Photo © Hiltrud Schulz
Siegfried Kühn was born in Breslau (Wrocław), Poland on March 14, 1935, and was raised by his grandmother. In 1945, his family had to move to the western part of Berlin, and, in 1950, to the GDR. Kühn attended the Academy for Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg in 1958 and transferred to the Moscow Film Academy (VGIK) a year later. There he studied with film director Sergei Gerasimov (Tikhiy Don /And Quiet Flows the Don, 1957), among others. After graduating in 1964, Kühn stayed in Moscow and worked as a director at the Mosfilm studio and the Satirikon Theater. He returned to the GDR in 1966 and worked as an assistant to director Benno Besson at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin.
Kühn’s first production at the DEFA Film Studios was a short documentary, Das rote Plakat, which was not released until 1973. His first DEFA feature film was Im Spannungsfeld, a story about technological innovation. The films that followed—Zeit der Störche and Das zweite Leben des Friedrich Wilhelm Georg Platow—also dealt with contemporary issues. The latter—today considered one of the best East German comedies—was criticized by officials because of its filmic style and satirical undertones; it was only approved for limited release in the GDR and banned for export.
In the following years, Kühn began including literary adaptations in his oeuvre, such as Wahlverwandtschaften and Romeo and Julia auf dem Dorfe. Kindheit, an autobiographical story about growing up with his grandmother at the end of Word War II, was one of his most important films. But it was his 1988 production Die Schauspielerin—about a non-Jewish actress in love with a Jewish actor during the Nazi period—that earned Kühn international acclaim.
During the Wende period, Kühn’s long-term project on Stalinism, Volks Entscheid (transl. The People’s Decision) was cancelled. But he continued work on two more films after the fall of the Wall: Heute sterben immer nur die anderen, a moving story about assisted suicide, and Die Lügnerin, with Katharina Thalbach in the leading role. Kühn’s papers are housed at the Academy of the Arts in Berlin.
|1989||"Big Clapperboard" Critics' Prize, Theory and Criticism Section of the GDR Film and Television Professionals Association, for Die Schauspielerin|
|1989||Art Prize of the Free German Trade Union Federation for Die Schauspielerin|
|1971||Heinrich Greif Prize, Class 1, for Im Spannungsfeld|
|1991||Die Lügnerin (The Liar)|
|1990||Heute sterben immer nur die anderen (Nowadays Only the Others Die)|
|1988||Die Schauspielerin (The Actress)|
|1986||Der Traum vom Elch (The Dream of the Elk)|
|1983||Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe (Romeo and Juliet in the Country)|
|1979||Don Juan – Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 78 (Don Juan, 78 Karl Liebknecht Street)|
|1973||Die Wahlverwandt-schaften (Elective Affinities)|
|1973||Das zweite Leben des Friedrich Wilhelm Georg Platow (The Second Life of Friedrich Wilhelm Georg Platow)|
|1970||Zeit der Störche (Time of the Storks)|
|1969||Im Spannungsfeld (Tension Zone)|
|1967/73||Das rote Plakat (The Red Poster, doc.)|
|1966||Oni ne proidut (They Won’t Return)|
|1966||Jungfer, sie gefällt mir (Maiden, You Please Me, assistant director)|