Netzwerk (Ralf Kirsten, East Germany, 1969)

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I think it might be a spy thriller. Usually you can get a pretty good idea of a storyline without understanding the dialogue, but in this case the language barrier was insurmountable for me. It’s an East German flick, starkly photographed in black & white.

It starts off at a petro-chemical works. As a brief aside, take a look at the Wartburg barely seen at the bottom of the title shot (it didn’t seem worth a separate picture). Its lines seem relatively modern and stylish by late ‘sixties standards, not the ugly rattlebox East European cars are supposed to be at all. Of course they then didn’t change the design for twenty years.

Anyway, our hero the very familiar Alfred Müller, is a bigwig at the plant. He usually plays authority types, but here he’s younger and more vigorous than I’m accustomed to seeing him. Take a look at him doing his best ‘my name is Michael Schumacher and you have just blown off in my lift’ face (try it, it breaks the ice at parties). The phrase ‘doesn’t suffer fools gladly’ springs to mind.

Elsewhere, in some kind of hospital, there’s a middle-aged guy of Middle Eastern appearance. His nurse is a young Ursula Werner. Yes, you read that right, his nurse is Ursula Werner! She’s one of those starchy but really pretty and if-she’s-not smiling-she’s-positively-beaming ones too. If it’s wish-fulfillment fantasy you’re after then you’ve found your film.

Talking of wish-fulfillment fantasy, over in the university lecture hall drawing equations on the blackboard, hiding behind thick-rimmed spectacles but with an unmistakable jawline, is none other than Jutta Wachowiak as a university lecturer. Mmm, imagine Jutta Wachowiak saying something so important you actually wrote it down! She seems to be married to protagonist Müller (both characters are in the credits as ‘Doctor’) so this appearance isn’t purely gratuitous.

The setting and characters remind me of Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966), which is the main reason I guessed it was a spy film. There are other hints too, such as people sitting around in fields at midnight presumably waiting to intercept possible parachute drops. I’ve become somewhat addicted to East German films in recent years, and enjoyed this one about as much as I can enjoy any film without any shootings, nudity or car chases, and without understanding a single word of the dialogue.

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 4/5

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