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    Karl-Heinz Lotz turns 65

    By admin | May 26, 2011

    At the 8th Max Ophüls Prize Festival in 1987, the Interfilm Jury under president Dorothea Moritz awarded its prize to Karl-Heinz Lotz’s Young People In The City. Ron Holloway reviewed the film in KINO 24/25 (1986/87).

    Winner of the Interfilm Jury award at the Max-Ophüls-Prize festival in Saarbrücken (together with a Purse Award of DM 10,000 donated by Saarland’s Minister President Oskar Lafontaine for distribution purposes), Karl-Heinz Lotz’s Young People In The City well deserves singling out on several grounds. Not only is this a remarkable DEFA producing drawing attention to a forgotten German author, Rudolf Braune (1907-1932), but it also introduces a talented newcomer on the directorial scene in the German Democratic Republic.

    As for Rudolf Braune himself, he died in a tragic swimming accident shortly after his novel was published in 1932. The setting is Berlin in 1929, with the focus on four young people from the provinces – the unemployed Emanuel and the taxi-driver Fritz, the music-hall flapper Susi and the department-store cashier Frieda – who struggle for a footing in the Big City in the midst of the Depression. The city ultimately swallows them up.

    Seldom has a German production captured with such faithfulness the stylistic elements of recreating a historical time and place: Berlin in the Roarin’ Twenties. Milieu and atmosphere, sets and costumes – the factors that went into the success of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America and Francis Ford Coppola’s Cotton Club – make Young People In The City a particularly rewarding visual experience. The taxi company, the bars and clubs, the interiors of hotel rooms, the street scenes – all have an authenticity that speaks of extensive, thorough pre-production planning.

    Young People In The City is the story of the young proletariat driven up a blind alley of despair and degradation. Emanuel is falsely accused of killing a policeman in a street demonstration, and this after he has finally landed a taxi-driving job with his friend Fritz – he had hoped that his days of hunger and freezing would finally be over. Frieda, in order to keep her job at the department store, has to forfeit her love for Fritz and succumb to the advances of her boss – or simply lose her job if she refuses. Each of the four is a loser one way or another.

    It’s their vulnerability that makes them sympathetic flesh-and-blood characters. Lotz found entirely new young faces to play the four protagonists on DEFA screens. The credits in the camera and sets departments are to be especially singled out. And, to Lotz’s own credit, as screenplay writer in addition to directing the film, Young People In The City is curiously and gratifyingly without a “message” to mar the scope of this human drama that speaks as frankly and compassionately to the unemployed youth of today as the novel did to its readers yesterday.

    Ron Holloway

    A happy birthday in advance for Karl-Heinz Lotz who will turn 65 this autumn! (eds.)

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