The Murderers Are Among Us (1946)


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To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the DEFA (Deutsche Film-AG) Studio in East Germany, the Goethe-Institut New Zealand presents in its Winter Film Series at the Auckland Art Gallery a film programme highlighting different themes and genres that were important to the DEFA. 70 years onwards the films give a glimpse into the diversity of film production in East Germany and offer a rare insight into the life, thinking and being of people behind the wall.

The Murderers Are Among Us (Die Mörder Sind Unter Uns)

1945: Berlin – a town in ruins.  The photographer Susanne Wallner (Hildegard Knef) returns to her former apartment after three years in a concentration camp. She finds the apartment occupied by Dr. Mertens (Ernst Wilhelm Borchert), a surgeon who is haunted by his experiences during the war. Susanne and Mertens have to share the apartment. Despite their differences a friendship forms. When Mertens encounters Brückner (Arno Paulsen), the former commander of his battalion who was responsible for the execution of more than 100 civilians during the war, and is now a successful industrialist, he wants to take justice into his own hands. But Susanne is able to convince him that the war criminal must be tried in court.

Shot in the ruins of Berlin just a year after WWII, The Murderers Are Among Us, was the first film made in Germany after the war and has since become a classic antifascist and rubble film. Wolfgang Staudte's achievement was that he took on the country's recent history and its effect on the present as a subject at the time. The film is a classic example of the 'antifascist' tradition in DEFA cinema. It reflects the early DEFA Studio's aim to be close to reality, critical and socialist in its films. The film's film noir style successfully blends German expressionism with striking neorealism.

Directed by Wolfgang Staudte, 1946. Run time 87 mins. German with English subtitles

Auditorium, lower ground level