Tuesday, March 9

The history of heroin addiction in the 1970s in West Berlin turns modern | Germany

The story of a girl’s descent into drug addiction and prostitution in the West Berlin of the 1970s, which became a best-selling cult book and film across Europe, returns to the screens in a remake modern.

Christiane Felscherinow’s lengthy taped interviews with two journalists formed the backbone of the book Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, which was released in 1978 and made into a film directed by Uli Edel in 1981. An eight-part series with the same title launches in German on Amazon Prime on Friday night.

Edel Original grim and rough budget moviewhich featured primarily first-time actors and had a David Bowie soundtrack, stunned critics and audiences with its decrepit portrayals of a lost generation of young Berliners turning to heroin.

In one scene, 14-year-old protagonist Christiane and her fellow addicts inject themselves in bathroom stalls, surrounded by their own and other people’s urine, blood and vomit, before falling unconscious.

Later, some observers accused the film of glamorizing 1970s West Berlin as a mecca for sex, drugs, and experimental music. But for those who knew the city at the time, it accurately represented the feel of a lonely Cold War island, surrounded by the Berlin Wall and cut off from both Eastern and Western Europe, a draw for deserters, rejects, deserters. military and artists.

Critics have inevitably wondered what is gained by giving history a new film treatment.

The left-wing newspaper Die Tageszeitung insisted that it was impossible for the new version to have as great a cultural, social and political impact as its predecessor. “This new series can never make its mark like the 1981 movie did.” “Is it really necessary to re-language the iconic 40-year-old material that influenced an entire generation and place it in the here and now?”

A publicity photo for the 1981 film.
A publicity photo for the 1981 film. Photograph: Courtesy Everett Collection / REX

The creators of the new series, which was filmed in Prague and Berlin, insist that they are not so interested in recovering the mood of the original as in embracing the essence of a universal story about young people finding their place in the world. world. “This is our interpretation of what Christiane and her friends experienced at this time,” director Philipp Kadelbach said in an interview.

Although the story continues to be set in West Berlin in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the connection has been deliberately blurred with a soundtrack that replaces Bowie with dancehall, punk, and hip-hop from the last twenty years. The slang terms used by the actors mix up phrases from the present and early eighties. Critics have warmly praised the performances of its young actors.

Jana McKinnon, the 22-year-old Austrian-Australian actress who plays the title role, said she had not met Christiane Felscherinow, who still lives in Berlin, but did read her book and consulted the two journalists from Stern magazine they had interviewed. her in preparation for the position, as well as consulting expert advice on drug use.

“At the time, journalists struggled to find a publisher for the book because no one thought the story was relevant,” McKinnon said in an interview.

Felscherinow rose to fame when his story became known.

In 2013, she posted a sequel, Christiane F. My Second Life, detailing her subsequent troubles, including losing custody of her son and how she joined a methadone program to try to kick her habit. Over the years, she has been reluctant to talk about whether she is still a heroin user.

Its history has inspired guided tours of places in Berlin where it took place, including Jebenstrasse at the Zoologischer Garten train station, where the so-called “Babystrich” met, the strip in the Schöneberg district where Felscherinow worked as a prostitute to finance his drug . habit, as well as nearby Sound, the West Berlin nightclub in the 1970s, where he first discovered heroin.

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