22 September 2009 | hakof
A brilliant depiction of East Germany's final years
"The Architects" is a brilliant depiction of life in the final years of East Germany's existence. Intellectuals who are on the verge of middle age are stagnating professionally and suffocating intellectually. They can't talk freely; they can't think freely. They have a burning desire to reform and to improve their little socialist country, but obstacles are everywhere. An older, inflexible generation holds on while paying mere lip-service to youth, progress, and innovation. What will happen? Is change possible?
At 38 years of age, Daniel Brenner is a no-longer-young architect looking for his first big break. One of his former professors decides to help him out and introduces Daniel to an older architect who is now a city-planning administrator and Communist Party official. Daniel is asked to put together a team of "young" architects to enter a competition to design a town center. A team of handpicked architects whom he knew in his college days, they propose a center complete with a post office, grocery story, restaurants, cinema, theater, bowling alley, art gallery, and monuments, all situated in architecture that is innovative for East Germany. It signals a fresh start and a new responsiveness.
But here is where Daniel's problems begin. The very officials who appointed him are resistant to change. The proposal is too expensive, too difficult to build, too innovative, too intellectually honest, too everything. Daniel tries to win them over, but can he make a difference? Meanwhile, members of his team are losing faith in him and in the system. Even worse, as he gives everything to push for the proposal, his personal life is falling apart around him. His wife is bored with the monotony of life in East Germany and resentful about the lost chances in her life. Will Daniel have any achievements in his life, or will he be a professional failure, divorced, and trapped in country that doesn't want his input?
This movie was filmed in and around East Berlin in 1989 and 1990. The scenery is stark and accurate. This movie had the bad fortune to be released as East Germany was falling apart and reunification was underway. Audiences no longer cared to dwell on how stultifying East Germany had been. They wanted to look forward. But 20+ years later, this film is a moving and accurate depiction of what life was like for ordinary, educated people slowly being crushed by The System.