DEFA’s Afterimages. Looking Back at the East from the West in Das Leben der Anderen [The Lives of Others, 2006] and Barbara (2012)

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Invoking cultural memory as its key critical framework, this chapter examines two recent, critically acclaimed feature films about the erstwhile GDR made by filmmakers who were born and grew up in the West, The Lives of Others (2006) and Barbara (2012). In contrast to much of the scholarly and media debates surrounding these films, I am less interested in the contested issue of the films' historical authenticity than in the question how they construct a fictionalised memory of the GDR. In particular, I explore how these films engage with the extensive archive of cinematic representations of East Germany in DEFA films, notably Die Flucht (The Flight, Roland Gräf, 1977) and Der Verdacht (The Suspicion, Frank Beyer, 1991), two films that address similar themes: attempted Republikflucht (illegal escape from the GDR) and the corrosive atmosphere of fear and mistrust associated with surveillance by the Stasi. Finally, I seek to examine what narrative and visual strategies identify von Donnersmarck and Petzold's films as 'Nachbilder' or afterimages of Stasiland that look back at the former East from a recognisably Western vantage point.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRe-Imagining DEFA
Subtitle of host publicationEast German Cinema In Its National and Transnational Context
EditorsSeán Allan, Sebastian Heiduschke
Place of PublicationNew York and Oxford
PublisherBerghahn Books
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78533-106-0
ISBN (Print)978-1-78533-107-7, 978-1-78533-105-3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • DEFA
  • Stasi film
  • prosthetic memory
  • multidirectional memory
  • Nachbilder, afterimages
  • Republikflucht
  • German Democratic Republic
  • East German cinema
  • cultural memory and cinema

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