Due to technical issues, Murray State's Cinema International will present Gundermann this weekend in place of All About Me. The 2018 German biopic centers around the life of hero and anti-hero, Gerhard Gundermann. Program director Dr. Thérèse St. Paul speaks with Tracy Ross about the upcoming screening.
From the Cinema International website:
"A daring biopic about the cult singer-songwriter Gerhard Gundermann: a hero and an anti-hero, a constant contradiction, a glittering figure of former East Germany -- and then again not. With great feeling, tenderness, and humor, director Andreas Dressen portrays the life of Gerhard "Gundi" Gundermann, one of the key cultural figures of reunified Germany -- including his controversial interactions with East Germany's secret police."
Gundermann is a "daring biopic," St. Paul begins. "Imagine that the movie is about a coal worker who's a big machine operator in the coal mines of eastern Kentucky. Then you also have a singer-songwriter, a rock star, a nice guy apparently, but also very much a social activist and a rebel -- all that in one. Except the whole thing is set in East Germany. It's a biopic about a real person who was all that...a cult singer-songwriter called Gerhart Gundermann. He was well-liked, except after the fall of the wall in 1989. He had a crisis of consciousness, a sense of guilt, and he came out in the open [about] his former activities with the Stasi -- basically the east German GDR, the secret police -- to everyone's surprise."
"The movie is interesting because it's about an idealist," St. Paul continues. "A real poet...committed to the social cause who sang about his deep commitment to the social cause who was a strong believer that communism was the way to go for equality. [He] fought the system from within to improve the workers' conditions, for instance; courageously fought the heirarchy; and of course, got expelled from that party. He didn't belong...because he was an idealist."
"He realized that his idealism...turned him into an informant against his friends, against his coworkers. The question in the movie is...does he not realize at the time what was going on? He did it for ten years, maybe less. It's only later on that he saw for himself what he was doing when he became the enemy after the fall of the wall. The Stasi were scrutinized by the journalists. Things came out in the open. It's a bit of paradoxical history to think the communists were now being spied upon. So it really brings a lot of questions about idealism."
Director Andreas Dressen works to dismantle some of the more negative cliches that continue to hang over the GDR, St. Paul explains. "[Dressen] admits that it was a true tragedy that broke a lot of people: those who believed in it and those who were persecuted by it equally. Gundermann, in many ways, is a perpetrator and a victim of that system. I think that a good thing that comes out of it is a sense of forgiveness. This is a very human movie."
"I think it's a good exploration of how idealism can be manipulated and can lead you to the wrong paths," she continues. "Maybe the opposite of where you actually wanted to go. Whatever dogma you believe in -- whether it's political, religious, extreme right or extreme left, it leads you down a path that you may not want. Radicalism, clouding of the mind...[it] basically blocks your critical thinking and makes you do things you may not want to do. That's a good point about this movie."
"[Gundermann] is a very passionate person. As many passionate people are, they sometimes get so committed to what they think is the big picture that they forget the close ones near them are their victims," St. Paul says. "I think he's described as a bit of a comic figure -- someone who is afraid of nothing and is a bit brash. He's just speaking his mind; he doesn't stop. That's his personality, and that's how it comes through in the movie. He has no real filter."
"He can be very committed to what he does, but maybe doesn't always think of the consequences immediately. I think it's good to see a movie that makes you think about your commitment to something. [Your commitment] needs to be based in humanism and not be clouded by dogmas," St. Paul concludes.
Murray State's Cinema International will present Gundermann this Thursday, October 29th, in the Barkley Room and Saturday, October 31st, in the Curris Center Theater. Both screenings begin at 7:30 p.m and are free and open to the public. Due to COVID-19 regulations, capacity is limited.
For more information on MSU Cinema International, visit their website.