1, 7:00 pm, ILC 240, UMass

Carla (Karla, GDR, 1965/90, 129 min., b&w)

Q&A with the Director, Intro by Skyler Arndt-Briggs, UMass

A young, idealistic teacher discovers that her students are hiding their thoughts and feelings. She works against the routine opportunism, hypocrisy and small-mindedness all around her—but is met with resistance. Written by renowned author Ulrich Plenzdorf, Carla was banned and not screened until after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990.


  • Wed., Nov 2, 7:00 pm, Amherst Cinema, Amity Street

Half of Life (Hälfte des Lebens, GDR, 1984, 93 min., color, 35mm)

Q&A with the Director, Intro by Barton Byg, UMass

This love story recounts ten decisive years in the life of the great Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843). In order to support himself, Hölderlin—played by a young Ulrich Mühe (The Lives of Others)—becomes a live-in tutor for the children of the wealthy Frankfurt banker Gontard… and falls madly in love with Susette, his employer’s wife. Ordinary family life is disrupted even further by the events of the French Revolution.

Please join us for a reception after the screening!


  • Thurs., Nov 3, 7:00 pm, ILC 240, UMass

Swan Island (Insel der Schwäne, GDR, 1982, 88 min., color)

Q&A with the Director, Intro by Katrin Bahr, UMass

When Stefan is 14, his parents decide to move to Marzahn, a desolate high-rise suburb of Berlin still under construction. Innocent childhood suddenly ends when Stefan encounters the bullying of an older boy and his gang. Officials required several edits, accusing Zschoche and scriptwriter Ulrich Plenzdorf of giving a distorted, negative view of socialist reality.



You can also stream other youth films by Herrmann Zschoche!

  • Seven Freckles (Sieben Sommersprossen, GDR, 1978, 76 min., color)

This poetic and sensitive summer-camp story about first love and sexual awakening struck a cord with East German teenagers and became a box office hit.

  • Just Married (Grüne Hochzeit, 1988, 95 min., color)

In this sequel to Seven Freckles, Susanne and Robert want to get married, but  Susanne is still under-aged and needs parental permission. Soon, the newlyweds feel overwhelmed and the love that brought them together fades.

  • Next Year at Lake Balaton (Und nächstes Jahr am Balaton, GDR, 1980, 89 min., color)

Jonas and Ines are in love and want to spend their vacation camping. But Ines’s parents insist they join a family trip to Bulgaria. This road movie is a humorous critique of East German travel restrictions in the lives of young people who longed to roam and see the world.


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