Herrmann Zschoche

Herrmann Zschoche

Darsteller, Regie, Regie-Assistenz, Drehbuch
*25.11.1934 Dresden

Biography

Hermann Zschoche was born in Dresden on November 25, 1934. He became interested in film at an early age and joined a small-gauge film club as a teenager. He also took speech lessons with filmmaker Martin Hellberg whose colleague he would become later on. Having graduated high school in 1953, Zschoche worked as an assistant and cameraman at the "Aktuelle Kamera" program of GDR television before he eventually went to study film directing at the Deutsche Hochschule für Filmkunst in Potsdam-Babelsberg from 1954 to 1959.

Right after graduating, Hermann Zschoche started his career at the DEFA-Studio for feature films, first as an assistant to director Gerhard Klingenberg in "Was wäre wenn..." (1960) then as assistant to Frank Beyer in "Königskinder" ("Royal Children", 1960). 1961 saw the premiere of his first movie as a director with the children's film "Das Märchenschloß" based on a picture book by Fred Rodan. Following the film's success, Zschoche focussed on directing films for children usually based on popular books like "Die Igelfreundschaft" (1962, book by Martin Viertel) and "Lütt Matten und die weiße Muschel" (1964, book by Benno Pludra). His children's films give an empathetic portrayal of the young protagonists' and viewers' experience of life without trivializing the reality we all live in.

In 1965, the critical "Karla" was released as the young directors first "grown up" movie. The film tells the story of the young and nonconformist teacher Karla who opposes the doctrine of her school's administration and thus gets herself into trouble. However, the movie was not released until 1990 because the GDR authorities rejected it for political reasons. When it premiered at the Berlin IFF in 1990, it received critical acclaim and was honoured with the FIPRESCI Award as well as the Interfilm Award. "Karla" also marked the first collaboration of Zschoche and (screen-)writer Ulrich Plenzdorf – who teamed up for four more films until 1983.

In the years that followed the release of "Karla", Zschoche's films often revolved around the problems and conflicts of adolescents and young adults which he elaborated on the big screen, always staying close to life, authentic and at times even almost in a documentary mode. In "Sieben Sommersprossen" (1978), based on the book by Christa Kozik, he used an amateur production of "Romeo and Juliet" at a summer camp as a backdrop to trace in a very sensitive way how two teenagers experience a change in their relationship from childhood friendship to first love. The film became a box office hit as well as a critics' favourite: it sold 1.5 million admissions and received the GDR critics' award as the best contemporary DEFA film in 1978. Director Zschoche was awarded the "Spezialpreis der Jury" at the Nationales Spielfilmfestival of the GDR.

However, Zschoche had proven before that he could successfully work in other genres as well. In 1971/72 he came up with the technically sophisticated "Eolomea", a science fiction movie shot on 70mm that was based on a screenplay written by the director himself. Shortly before that, he had already released the road movie "Weite Straßen – Stille Liebe" (1969) starring Manfred Krug. Krug would also take centre stage in Zschoche's "Feuer unter Deck" – not just because he was cast as the lead but more so because in 1977 he had formally applied for a departure permit to leave the GDR for good. As a reaction to this perceived infidelity the GDR officials postponed the release of the film that had been completed in 1976 by three years and only consented to a premiere on television in 1979.

Zschoche's next film that was released theatrically as scheduled was "Glück im Hinterhaus" in 1980, a Plenzdorf adaptation of Günther de Bruyn's novel "Buridans Esel" about a triangular relationship. Reviews, however, remained mixed, especially when compared to the acclaimed book. Zschoche then directed another box office hit: "Und nächstes Jahr am Balaton" (1980) is a road movie that has his teenage protagonist Jonas (René Rudolph) dream of the great big world. The next film the DEFA director helmed was "Bürgschaft für ein Jahr" (1981) starring Katrin Sass as a troubled young mother who is about to loose custody of her children. The critically acclaimed drama was featured in the competition of the Berlin IFF 1982 and Sass was awarded the Silver Bear as best female actress.

In 1983, "Insel der Schwäne" was met with disdain by the GDR critics. Zschoche and his writer Plenzdorf were accused of distorting socialist ideas by depicting the grey dullness of everyday life in the newly constructed block buildings, and, to make things worse, by not including a character for positive identification into the film. The drama could only be released with an altered ending in 1983 but is now considered one of the most important childrens' and adolescents' films of the DEFA precisely because of its authenticity.

Because of the controversies surrounding "Insel der Schwäne", in 1984, Zschoche decided to make a film well rooted in the past: "Hälfte des Lebens", his next work, became a Hölderlin biopic starring long term real life couple Ulrich Mühe and Jenny Gröllmann as Friedrich Hölderlin and the married woman Susette Gontard as star-crossed lovers. The film received the audience award at the 4th Nationales Spielfilmfestival for its portrayal of the impossibility of being half a poet and half a revolutionist.

In 1989, "Grüne Hochzeit" was eventually released as a sequel to Zschoche's greatest success "Sieben Sommersprossen". Where the latter had focussed on the excitement of the first big love, the former has a more sober view on the difficulties that follow when this excitement has all gone. This was also to be Zschoche's final DEFA movie. Two years later, in 1991 his very last feature film "Mädchen aus dem Fahrstuhl" was shown on the big screen. The movie, whose production had begun in the GDR and that was completed in united Germany was another coming-of-age story of the honest, authentic and empathetic kind Zschoche had become known for.

Like many other DEFA directors, Zschoche was facing hard times in the movie business of the federal republic of Germany so he started working in television, where he directed TV series, TV movies and one episode of "Tatort". He still knew the tools of the trade but the TV productions were more market oriented and less ambitious than his work in film. He also started publishing books on German painters like Caspar David Friedrich and the influence of landscapes on their work. In 2002, Zschoche released his autobiography "Sieben Sommersprossen und andere Erinnerungen" in which he reflects on his time as a DEFA director. In January 2014, 30 years after their collaboration in "Hälfte des Lebens", screenwriter Christa Kozik and Hermann Zschoche were honoured with the city of Nürtingen's Hölderlin-Ring for their humorous yet always honest and critical depiction of young people's everyday lives in the GDR.

Hermann Zschoche was married to Jutta Hoffmann ("Karla", 1965) with whom he has a daughter, Katharina. Zschoche lives in Sorkow, Brandenburg.

Filmography

1995 Tödliche Freundschaft
Director
 
1994/1995 Der maskierte Tod
Director
 
1994 Natalie I - Endstation Babystrich
Director
 
1992 Hier und Jetzt
Director
 
1989-1991 Mädchen aus dem Fahrstuhl
Director
 
1988/1989 Grüne Hochzeit
Director
 
1986/1987 Die Alleinseglerin
Director, Screenplay
 
1984/1985 Hälfte des Lebens
Director, Screenplay
 
1982/1983 Insel der Schwäne
Director, Screenplay
 
1980/1981 Bürgschaft für ein Jahr
Director
 
1979/1980 Und nächstes Jahr am Balaton
Director, Screenplay
 
1978-1980 Glück im Hinterhaus
Director, Screenplay
 
1977/1978 Sieben Sommersprossen
Director, Screenplay
 
1977/1978 Addio, piccola mia
Cast
 
1976/1979 Feuer unter Deck
Director, Screenplay
 
1975/1976 Philipp, der Kleine
Director, Screenplay
 
1973/1974 Liebe mit 16
Director, Screenplay
 
1971/1972 Eolomea
Director, Screenplay
 
1969 Weite Straßen - stille Liebe
Director
 
1967/1968 Leben zu zweit
Director
 
1965/1966 Karla
Director, Screenplay
 
1964/1965 Engel im Fegefeuer
Director, Screenplay
 
1963/1964 Lütt Matten und die weiße Muschel
Director, Screenplay
 
1961/1962 Die Igelfreundschaft
Director, Screenplay
 
1960/1961 Das Märchenschloß
Director, Screenplay
 
1960 Was wäre, wenn...?
Assistant director
 

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