14 April 2006 | michaelj108
The politics of German unification
The film is a documentary about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of East Germany, and German re-unification. It is essential viewing for those interested in national and international politics. It combines film footage of the time with subsequent interviews and re-enactments. The result is dazzling panorama with three layers. First we see archival footage of Helmut Kohl, West German chancellor bumbling through a media conference in 1988 and then in a re-enactment we see him in private negotiating the purchase of Germans from the East and finally an interview with him for the film in 2000. (Yes, he bought Germans from the East German regime.) In addition there are interviews with most of the other major players in this great game, Mikhail Gorbachev, George Bush senior, and Margaret Thatcher. It is a brilliant investigation into one of the most extraordinary events of Twentieth Century politics. In a 1979 article that respected magazine the National Geographic opined that East Germany was the one place where communism worked. A 1961 film with Jimmy Cagney, "One, Two, Three" had a more realistic judgment of East Germany – a good place to leave - than the august National Geographic. Within ten years of publishing that article East Germans voted with their feet and left. The film charts the spontaneous exodus that started by a mistake, but once started it could not be stopped. Those who marveled at the strange and small micro world of divided Berlin in The Promise (Das Versprechen) (1995) may find the macro perspective of "The German Game" provides a context. Kohl emerges as something of a hero. He was pressured by all of his allies, starting with the closest and more important one, France, not to interfere in tottering East Germany, least it upset the balance of power and draw a reaction from the Soviet Union. To Mitterrand's voice President Bush senior and British Prime Minister Thatcher both added theirs, insisting that West Germany remain passive. Kohl has been described, even today, by journalists who should know better as "not a bright man" (Jean LeCouture) and a "wooden Titan" (Neil Ashendon), but he seems to have known one thing, that this was Germany's chance and he took it without hesitation. He pressed ahead despite the demands of his allies, and they were demands, especially from Thatcher, invoking fears of World War II and making it clear she did not want a united Germany, and Mitterrand, much more subtly (he was called Le Chinoise because of his famed inscrutability), equally preferred a divided Germany dependent on its closest and most important ally, France. But the real heroes of this story are the individual East Germans, who after forty years of ruthless oppression and murderous hegemonic rule, made their own decisions and drove those Trabants (an automobile built in East Germany and famed for its unreliability, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabant) on the circuitous route west at far greater risk than Chancellor Kohl faced. I saw it but once on television with subtitles but I have been able to find a subtitled DVD. It is available from Amazon Germany (despite the blank link to the right above for Amazon Deustchland)but only in German with German subtitles (for the English, American, French, and Russian speakers). My comments are based on a single viewing a few years ago.