The Flight

(Die Flucht)

GDR, 1977, 94 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)


When his proposal for international research on infant mortality is rejected, Dr. Schmith (Armin Mueller-Stahl) decides to leave East Germany. He strikes a deal with an escape agency that promises him a leading position at a children’s hospital in West Germany. But then his project is approved and his international colleagues want Dr. Schmith to head the East German research section. Moreover, he falls in love with his new colleague, Katharina (Jenny Gröllmann). At first, Schmith tries to avoid the escape agency, but they blackmail him and things turn deadly.



As the topic of escaping to the West was taboo in the GDR, The Flight is an exception in East German film history. The film won the Grand Prix at the Karoly Vary International Film Festival in 1978; but it was also the last one Armin Mueller-Stahl made at the East German DEFA Film Studios. In 1980, only two years after the release of the film, he left East Germany for the West because of professional restrictions imposed upon him after he joined protests against the expatriation of the dissident singer/songwriter Wolf Biermann.


2011 Homage, Berlin International Film Festival
2001 Divided Heaven Retrospective, Film Archive Austria
1978 Official Selection, Vienna International Film Festival
1978 Grand Prix, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
1978 Heinrich Greif Prize, Class 1 (Roland Gräf, Hannes Hüttner)
1978 Best Contemporary DEFA Film, Critics' Poll of the Theory and Criticism Section of the Association of GDR Film and Television Professionals

Press comments

“One of Armin Mueller-Stahl's best roles in the GDR and concurrently his last role at DEFA.”
— 2011 Berlin International Film Festival


“It was a balancing act… We wanted to clarify why people leave and that it is too bad about each person who leaves the country.”
— Roland Gräf, director The Flight, in Spur der Zeiten


“One of Jenny Gröllmann’s most important East German films.”
Berliner Zeitung


“A thrilling drama of love.”
— 2009 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival


“A film that starts as a film about social issues and ends as a crime story.”
— Deutsches Historisches Museum


“Roland Gräf grapples with this taboo subject in the GDR.”
— Roland Detsch, journalist and author


“Roland Gräf is one of the most important DEFA auteurs.”


DVD Bonus Features:
  • Turn Subtitles On/Off
  • Biographies & Filmographies
  • From the Archive: Interviews with Christel and Roland Gräf
  • "Commercial Escape Organizations: the GDR's Public Enemy Number One," by historian Marion Detjen
  • Original film poster
  • About the DEFA Film Library

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