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KUNGSHOLMEN

Ditch your coats – warm up with a curry

The terrible summer might have people reaching for their skiing jackets, but Kathleen Harman prefers to warm up from the inside out, with Stockholm's best Indian curry..

Ladies glow, men perspire and horses sweat but I can assure you that the ladies, men and horses of Stockholm are doing none of the above at this moment in time. With temperatures plummeting to fourteen celsius, incessant cloud bursts and howling winds, we are probably contravening some EU trade description law by labelling this season ‘summer’.

I did, however, have to do a double take the other day when I saw a woman decked out in what appeared to be full skiing regalia, the ensemble being rendered all the more surreal with the inclusion of those daft walking stick things, looking for all the world like ski poles.

I had forgotten the Stockholm phenomenon of over dressing – that is over dressing in a tog factor, battling against the elements sort of a way, not in a ball dress at a barbeque sort of a way, obviously. I do realise that it is a bit nippy, but to be wearing a five thousand kronor Fjällräven padded jacket in July does seem like the ultimate in overkill.

For heaven’s sake, what is wrong with running around and jumping up and down for a bit if you’re feeling chilly? It will certainly do the trick, won’t cost an öre and it will save you the bother of having to go around looking like a fluorescent constipated Michelin man.

I am reminded of a documentary I saw about the early ascents of Everest and the kit that they took – they seemed to managed perfectly with a couple of pairs of socks and a knitted vest between the entire team. I wonder how the legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton ever managed to traverse the Antarctic subcontinent without a nice pair of those nice Bally curling boots and the now ubiquitous Fjällräven jacket to keep him nice and toasty.

But perhaps I am being a little unfair. I do come from a country where small boys are still sent to school in short trousers in the middle of winter because it is character building. If it rains, we just get wet or we don’t go outside – no need to dress up like a miniature Norwegian fisherman, complete with little waterproof gloves with which to handle one’s bucket and spade. No, in my mother country, we stay inside and practise spitting bits of chewed up paper at the blackboard, which must go a long way in explaining the UK’s prowess in the international world of darts championships.

I think that it is high time that my Stockholm neighbours adopted the British tradition of keeping warm from the inside out. And by that, of course, I mean a nice hot curry. It is this, together with perhaps a constant supply of bootleg cigarettes, that has enabled my countrymen and women to stand around outside nightclubs in sub zero conditions, wearing little else apart from singlets and boob tubes.

My first forays into Stockholm Indian curry houses were a bitter disappointment. A madras curry, typically a fairly spicy affair, seemed in its Swedish interpretation to be little more than Lingon sauce with some tumeric powder sprinkled over the top. I am certain that you can probably get tandoori herring without having to look too hard.

But I am delighted to tell you that I did manage to get a bit of a glow on after a recent visit to quite possibly the best Indian curry house in town, where the food is guaranteed to put hairs on your chest and warm the cockles of your heart. Now, the restaurant is called, somewhat unimaginatively, the Curry House, but you must go because the food really is very good.

So put away those long johns, let small furry animals keep their pelts, and set yourself up for this bracing summer weather with a nice hot curry. I recommend the prawn jalfrezi, a fresh, crunchy chilli dish, that would have even a horse reaching for its battery operated, hoof held portable fan.

Curry House, Hantverkargatan 8,

08 650 6800

www.indiancurryhouse.com

Curry House Points:

Frozen Toilet Paper Possibility: 9/10

Big Girls Thermal Blouses: 0/10

Kathleen Harman

FILM

Five films that shaped the GDR’s legacy – and what east Germans think of them today

Nearing the 30 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we explore how five films compare to the real East Germany and how east Germans feel about these portrayals of their former state.

Five films that shaped the GDR's legacy - and what east Germans think of them today
In 2017, 'Goodbye Lenin' was screened in Berlin living rooms "ostalgically" designed to look like those in the GDR. Photo: DPA

A generation ago, the East Germans led a peaceful revolution as the Berlin Wall collapsed, and shaping Germany into the country it is today. With the reunification of Germany came the end of the GDR, along with all of its horrors and all of its unique charms.

For the majority of the world, the main means of accessing GDR history and the unique experiences of its population is through art. More specifically: film. 

GDR themed films make up a large chunk of Germany’s most internationally renowned films. The Local spoke with Dr Jochen Staat, a political scientist and GDR specialist at Free University in Berlin, about how these films are thought of in former East German.. 

Goodbye Lenin 

Wolfgang Becker’s ‘tragicomedy’ follows Alex Kerner, a young East Berliner who tries to conceal the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the GDR from his staunch communist mother after she wakes up from a coma in order to prevent the shock of the news causing her a second heart attack.

Goodbye Lenin is arguably one of the most iconic German films, with almost every German language student watching the film at least once, or studying it in class. It’s a César winner and it’s both Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated.

The film captures East Germany through the lens of Ostalgie (nostalgia for the GDR) and shows the audience how becoming part of a capitalist Germany wasn’t as easy as putting up Coca Cola banners and opening a Burger King.

According to Staat, Goodbye Lenin was widely well-received by those in the former East Germany because it cleverly creates its own unique world. We don’t see the real East Germany, but rather we see Alex’s East Germany, the country he imagined and dreamed of as a child.

Through the opposing perspectives of Alex and his mother Christiane, we are offered an insight into the differing perceptions of the GDR according to generation, granting an East German audience multiple avenues to connect with Becker’s characters.

Sonnenallee (Sun Alley)

Sonnenallee is a coming of age comedy, released in 1999, about growing up in East Germany. For these “Eastie Boys”, illegal music from the West is an essential aspect of teenage rebellion. 

The question of whether Sonnenalle, a comedy, does justice to the brutality of the East German regime has been up for debate for 20 years. In a review for

Der Spiegel, Marianne Wellershoff stated that the film glorified the GDR and played down the negative aspects of life in East Germany under Erich Honecker.

READ ALSO: Honeckers: the most powerful family in former East Germany. What happened to them?

However, Staat pointed out that the film was well-received by East German viewers, and it is set towards the latter period of the GDR, when the regime was losing control over the population. 

He notes that the character Wuchsel, who lives and (almost) dies by the Rolling Stones, is particularly relatable for a generation of former East Germans, who like him would scour the black market to find copies of records from the West.

Despite its lighthearted approach, there are moments in Sonnenallee that reminds the audience that life in the GDR isn’t all rock music and house parties, such as when Mario, another of the boys, is forced to sign up for military service in order to support his family.

And, when Wuchsel is shot by a border guard, surviving only because the bullet gets lodged in his Rolling Stones LP, it highlights how music really was lifeline for some East German youth.

READ ALSO: How the Stasi failed to silence Rolling Stones fans in East Germany

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

Das Leben der Anderen focuses on the imposing presence of the Stasi in 1980s GDR, as Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) spies on a playwright before he becomes increasingly sympathetic to his struggle.

In Western eyes, a film about the horrors of the Stasi and the suffering that took place across East Germany would probably seem more historically accurate than comedies such as Goodbye Lenin and Sonnenallee.

However, Staadt, emphasises that every perception of the GDR is subjective and former East Germans would connect with films that most accurately reflect their experience.

For those who were teenagers when the Wall came down, and lived as the Regime lost its grip on the public, a comedy would potentially be more relatable. However for those who suffered at the hands of the Stasi and experienced the Regime during its earlier and tougher days, Das Leben der Anderen would probably be a harrowing watch that is uncomfortably close to home.

Staat stated that because they are an “easier” watch, it is generally the comedies that are most widely viewed in the former GDR.

Deutschland ’83

Though not a film, Deutschland ’83 is the first German language series to air on a US network and is the most popular foreign language drama in the history of British television. The internationally successful series tells the story of a young East German, Martin Rauch, who is sent to West Germany to spy on behalf of the Stasi’s foreign intelligence agency.

Unlike the other films in this list, Deutschland ’83 doesn't focus particularly on East German life, rather dedicates equal amounts of airtime to both the Western and Eastern sides of the Wall.

Not only does this grant the audience access to both sides of a divided Germany, Staat highlights that viewers also experience varying levels of conflict through the drama. He explained this was key to the programme becoming a “sleeper hit” with viewers across Germany.

Whilst the series is based around political conflict on a wider scale, small-scale familial and personal conflicts plays a large role in the storylines. For example, the AIDS crisis and infidelity are just two of many personal issues to affect the politically-charged characters in the series.

Barbara 

In the 2012 film Barbara, life in rural East Germany is depicted, rather than city life in East Berlin. The title character is a doctor who formerly worked in the prestigious Charité hospital in East Berlin, but is transferred to a rural hospital by the Baltic Sea as a punishment from the State after applying to leave for the West. She is still monitored by the Stasi, even in this small town.

Staat highlights that Barbara’s situation wasn’t unusual for former East Germans, and its one that many from the former East Germany can relate to.

It was an ongoing and increasing problem for the GDR’s economy across its existence that many of its skilled workers were lost to the more-attractive seeming West, if they were willing to go through the tedious but possible process of an “Ausreiseantrag” (an application to leave the GDR).

For those applying to leave, they’d typically face social exclusion and denunciation, much like in Barbara’s experience, both as a punishment and as a deterrent to others. 

What does the future look like for GDR focused films?

By remembering the GDR through iconic, classic films such as Goodbye Lenin, Das Leben der Anderen and Sonnenallee, Staat stated, it means we focus on the latter period of the GDR, the late 70s and 80s when the films were set.

A possible explanation for the tendency to set films in the late GDR is the this is the GDR that directors remember. The directors of these three films either weren’t alive, or were children, during the earlier half of the GDR in the 50s and 60s, when the regime was stricter and life was harder.

Whilst these iconic films are a means of accessing the history of a country that no longer exists, it’s important that we don’t forget the earlier history of the GDR.

There are newer films about the GDR, such as Der Zukunft Zugewandt (Facing the Future), set in 1952, about a woman’s arrival into the young GDR from a Soviet labour camp. Films such as these are bringing the GDR’s earlier days to greater international attention, and could well play a significant role in the future of German cinema. 

 
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