Maria Morzeck (Angelika Waller) is smart and appealing. The
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/23/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Each ruling class sees its positive law as natural law...as divine providence," says one character in The Rabbit Is Me, an East German film made in 1965 during a brief lull in Walter Ulbricht's heavy-handed repression. Or put another way, each ruling class, given half a chance, will use the law to advance its own careers, its prestige and its place in power.
The lull ended with the East German Communist Party's 11th Congress held in December, 1965. The hammer came down hard on anything remotely resembling economic or cultural unreliability. For movies, many films made during the easing of rules in 1965, including The Rabbit Is Me, were summarily banned before they could be released. The Rabbit Is Me was never seen until 1990. The wonder is that the East German authorities ever approved the film in the first place.
Maria Morzeck is an 18-year-old student who works as a waitress and plans to go to college to become an interpreter or a travel agent. She's played by 21-year-old Angelika Waller in her first film. Waller looks a bit like Debbie Reynolds. She has a figure like Marilyn Monroe's. And she's a much better actress than either. Then Maria's brother is arrested for an unspecified crime and sentenced to three years in jail. In short order, as the sister of a subversive, her chance for college vanishes. She resigns herself to working as a waitress, but she also is determined to get her brother released. Call it dramatic coincidence, but it works...she happens to meet the judge who sentenced her brother. He's a handsome man in his forties named Paul Deister (Alfred Muller). It's not long before Maria decides to accept Deister's attentions. He's a nice guy, she tells herself, and we see that he is. He even seems to be nice to his wife. While she's figuring a way to let him know who she is so she can help her brother, she's also falling in love with him. It seems as if he's falling in love with her. Just bear in mind that Maria is honest, and even in love she's not naïve. And Paul Deister, a respected and hard-line judge, may be a nice guy personally but we come to realize he's driven as much by careerism, probably more, than by the law.
The Rabbit Is Me is Maria's story. The director, Kurt Maetzig, who was and is a committed socialist, used her story, in the brief moment of relaxed rules in East Germany, to push toward a more democratic socialism. Seeing the movie now, its no wonder the East German party apparatchiks banned it as soon as they saw it. In a long scene that moves from room to room as Deister tries to avoid being overheard, he tries to explain to Maria how the law works. The unspoken text is, how the law works in East Germany. We hear his rationalizations, which he seems to believe. We also hear the career opportunism and recognize the built-in injustice of an arbitrary legal system. No wonder Kurt Maetzig was called upon later for some public self-abasement by the authorities.
Yet for all the cautious and implied criticism that Maetzig tried to get away with, the movie itself is most often an entertaining mixture of wry humor combined with the immensely appealing and clear-eyed character of Maria. Angelika Waller gives Maria a bright sheen of impertinence and passion. Watching Waller run down the short hill from Deister's summer cabin to his car when he arrives for the weekends is a joy.
Maria talks to us in voice-over during the movie. She can be funny as well as honest. She falls in love with Deister, but she also is determined to do everything she can to get her brother freed. The long scene Maria shares with Deister's wife is a fine example of a potential catfight that evolves into a funny and then serious tactical encounter. Her last meeting with Paul Deister starts out with the impression that there will be a more-or-less happy ending. Well, there is a happy ending, but, thank goodness, it doesn't involve the East German legal system...and that means Paul Deister. Maria the rabbit has grown up and is moving on.
The black-and-white film looks fine. There are several extras, including an excellent interview with the director, Kurt Maetzig, filmed in 1999. The English subtitles are easy to read."
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 03/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Rabbit is Me"
Unbeknownst to me "The Rabbit is Me" is considered to be one of the most important German films ever made. Now that I have seen the wonderful First Run Features DVD released, I see why this is said. It is thoughtful, it is natural and it is replete with the independent strength of its heroine. The fluidity of the camera work and the sarcastic and sexy humor cause this film to stand in a class all its own.
The film was banned in Germany because it challenged the Communist politics of East Germany and it goes beyond the political arena. It has taken twenty-five years to reach the public and the fact that it could not be seen and was locked away enhances and preserves the significance of history and shows that censorship has not prevented its right to be seen.
"Rabbit" tackles the German Communist criminal justice system of East Germany. The ploy bites the viewer sharply and even though it was filmed in the 1960's, it is impressive technically. This is not a heavy indictment of socialism as the humor releases and heavy handedness of politics.
A young woman who has been tainted with her brother's arrest due to subversive political activity has an affair with an older man who we discover is the judge that sentenced her brother to jail. Not a great deal more happens. The director, Kurt Maetzig, the director, has done an admirable job and now that we get to see it, we are free to decide for ourselves.