Kino International

by jonnywhitlam

This is a building I’ve been to photograph a couple of times before, but I gave it a bit more of a go than I’ve done previously. In fact I don’t think I’ve tried to photograph this one in more than a year.

The Kino International (Cinema International) is a favourite of mine. I sometimes show it to people when doing my Cold War tour. For me this building can show you a lot about the history of East Germany: It was built in the early 60s as East Berlin was trying to modernise its construction projects as well as make them cheaper.

However this cinema was built with a bit of prestige. It was finished in 1963 and put in a fairly fancy location right at the top of Karl-Marx-Allee. One year later Café Moskau would be finished just across the street. All around it new Plattenbau (blocks of flats) were built. This makes for quite the contrast; the blocks of flats are for the workers, hundreds of these buildings were built in exactly the same way all over East Germany to promote ideas of equality and modernity, placing them on Karl-Marx-Allee made for a big change. The street was renamed in 1961 from Stalin Allee. If you head East of Café Moskau and Kino International you reach the monumental Strausberger Platz, this is where East Berlin’s grandest buildings begin, leading all the way past the Frankfurter Tor. The whole street how the feel of Moscow, and was built not just to show the power of communism as an ideology, but to show the palatial buildings that one day all the proletariat had to look forward to. Following Stalin’s death in 1953 East Berlin’s architecture was allowed to move away from this unaffordable grand ideology and towards a more modern style that Stalin certainly didn’t approve of; hence the renaming to Karl-Marx-Allee, to supposedly reach back to the roots of communism.

As ever with 20th century European communism, the principle of egalitarianism was not so secretly replaced with a culture of corruption. Café Moskau and the Kino International were places for the East German government (the Poltiburo) to show off. The Café (more of a fancy restaurant than a place to quickly grab a coffee) was a place where the politicians could wine, dine and influence whilst the cinema was used to showcase East Germany’s premieres, all of course heavily censored by the government.

This is what makes the cinema so interesting to me, then. It’s surrounded by good East German principles of equality and the rejection of Stalinism, however it openly represents their failings, too; the government’s lack of connection to the people, the misdirection of funding and the overbearing influence of government policy on culture.

Architecturally speaking though, I do love the building.

As a side note this is my first post using my new camera, the unimaginably fancy Canon 5D Mark ii. I’m still getting to grips with its differences from my beloved 500D, but I’m certainly enjoying the process.