Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (The Silent Revolution)

Poster for Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (The Silent Revolution)

In 1956 East Germany, a group of senior high school students demonstrate solidarity with recent victims of the Hungarian Revolution. Their brief, silent protest ignites underlying tensions and leads to grave consequences.

Lars Kraume examines a fascinating moment in German history—just a few years before the construction of the Berlin Wall begins—with this film based on the true story of a high school classroom that becomes the site of a political battle of wills. When Kurt (Tom Gramenz) and Theo (Leonard Scheicher) sneak into a West German cinema and catch the pre-feature newsreel, they see a very different depiction of the uprising in Budapest than what they have heard at home, in the East German town of Stalinstadt. The young men return home inspired at the thought of an idealistic revolution.

After debating with their classmates about the virtues of the Hungarian uprising, Kurt and Theo persuade a majority of their peers to join them in a two-minute observation of silence during class, in solidarity with those killed in the struggle. Their teacher is shocked and confused, and reports the incident to the principal, Direktor Schwarz (Florian Lukas, The Grand Budapest Hotel). Despite trying to contain the situation, Schwarz cannot keep his bosses from hearing of the political protest. As the story spreads through the upper levels of the administration, the students slowly realize the growing gravity of their situation.

Deftly weaving together threads of political tension, adolescent rebellion, and institutional menace, Kraume asks us to consider the connection between a nation’s identity and its influence on the identities of its young people, who are just beginning to question their place in society.

“[A] solid, good-looking piece of filmmaking which is elevated by a clutch of strong performances from the young cast.” (Wendy Ide, Screen Daily)