11 January 2021 | leonevilo
a story of youth falling apart
Als wir träumten tells the story of a group of friends growing up in leipzig, an east german city two hours south of berlin. most of the story is set in the early nineties, right after reunification, with a few flashbacks to the eighties, the big demonstrations in fall 89 being the big divide. however, politics are as absent as possible when telling stories about this very political era.
since the story makes no attempt to give any context or explain circumstances to the viewer, let me explain a few things that will help you 'get' it: in the eighties life in east germany was very structured, everyone had jobs, food, a place to live, safety, but no freedom. kids were told stories about building a socialist society, which had been told to their parents, most had never believed in the first place or lost their faith along the way, until many were dreaming about leaving to the west. if you grew up then and there, you constantly felt left behind by friends and relatives, often without hope to see each other again.
after reunification another kind of disillusionment set in: most factories shut down, many grown ups were jobless, trying to figure out life with new rules they had yet to learn themselves, unable to provide guidance to their kids. only a few months divided the eighties, where everything was reglemented (mostly forbidden) and the nineties, when all of a sudden nothing seemed off limits and authorities were gone from one day to the next.
this story is about kids testing limits and not finding any, which was fun sometimes, but often just a way to see if anyone even took notice of them. it's about kids trying not to lose their friendship, about crashing cars, bittersweet love, drugs, petty crime, occupying abandoned places, boxing, everyone smoking cigarettes, running from nazi bullies and cops, short stints in jail, violence, harder drugs, longer stints in jails and the music that was popular at the time (techno). the story is not about any of those things specifically, they are all at the peripherie, it is really all about friendship and trying hard not to drift apart.
the movie is based on one of my favorite books, and although i have a few minor objections - some scenes are missing which may have increased the emotional impact even further - i understand they were left out to avoid the word depressing in reviews. als wir träumten is not a feel good story, there is nothing glossy in it, but it does a good job recreating the raw emotion of the book and the harsh reality of that time.