Film Censorship, the East German Nouvelle Vague, and the “Rabbit Films”: Das Kaninchen bin ich (The Rabbit Is Me, Kurt Maetzig, 1965)

  • Sebastian Heiduschke


“If one knows about censorship in East German cinema, it is surprising that this film was allowed to be made,” director Kurt Maetzig once pointed out in an interview.1 And yet, unlike in previous cases of films banned in East Germany, it was not primarily the plot of his film Das Kaninchen bin ich (The Rabbit Is Me, 1965) that caused the ban, but a change in the social mood.2 This change resulted in an eradication (Kahlschlag) of almost the entire DEFA feature film production of 1965 and turned out to have longlasting implications for East German cinema. After this event, East German directors no longer attempted to reform DEFA cinema until 1990, when a group of young directors resurrected art house film with their new productions of Wendeflicks. 3 By shelving the “rabbit films” (Kaninchenfilme)—as the banned films from 1965 have become known—East Germany not only curbed critical voices, but it also put a stop to an artistic movement promising to be an East German Nouvelle Vague that “might well have developed in advance of or in interesting counterpoint to the New German Cinema just getting underway in the Federal Republic” (West Germany).4 Although such a thesis about potential competition between the banned films in East Germany and the prolific art house cinema in West Germany will always remain guesswork to a certain extent, analyzing Das Kaninchen undoubtedly reveals how DEFA’s “rabbit films” ought to be understood as the East German “New Wave”—and how film censorship in East Germany destroyed the chance of DEFA films becoming known among Europe’s famous art films of the 1960s.5


Movie Theater Documentary Film Artistic Movement Critical Film East German Economy 
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    Katie Trumpener, “La guerre est finie: New Waves, Historical Contingency, and the GDR Kaninchenfilme,” in The Power of Intellectuals in Germany, ed. Michael Geyer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 116.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    For more on the West German “nouvelle vague” see, for example, Thomas Elsaesser, New German Cinema: A History (Basingstoke: Macmillan/British Film Institute, 1989)Google Scholar
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© Sebastian Heiduschke 2013

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  • Sebastian Heiduschke

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