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Christiane F. – We Children of Bahnhof Zoo
138 min, digital, West Germany, 1981
Directed by Uli Edel.
“The most uncompromising drug film ever made.” – Kier-la Janisse, author of House of Psychotic Women and Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s
Depicting the underage drug and prostitution scenes of 1970s Berlin, Christiane F. was already a well known biography when it was adapted to a controversial hit movie. Director Uli Edel’s (The Baader-Meinhof Complex) cast of teenage unknowns traverse the city, negotiating their own limits in the shadows of social pressure and addiction. The music of David Bowie (who endorsed the film and was heavily featured in promotional material) weaves the story throughout, with the late icon and former Berliner himself appearing in a pivotal moment to give a terrific performance of “Station to Station.”
The film starts as a disturbing yet romanticized coming-of-age story – Christiane (Natja Burckhorst) , bored of her life in the projects of West Berlin, wants to go to a hip new disco named SOUND. She sneaks in with the help of a friend, high-heels and make-up, where she falls in with a slightly older crowd that has already been experimenting with drugs. She takes LSD and pills, begins falling in love with Detlef (Thomas Haustein), and they spend a night running around and vandalizing the infamous Bahnhof Zoo station to the tune of Bowie’s “Heroes,” staying up thru a matte-blue dawn. Yet things then turn to exploitation-tinged docudrama, as Christiane and her friends go through the horrors of heroin addiction, with scenes of real-life addicts at the Bahnhof Zoo that the director shot with a hidden camera, and a withdrawal scene the NY Times compared to scenes from The Exorcist. The film and its subject (who consulted on the movie) were widely imitated by teenage fans, despite being a harrowing portrayal of drug addiction that remains as disturbing today as the day it was made.
Special thanks to Tommy Swenson from the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz