In 1990, the deposed rulers of the GDR, Erich and Margot Honecker, had to stay in an evangelical parsonage for six weeks. Prayer struggles with atheism, repression with demands for repentance. “Honecker and the Pastor” is great television. Jan Josef Liefers (director) and Fred Breinersdorfer (screenplay), as well as a brilliant ensemble of actors, allow the viewer to look inside the dictator’s brain: the right history lesson in the midst of Putin’s madness.
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War of songs in the vicarage. Pastor Uwe Holmer (Hans-Uwe Bauer) has a birthday. His family – wife and mother of ten children Sigrid Holmer (Steffi Kühnert) and the children who still live at home, Kornelius (Ilja Bultmann) and Traugott (Luca Gugolz) – have joined the canon. Sounds “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord be praised!”
Then the couple Erich (Edgar Selge) and Margot (Barbara Schnitzler) Honecker appear, who no longer rule over any people, and after being expelled from Wandlitz, they had to settle with the Holmers. More autumn than sun.
[ „Honecker und der Pastor“, ZDF, Montag, 20 Uhr 15]
But still the dying embers of old power and glory. Honecker gives the pastor something he probably never wanted: all of his speeches, which he delivered as a former president of the Council of State, stored in a mini-stacker. A lot of very small books for very large sentences. Besides that. The old man, seriously ill with cancer, still has an embarrassment to offer: after the Christian “Rise of the Sun” he accesses the FDJ song “We are everywhere on earth”: “Light up the red star and give me courage “, it says.
Perhaps, one thinks, director Liefers had a black comedy in mind. An ironic requiem with a lot of music and a slight mockery of old age. Once the director lets Udo Lindenberg’s “Sonderzug nach Pankow” be heard from the room of the son of the rebellious priest Traugott, but the film has no place for rock jokes.
Screenplay by Fred Breinersdorfer
Old master Fred Breinersdorfer’s script (“Sophie Scholl – The Last Days”), which was created from a book and conversations with the now 93-year-old pastor, forces this film to have a serious undertone; the declarations of the couple at the end of their lives are too disastrous.
victims of the wall? People knew of the risk. surveillance status? Are you? A good socialist needs no supervision. Gorbachev? He was a western agent. The counterrevolution began. The secret death of your favorite three-year-old granddaughter? It was not for the public. Why should man show weakness? regret mistakes? We don’t regret, we learn.
As soon as the Honeckers ring the parsonage doorbell for the first time and the camera (brilliant: Ralf Noack, production design: Frank Polosek, costume: Lucie Bates) captures the tramp couple from below, it’s clear: serious opera. without udo. There is the stone guest of “Don Giovanni”, who has brought his wife with him.
This is the moment when the ensemble’s brilliant performance becomes visible. Selge (73) slips into the physique of a suspicious octogenarian. Not only in his body, but also in his burdened soul.
Then Ulbricht’s wall-building helper takes off his hat. The Saarland GDR Crown Prince, who spent ten years in prison under the Nazis, who in his third marriage, contrary to the envious and uptight comment of the comrade, married the attractive Margot, who was twelve years younger, and the appointed Minister of Education.
The camera kneels. Honecker remains polite, but he doesn’t humiliate himself. Guests practice keeping their distance. “Normally we pray while we eat,” warns the pastor. “That does not bother us,” the former head of the GDR is wrong.
The couple will live in the room of the pastor’s youngest son. Two beds together invite you to marriage camp. Honecker immediately separates what shouldn’t be joined and pushes his bed under the sloped ceiling. The old fox needs his lair, especially here in the dangerous and shadowy realm of religious faith with its missionary hunters.
It should seem modest when Margot orders a shot glass and a lemon. Her husband is very careful with her body, she says. The life of a dictator teaches physical fitness, always forward, never backward.
Breinersdorfer spared the lodging visit none of the moral questions. Did you have the demonstrators shot? asks the pastor’s wife. What would you have done? Margaret replies. The leather skin seems three feet thick when Barbara Schnitzler (daughter of GDR TV propagandist Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler’s third marriage) plays Margot.
As an ambitious and power-conscious woman, but also with surprising remnants of memories of a bad fate. Margot helps the pastor’s wife (Kühnert, an actress who believably portrays how her faith threatens to crumble) with the dishes. As a minister, she never had to do it herself.” “My father was in a concentration camp and in prison. When he was 13 years old, my mother died. I had to take care of my little brother. You learn housework there.”
This is the same woman who claims that the GDR was a family. There was no brutality in the closed youth labor yards for conspicuous youngsters and many had “found their lineage again” there and were thankful for it. A credibly reconstructed TV show by Breinersdorfer exposes Margot’s lie.
At the end of this tragedy, everyone has lost. The church’s campaign to bring atheists home has failed, as has the hope of ending the autistic self-delusion of the powerful. The scene is bare.
A statue of Christ, currently housed at the Bodelschwingh institution in Lobetal, but where it should not be filmed for patient protection reasons, has been transplanted into a meadow by the filmmakers using optical tricks. The Son of God looks now alone in an idyllic distance. Honecker and the pastor walk past the relocated Savior. One bossy, the other shaking his head.
The protest against accommodation is getting stronger. The Honeckers creep through the vicarage like ghosts and peer through the closed curtains. They have no sympathy for the protesters and simply watch as their hosts try to quell the riots.
Cancer patient dies in Chile
At the end, when the autistic incorrigibles of power leave, Honecker gives Pastor Holmer the intimate kiss customary among Eastern Bloc tycoons. A mechanical, assimilating gesture will never again understand anything about respect for others and the limits of respect. The cancer patient died on May 29, 1994 in Chile without having been imprisoned.