One Of A Kind -- Great Fun
Beth Fox | Los Angeles, CA USA | 01/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Maybe you've seen "Beach Party," or "Beach Blanket Bingo," but I'll bet you've never seen an East German beach party musical -so welcome to Heisser Sommer! DEFA (the East German Communist government-controlled film company) did not make many musicals. Indeed, given the chronic shortages in East Germany (often filmmaking would have to stop when the electricity went off), and the limited ability of filmmakers, actors and the like to interact with their western counterparts, it is remarkable that this film is as good as it is. It is easily as good as any American movie of this genre, and you'll find yourself humming the tunes long after the movie is over.
The plot is simplistic: a group of ten teenage boys and a separate group of eleven teenage girls make their way to the Baltic Sea for a vacation. After they arrive, each group engages collectively in sophomoric hi-jinks (e.g., the boys hide the girls' clothes while the girls are swimming; the girls send the boys to a barn "guarded" by a St. Bernard) and one girl plays two boys off against each other. While the dancing, by Western standards, is a bit amateurish, the songs are catchy, the singing is good and the film is fast-paced and energetic.
When watching the movie, though, you will never forget that it's in East Germany. For openers, the female lead does not look like a typical 1960s-era American leading lady. The movie offers a rare glimpse of 1960s East Germany (Leipzig, in the opening; East Berlin, in a dream sequence.) Some of the translations, while accurate, are unintentionally funny. As others have mentioned, communist mores, while incidental to the plot, occasionally come through. Example: when one guy wants to leave early, he is told that "only cowards leave." This echoes the view held by the East German government that those who went West were cowards, who did not want to participate in building the "workers' paradise." The movie makes it appear as if groups of kids could take off for vacations almost on a whim -- as the commentary on the film explains, vacations in East Germany involved a lot of advance planning.
The movie is a lot of fun. If you enjoy it, you'll also like "East Side Story," which is a tongue-in-cheek history of musicals made behind the Iron Curtain."
This movie is so damned weird and wonderful
W. H. Jamison, Jr. | Burien, Washington United States | 11/20/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"OK, it's a musical, and musicals require a certain suspension of disbelief, and it's German, which, well, it's German damnit, the Germans are good at operas but not at musicals, which, although they fall under the rubric "musical theatre" are entirely different beasts, and then when your brain is getting wrapped around this you realize that it was made in East Germany you and totally wig out. The weirdness just increases every time you see Chris Doerk speak or sing, she's cute, but she has this weird creepy intensity that probably went over really, really well in East Germany. You can learn valuable truths about human nature from this movie, such as how East German women treated their men ("treat them mean, keep them keen"), and dig those East German fashions!. As you watch this movie every musical number just gets better and better, you just keep wondering "how can they top the last". And of course there are the situations, which are so stupid as to boggle the mind. For one prank the boys decide to frighten all of the girls by putting a mouse in their collective hotel room (man thiis movie is huge on collectivism, no one does anything by themselves in this movie, whether or not this is deliberately subtextual I don't know, but it smacks you upside the head like a Stasi nightstick*) while the girls get back at the boys by luring them into a barn guarded by a Saint Bernard (I'm not making this up, and watching these candy-assed East Germans nancy-jungen get cornered by a friggin Saint Bernard makes you wonder why we ever worried about these pussies coming through the Fulda Gap).
Then there's the weirdness of German pop song titles the song "Everything that we do, we do only for you" translates as "Alles was wir tun das tun wir nur fur euch", which just doesn't work as well as the English title (you can see this with the Christmas Carol "Silent Night", which was originally written in German and titled "Stille Nacht".). The songs, and the German romantic endearments such as "Kuss Mich mal" really hammer home the point that German is not the language of love.
As for the "dance" numbers, well, I'd have to say that there's nothing like German communism to crush whatever vestigial sense of rhythm possessed by white folks. And that dancing haystack number, wow! Watching this movie leaves you with certain questions: "Would this film have been any different if it had been made by a Nazi regime that won World War II"?, "Aren't we lucky that the Beatles got the Hell out of Hamburg and stopped singing in German?", "Was East German pornography into orgies and group sex as an expression of collectivism?" (Well maybe you won't wonder about that last one, but I sure do!)."
My favorite East German musical!
James D. Crabtree | Fort Leavenworth, Kansas | 03/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is great! Obviously inspired by American beach movies of the sixties, I think it out-performs them. I don't care much for the ending, but I guess in the end the two who are still together kinda deserve each other.
Loved the music!"