Release Date: February 7th, 2007 (Film Forum)
Directed by Massimo Iannetta and Nina Toussaint.
In German with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: Hartmut Richter and Sigrid Paul, two former inmates, describe their experiences at a GDR prison in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Hartmut Richter and Sigrid Paul were captured by the Stasi police of East Germany and weren’t even given a fair trial. Throughout The Decomposition of the Soul, they both give a detailed account of what they went through as an inmate in a GDR (German Democratic Republic) prison. Much of their torture was psychological such as sleep deprivation, interrogations which last lasted nearly 24 hours, and the fact that they weren’t allowed to do anything at all in their cells. A guard took Sigrid’s mattress from her when all she did was start playing with a thread. When both inmates asked about their loved ones, they were deceptively told they were receiving better treatment in better facilities. Sigrid couldn’t even check up on the status of her son who was hospitalized. Co-directors Massimo Iannetta and Nina Toussaint also incorporate the brilliant words of writer Jürgen Fuchs, who was once an inmate there as well. They wisely film the interviews within the prison itself which helps to show the claustrophobic, inhumane environment discussed by the inmates. Just by listening to their description of what they felt, what they saw, and what they were thinking during their horrific experiences, you feel like you’re there with them as well. Even though Stasi officials shredded many files which provided evidence from the prisons, the real, permanent evidence lies within the painful memories discussed by the inmates in this thoroughly absorbing, powerful documentary.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: It’s both infuriating and saddening how anyone could treat human beings with such disrespect and cruelty. Imagine being deprived of your material possessions and were forced to either endure seemingly endless boredom or to be bombarded with lengthy interrogations. Sigrid eventually formed a metaphysical protective wall around her whenever interrogated. Admittedly, it would have been interesting to explore more about how she and Hartmut adjusted to the outside world once released from prison—beyond how Sigrid explains that she became nearsighted when she stepped outside. Although they may never fully recover from their traumatic experiences nor will justice be truly served, at least they have the courage to share their painful memories with others and make the most of their new life after prison.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Unforgettable. An absorbing, chilling and powerful documentary. RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater
The "D" Menu