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“I want to lie next to the compost heap”

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“I want to lie next to the compost heap”

By Markus Tschiedert

The film touched millions of viewers. 50 years ago, on March 29, 1973, the premiere of “The Legend of Paul and Paula” was shown in the Kosmos cinema in Friedrichshain.

With more than three million viewers, the East Berlin love story with Angelica Domröse and Winfried Glatzeder is one of the most successful films of the former GDR. It was also shot at Stralau Bay, where we met Winfried Glatzeder (77), who left the GDR in 1982 with his wife Marion and two sons and moved to West Berlin.

BZ: What does this place on the Stralau Bay mean to you?

Winfried Glatzeder: Only in hindsight did this place become more important to me. I’m often asked here to where The Legend of Paul and Paula was filmed, where an entire shore was named after Paul and Paula with a memorial bench where offspring were to be conceived. The street sign above it was torn out again and again as a souvenir until the authorities finally said we’ll stop doing that in the future.

Angelica Domröse was your film partner at the time. How good was the chemistry between you really?

Angelica and I already knew each other from the theater. We shot “Paul & Paula” almost on the side and were always on stage in the evenings at the Volksbühne. We both liked each other. That’s why a familiarity developed immediately when we faced each other during the test shots for the film. This also suited director Heiner Carow, who wanted to create emotional reality that wasn’t acted out.

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Are you still good friends with Ms. Domröse?

We were lucky enough to be back on stage together 36 years after “Paul und Paula” in the play “Filumena Marturano” at the Hans-Otto-Theater in Potsdam. We had almost 100 sold-out performances, which was wonderful. So we both get together for events like this, but now we don’t meet every week or talk on the phone.

Scene with Glatzeder and film partner Angelica Domröse in the famous film “The Legend of Paul and Paula” (1973)
Photo: Progress Film distribution / Nor.

When was the last time you met?

Just recently for an exclusive interview on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of “Paul and Paula”. The old familiarity came back immediately. She still looks great and I’ve learned a lot from her on stage and in front of the camera.

The film became a huge success. How did you perceive that at the time?

You could measure the degree of success when you were at the bakery or walking past a construction site and you were suddenly addressed with your role name. ‘Hey Paul.’ The crazy thing was that many named their children after our role names. That continues to this day.

In 1973, “Paul und Paula” was about to be banned from performance. What was the reason?

At that time, the film did not correspond to the perspective of the functionaries, who demanded the path to communism as a combat mission. Many films, such as those about Ernst Thälmann or Karl Liebknecht, corresponded to this ideology. “Paul und Paula”, on the other hand, explained the private happiness between a single mother and a career-oriented civil servant who is married as the main concern. Angelica is fighting for her personal happiness, not for the victory of communism. That was subversive in the GDR.

The film celebrates love. Do you believe in it too?

I was like Paul, I wanted to have a career as an actor just like my film character. I married my wife in 1970, we have known each other since 1967, and to this day my love for the job comes first.

Glatzeder has been married to his wife Marion for 53 years

Glatzeder has been married to his wife Marion for 53 years

Foto: picture-alliance / SCHROEWIG/CS

What do you mean?

Well, my wife is always happy when I’m not at home, she’s had to put up with me for 60 years (laughs). Of course, when you’ve been married for so long, your original love has also changed.

But is there anything that still connects you besides having children together?

My wife and I had the same experiences with children’s homes when we were young. Her father died after being released from the concentration camp, and my father died in the war after I was conceived. When single mothers got sick back then, which was not uncommon in the post-war period due to tuberculosis and the like, the children came to the home. Since we were both children in a care home, that bonded us fundamentally.

How do you feel about growing old together?

From the experience of the children’s home, we promised ourselves that we would never send the other person to an old people’s home. In this hope we can grow old together.

Are you concerned about getting older?

Of course, that’s like a curse. I always assume the worst. That’s my purposeful optimism. It’s better than going into a situation with positive thinking and then everything going wrong. The most common thing about old age is the prospect of being old, sick and poor. The hope of being able to annoy the pension insurance for a long time keeps me alive. They have to pay until I’m 100. Because my grandfather died on the first day of his retirement. So he’s been paying his entire life and getting nothing out.

Because you always assume the worst, that’s a very positive thought, isn’t it?

Every day that I live now is a gift, because in my family you actually die at 80. This is how I endure the many spare parts such as a new knee, lenses and hearing aids. Such are the torments of growing old.

10 years ago, Angela Merkel, a fan of the legendary film, came to a screening

10 years ago, Angela Merkel, a fan of the legendary film, came to a screening Photo: EPA/FABRIZIO BENSCH / POOL

Do you ever worry about death?

Death doesn’t scare me. This is the transition to contented rest. But dying is the unpleasant thing. Woody Allen said, ‘I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be there.’ It would be great to go to bed at night and be dead in the morning. Or like my colleague Rolf Herricht, with whom I shot “The Man Who Came After Grandma”. He bowed to the applause on the stage of the Metropol Theater, fell over and was dead as a doornail.

Is it true that one day you would like to be buried in the same cemetery as Marlene Dietrich?

It’s in Friedenau, where I’ve lived for 30 years. I often learned the texts of my roles by heart in this cemetery. Marlene Dietrich, Helmut Newton and my father-in-law are also there. I once walked around there with the cemetery keeper and chose a spot by the cemetery wall – far away from Newton’s and Marlene’s graves because there’s a schoolyard across the street. That would be too loud for me. I want to lie by the compost heap where old widows throw their rubbish, and my tombstone to say, ‘Here are my bones, I wish they were yours.’ Then I want to hear the laughter.

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