Ghost town Kreuzberg

Muskauer Str. 1973

Dino De Lau­ren­ti­is and I had agreed that the film [The Serpent’s Egg (Ing­mar Bergman, USA/BRD 1977] was to be made in Ger­many, a sen­si­ble deci­sion as it is set in Berlin in the 1920s. I went to Berlin to look for loca­tions, but could not find noth­ing except a part of the city close to the Wall, called Kreuzberg, a ghost town where noth­ing had been repaired since the war. The façades were still pock­marked from grenades and spray­ing bul­lets. The ruins of bombed build­ings had been removed, but there were emp­ty sites like open infect­ed sores between the grey blocks. The signs above the shops were in for­eign lan­guage. Not a sin­gle native Ger­man lives in this part of what had once been a proud cap­i­tal. Some­one once said that a dwelling can be a dan­ger­ous weapon and I sud­den­ly under­stood the point of this remark. The build­ings were over­flow­ing with peo­ple chil­dren play­ing on the court­yards, the garbage stink­ing in the heat. The streets were bad­ly main­tained, the asphalt inad­e­quate­ly patched.

I am sure some author­i­ty super­vis­es this can­cer­ous tumour on the wealthy back of West Berlin. It prob­a­bly has exact­ly what is required in the way social insti­tu­tions and safe­ty arrange­ments, so that no one will come to any harm and thus embar­rass the Ger­man con­science and the scarce­ly con­cealed racial hatred. In plain lan­guage they say: any­how the bas­tards are bet­ter off here than wher­ev­er they come from. Young junkies hang around Berlin Zoo, occa­sion­al­ly dis­persed by some orga­nized swoop. I have nev­er before wit­nessed such bla­tant phys­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al mis­ery. The Ger­mans sim­ply don’t see it, or they are angry and say there ought to be camps. Nev­er­the­less, the think­ing behind Kreuzberg is as sim­ple as it is cyn­i­cal. If the ene­my on the oth­er side of the Wall wants to come in, he must first shoot his way through a bar­ri­er of non-Ger­man bodies.

Ing­mar Bergman, The Mag­ic Lantern. An Auto­bi­og­ra­phy, 104f



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