There are many films about the construction of the wall. After all, it is one of the most decisive events in German history. “3 ½ hours” (already in the ARD media library) treats the topic from a completely new perspective.
The 20th century was more defining in German history than any other. So it’s no wonder that the most significant events to this day are repeatedly taken up in films and series – and not only in Germany, but also in Hollywood. You can easily get the impression that you have seen everything this way (or at least very similar) anyway …
But every now and then there are also films that illuminate a supposedly well-known event such as the construction of the Berlin Wall from a completely new perspective – and give the audience completely fresh food for thought. Such an unusual film, which puts you directly into the dilemma of millions of GDR citizens on August 13, 1961, is also “3½ hours” by director Ed Herzog.
The ARD production is now appearing punctually for the 60th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall. “3 ½ hours” can now be accessed free of charge in the ARD media library. It will also run on Saturday, August 7th, from 8.15 p.m. on Das Erste.
» “3 ½ hours” in the ARD media library
On August 13, 1961, an interzonal train left Munich in the direction of East Berlin. But already on departure the rumor spreads that the GDR could build a wall and close the border to the FRG forever. The guests on board only have a few hours to make a decision that will determine the rest of their lives: Do you stay on the train to face an uncertain future in the GDR – or do you get off before the border and leave everything behind to stay in the West from now on?
With this exciting dilemma, which everyone can easily imagine, “3½ hours” illuminates the division of Germany within Germany in an extraordinary way. We are always very close to the most varied of human fates, which collide with one another in a tight train, while the merciless time pressure casts an ever more threatening shadow. The trailer also provides a first foretaste of how the whole thing develops for the characters in the cinematic processing of the fateful train journey:
But the location is by no means the only special feature of “3½ hours”. In contrast to many other stories about the construction of the Berlin Wall, an all-German perspective is taken here – after all, western citizens also travel on the train, who are also confronted with the full scope of the major historical event.
Even entire families are threatened with being torn apart. Marlis (Susanne Bormann) is a staunch communist who would never turn her back on her state, while her husband Gerd (Jan Krauter) as a critic of the regime would have no problem living in the West in the future. And every single stop on the train increases the pressure to finally have to make a decision …
The use of music is also exceptional. By means of a GDR band, which is one of the passengers on the train, melancholy musical numbers are repeatedly woven directly into the plot. Singer Alli Neumann, as the front woman of the group, performs three songs that reflect the central themes and also build a stylistic bridge to the present day.
The fact that the scenario of “3 ½ hours” is not a pure thought experiment, regardless of the historical background, makes the film all the more explosive. Many characters are fictional and the events are a bit dramatic, but the basis of the plot are true events: The train in the film, whose passengers were faced with the same momentous decision as the characters in the film, actually existed (even if it was actually traveling from Bremen via East Berlin to Dresden).
When writing his screenplay, author Robert Krause was inspired by the experiences of his own grandparents, who were actually sitting in one of the compartments of the interzone train at the time. And finally the hint again. You don’t necessarily have to wait until the regular broadcast on Saturday evening – you can now watch “3 ½ hours” in the ARD media library.