Heinrich Breloer called his family writer saga “The Manns”. Andreas Kleinert would have had every right to call his artist family saga “The Braschs”, because the Braschs are to the East what the Manns were to the West.
But Kleinert’s film is called “Dear Thomas”, because it is above all a critical declaration of love to Thomas Brasch – exceptionally talented poet, film director with two Cannes invitations, women magnet, system sprinkler, romanticist of the revolution, cocainist.
Today, twenty years after his untimely death, the Brasch braid has to be unraveled briefly. The father Horst, a Jew, was saved by one of the Kindertransporte to England in 1939 and returned after the war as a staunch socialist.
To the GDR, of course, where he made a career with the Honecker team and became Vice Minister of Culture. Thomas’ little brother Klaus is a talented actor with a Brando flair.
Thomas Brasch is in a relationship with the Romanian singer Sanda Weigl, who was picked up on arrival in Schönefeld by her aunt, the Brecht widow Helene Weigel, who now ruled the Berliner Ensemble (BE). Sanda’s brother, the actor Vladimir Weigl, has a daughter with the very young Katharina Thalbach, daughter of the BE in-house director Benno Besson.
Not a dissident, not an opponent
Katharina, in turn, falls head over heels in love with Thomas. Sanda then marries the author Klaus Pohl, who much later will write a key novel about these Braschs.
Even this rather cursory overview of Brasch family ties gives an idea of the forces that are set in motion if someone does not want to play along. And Thomas is not a teammate.
Neither is he a dissident, not an oppositionist, he is a radical individualist. That works well as long as he stays under the radar in Prenzlauer Berg-Bohème, where Che Guevara is hanging on the wall instead of Walter Ulbricht.
It went terribly wrong when he and Sanda stuffed leaflets into the mailboxes after the Prague invasion in 1968: Stasi. Hohenschoenhausen. “Probation” in the production because the father intervened, the stubbornness of the son cost the party career. After all, Thomas learns a lot from the proletariat of the cable works that he can use for life and poetry.
Director Andreas Kleinert first worked as a transport worker. He had just finished his directing studies in Babelsberg when the wall came down. There is a lot of autobiography to be found in his films.
Horst Brasch, who firmly believes in socialism, is also Kleinert’s father, who always firmly believed in the 98 percent election results in the SED state. In the rigged local elections of 1989, of all things, which ushered in the end of the GDR, he was a member of the election commission and had to answer for the falsifications in court.
Telling about the GDR from the post-GDR
“Dear Thomas” heralds a new, third phase in coming to terms with the GDR film past. It started with stupid Vopos and Spreewald gherkins in “Sonnenallee” and “Good Bye, Lenin!”. The newly united country had to laugh at the horror of the dictatorship out of its clothes.
With the “Lives of Others” began the cinematic processing of the surveillance system, which continues to this day; In August, “Nah Schuss” will be released in cinemas, about the last executed death sentence in the GDR.
“Dear Thomas” (and Andreas Dresen’s “Gundermann”), on the other hand, stand for telling stories about the GDR out of the post-GDR: by a generation of filmmakers born there who only began their careers after the fall of the Wall.
As in the debates on colonialism, it is about the formation of the narrative by those affected or their children, about the recapture of historical sovereignty by the underdogs of history.
As is also the case in the black civil rights movement, this includes inventing heroes. Thomas Brasch is, now this category has to be introduced, an Albrecht Schuch hero. For several years now, Albrecht Schuch has played every good role that there seems to be in German film.
Benni’s anti-aggression trainer in “Systemsprenger”, Franz Biberkopf’s Verderber in “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, the unstoppable friend of “Fabian” in Dominik Graf’s new Kästner film, the Gestapo chief in the new “Schachnovelle” and next year one of the World War II soldiers Remake of “Nothing New in the West”.
Brasch flirted with the crime
“Dear Thomas” is not afraid to like Schuch’s Brasch. His stubbornness and stubbornness, contradictions and instability, his immeasurable demands on himself. His being a star and his pleasure in being a star.
Brasch flirted with crime as the only serious negation of bourgeois existence; He spent decades writing a novel about a serial killer, but the 16,000 typewritten pages were never published.
Kleinert visualized such fantasies with a shocking murder / suicide scene and a Bonnie and Clyde shootout. In such sequences, the film goes far beyond the usual biopic, a film about a non-conformist has to dare to try something unconventional.
This is the difference to Annekatrin Hendel’s film documentary “Familie Brasch” from three years ago, which was able to fall back on many contemporary witnesses. “Dear Thomas” is one of those “Based on real events” films that take liberties and replace the truth of the facts with a truth of meaningfulness.
Perhaps that is why Klaus Pohl’s script was not used, which is likely to bring some skepticism to the film on the part of the numerous Braschists. But instead they get a true film hero, an obsessed author who once wrote a play that consisted only of sentences from New Germany (but was still not allowed to be performed), as well as a charismatic and an idealist who dreams of true socialism.
A man who is not too good to gamble for hundreds of thousands of poker with capitalist publishers. Oh yes, and at the farewell party before he moved to the West, he is said to have coined the most devastating of all GDR jokes: “The last one turns off the light.”