In 1978 in West Berlin, Christiane Felscherinow (aged 16) was summoned to court as a witness in a trial against a man who paid underage girls with heroin, in exchange for sexual favours. This is where two journalists from Stern magazine, Kai Hermann and Horst Reick, became intrigued with Felscherinow’s turbulent story. What once was supposed to be a two hour interview then lasted nearly two months, where Hermann and Reick recorded the essence of her atypical teenage life as a heroin addict and prostitute on a series of tapes.
Later on, these recordings were used for the autobiography Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (We Children from Bahnof Zoo) by Felscherinow, with support from Stern. In 1980 Uli Edel (director), Bernd Eichinger (production) and Herman Weigel (screenplay) teamed up to make this autobiography into a biopic, which was then released in 1981 and instantly became a cult classic in Europe for a film which portrayed the existing drug problem amongst teenagers in Berlin.
With scenes of projectile vomiting and spewing blood, Edel hardly shies away from showing the true adversities a heroin addict faces during addiction and withdrawal. Neither does young actress Natja Brunckhorst, who does a phenomenal job portraying Christiane.
In the film, when the protagonist later pursues prostitution, in hope that it will help buy her and her lover, Detlef (Thomas Haustein), a couple more hits, she does it at the infamous Bahnoff Zoo railway station, which was a notorious location for underage prostitution in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
While Edel tells a tale of one of many teens who survived underage drug addiction in West Berlin, the film also sees some who unfortunately fail to do the same. One of which is her dear friend Babsi, who dies at the ripe age of 14, which leaves Christiane in a bad state.
Not only does the film do well in telling Felscherinow’s battle with drugs and prostitution, but also shines a light on the tragic impact active and passive forms of peer pressure have on impressionable teenagers. The book is sometimes used as a required text in school, I wonder what impression it will leave those students with.
director ULI EDEL
director of photography JÜRGEN JÜRGES and JUSTUS PANKAU
cast NATJA BRUNCKHORST and THOMAS HAUSTEIN
words PRIYESH PATEL
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