Gender, Class, and Sexuality: Ending Taboos in Die Legende von Paul und Paula (The Legend of Paul and Paula, Heiner Carow, 1973)

  • Sebastian Heiduschke


In 1971, East Germany’s new head of state Erich Honecker announced an end of taboos for the arts and signaled that critical approaches to socialism would be welcome. Prior this change, a film such as Heiner Carow’s Die Legende von Paul und Paula, which vehemently criticized East German contemporary society, likely would not have made it past the censors; however, the eradication of taboos allowed it be released in 1973. Its plot—and at times visually confusing love story about an adulterous relationship between a single working mother and a successful SED party member—combines exaggerated performances, esoteric dream sequences, symbolism, and rock music into a smorgasbord that promised DEFA’s departure into a new style of cinema. Surreal scenes, the exposure of the state’s infiltration of the private sphere, the persistent challenge of hypocritical behavior in socialism, and the depiction of sex on-screen ensured a winning combination with the public. Structured around dichotomies, Paul und Paula presented a love story that suggested East Germany’s ambivalence toward gender and class.


Private Sphere Socialist Society Rock Music Career Ladder Love Story 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Zoe Ingalls, “Tender? Playful? Reflective? East German Cinema Comes to Light in Massachusetts,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 46, no. 12 (November 12, 1999), B2.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Daniela Berghahn, Hollywood Behind the Wall: The Cinema of East Germany (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), 200–201.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Stephen Brockmann, A Critical History of German Film (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2010), 263.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Helke Sander and Renée Schlesier, “Die Legende von Paul und Paula: Eine frauenverachtende Schnulze aus der DDR,” Frauen und Film 2 (1974): 8–47.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Karin Hartewig, Das Auge der Partei: Fotografie und Staatssicherheit (Berlin: Links, 2004), 93.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Joshua Feinstein, The Triumph of the Ordinary: Depictions of Daily Life in the East German Cinema 1949–1989 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 211–212.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Paul Betts, Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 17.
    Günter Gaus, Wo Deutschland liegt. Eine Ortsbestimmung (Hamburg: Hoffman und Campe, 1986), 119.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    For more on the role of screen heroines, see Andrea Rinke, “Models or Misfits? The Role of Screen Heroines in GDR Cinema,” in Triangulated Visions: Women in Recent German Cinema, ed. Ingeborg Majer O’Sickey and Ingeborg von Zadow (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 207–218.Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    Andrea Rinke, “Sex and Subversion in GDR Cinema: The Legend of Paul and Paula (1973),” in 100 Years of European Cinema: Entertainment or Ideology?, ed. Diana Holmes and Alison Smith (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), 58–59.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sebastian Heiduschke 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Heiduschke

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations