I Was Nineteen
(Ich war neunzehn)
Ich war neunzehn © DEFA-Stiftung, Werner Bergmann
Gregor is a young soldier entering Germany with the victorious Soviet troops at the end of WWII. But he is also the child of left-wing Germans who fled from Hitler and spent the war in the Soviet Union. As a result, his return to Germany is ambivalent; he finds he is a stranger in his own land.
As they enter Germany, Gregor begins to realize that he is different from all his comrades in arms, for this defeated land is his home country, the Germans he meets are his compatriots. He is a victor, but also one of the vanquished. He attempts to understand the Germans he meets along his way, but he is a 19-year-old: inquisitive, occasionally uncomprehending and repeatedly dismayed by the atrocities and lies he encounters.
A true landmark of postwar German cinema, Konrad Wolf's masterpiece is a poetic exploration of the postwar dilemma of German identity and a powerful document about the search for a "usable" German past – especially in light of the East German film censorship debacle of 1965. Film critics rank Konrad Wolf’s most autobiographical and most famous film among the 100 Most Significant German Films of all time.
|2020||Konrad Wolf in the Age of Extremes retrospective, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, Italy|
|2016||Guest Director’s Selection, Telluride Film Festival|
|2005||Konrad Wolf Turns 80, Potsdam Film Museum|
|2001||The Divided Heaven, Retrospective, Film Archive Austria|
|1995||Voted one of the 100 Most Significant German Films of All Time|
|1990||Retrospective, Berlin International Film Festival|
|1987||Insights, 11th Duisburg Accents (West Germany)|
|1986||Konrad Wolf Retrospective, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario (Argentina)|
|1986||Konrad Wolf Retrospective, Tübingen (West Germany)|
|1981||DEFA’s Antifascist Films, GDR Information Center, Budapest (Hungary)|
|1976||Treasures from the State Film Archive, Oran (Algeria)|
|1973||DEFA Film Week, Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen (Denmark)|
|1972||DEFA Film Week, Rome, Milano (Italy)|
|1971||DEFA Film Week, France|
|1970||DEFA Film Week, India|
|1969||DEFA Film Week, Algeria|
"For years, we young filmmakers in West Germany considered I Was Nineteen to be the best film to come from the East, despite the interference from DEFA, the state production company, which supervised the script, casting, shooting and editing." —Volker Schlöndorff, Guest Director's Selection, 2016 Telluride Film Festival
“One of the best-known DEFA productions in history. The film’s narrative structure, editing style, camera movement, and dialogue are highly progressive for the time and seem closely related to techniques later employed by the directors of the French New Wave.”
—New York Jewish Film Festival 2015
"Topnotch! Effective acting." —Variety
"The autobiographical structure allowed [Wolf] to formulate an individual's personal search for home, for Germany, into a general issue of national identity."
—Marc Silberman, German Cinema-Text in Conte
"An autobiographical masterpiece!" —filmportal.de
"As far as I am concerned, this is the best film—in a short eternity—that has been made in Germany."
—Hermann Kant, author, in the Berlin Forum, May 1968
"Rarely in the arts have postwar Germans been so precisely portrayed. But along with this differentiated, distanced, critically stringent and bitterly frank depiction, there is also human understanding and unbiased perceptions without any clichés. This truthful portrayal is painful but also healing ... After many years, we finally have a DEFA film whose aesthetic, formal quality is not out of sync with its idealistic, thematic quality. And also vice versa. This film is a self-contained and accomplished work of art - a first-class film."
— H. U. in the Berlin Neue Zeit on Feb. 2, 1968