Szenenfoto aus "For Eyes Only – Streng geheim".

The Celluloid Curtain

Spy films from the Cold War era, seen from today, present us with a brilliantly complex puzzle: action, high tension, beautiful women and technical wizardry are blended in a fast and furious cinematic cocktail, which nonetheless offers many a disillusioned hero the opportunity to reflect on their situation.

Spy films from that period document the spirit of their time and mirror the ideological trench warfare and the nuclear threat of the 1960s. A good half century later, in the age of Al-Qaida, WikiLeaks and the confrontation over the Iranian nuclear programme, they still have a depressing ring of truth. The film series "The Celluloid Curtain" records how this historical film genre, lying somewhere between popular culture and propaganda, still has the power to fascinate us today.

Spähende Blicke durch den Vorhang.

About the Film Series

Events in the "Celluloid Curtain" Series: Spy Films from the Cold War Era

From 1st to 22nd June 2011 the Federal Agency for Civic Education, the Armoury Cinema, Berlin and the Goethe-Institut London jointly presented the international film series "The Celluloid Curtain" in Berlin.

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Big Brother is watching you: Der Spionagefilm entstand in einer Ära ideologischer Paranoia. Plakat zum Film "For Eyes Only – Streng geheim".

Curatorial Essay

The Celluloid Curtain – Europe´s Cold War in Film

The term 'Cold War' was popularised by the American political commentator Walter Lippmann in the late 1940s. It describes the dangerous confrontation between two powerful, opposing political systems (Capitalism and Communism), which culminated in the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. This conflict is reflected in the history of the cinema.

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"Sie verlassen den Amerikanischen Sektor": Schild am Grenzübergang "Checkpoint Charlie".

Welcome Speech by Thomas Krüger

In the Company of Spies

From the tense to the absurdly grotesque, from the gripping action-packed spectacle to the reflective drama, films that have been forgotten but are absolutely must-see examples of the genre have, after a long absence, been brought back to the screen in the series "The Celluloid Curtain. Europe's Cold War in Film".

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Im Geheimdienst-Gewimmel: Plakatmotiv zu "For Eyes Only - Streng geheim".

Christoph Classen

The Cold War in the Cinema: The Boom in Spy Films in the 1960s, its Causes and Implications

The remarkable history of the spy genre from the late 19th century onwards, is due to two closely linked developments: the involvement of increasing numbers of ordinary people in the political process, on the one hand, and the growth of popular mass media on the other.

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Szenenfoto aus "There is Nothing Finer than Bad Weather".

There is Nothing Finer than Bad Weather

The scene: a west European city, that looks much like Berlin. Bulgarian superspy Emil Boev gets hired by the Zodiac company, which is a cover for a spy ring.

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Szenenfoto aus "Begegnung mit einem Spion".

Rendezvous with a Spy

The sea, a submarine, suspicious goings-on in the half-light...a mysterious man flies into Poland in a balloon. He lands and cold-bloodedly murders a man who witnesses his arrival. But his incursion has been watched by the Polish security service: the hunt begins.

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Szenenfoto aus "Mordrezepte der Barbouzes".

The Great Spy Chase

In the 1960s, as a new generation of film-makers across Europe was breaking artistic boundaries, the industry went into a downward spiral. New commercial formats had to be found: directors and film stars collaborated to create cheap, fast-paced, action-packed co-productions – and the Eurospy film was born.

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Szenenfoto aus "Foto Haber".

Haber´s Photo Shop

Gábor Csiky, just released from jail, follows up a tip from a fellow prisoner and goes for a job interview at Haber´s photo shop. The most important cell in a spy ring works out of a room behind the shop.

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Szenenfoto aus "Smyk - Dem Abgrund entgegen".


A Czechoslovak immigrant, František Král, is involved in a serious car accident in West Berlin, which leaves him suffering from amnesia. A western news service sees an opportunity: they give him a new face and train him as a spy.

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Szenenfoto aus "Die 1.000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse".

The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse

Fritz Lang´s visionary prediction of the rise and rise of the CCTV camera. A re-incarnation of the legendary Dr. Mabuse takes over the spy cameras installed in a hotel built in the Nazi era.

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Die britische Produktion "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" gilt als einer der Höhepunkte des Spionagefilms.

Eva Horn

Truth and Fiction: Spy Films and Political Reality

Fiction is not burdened with the need to respect historical or journalistic demands to report events exactly as they happened: fiction, therefore, is better suited to discussing secrecy, explaining how it works, without ever either having to, or even wanting to, reveal those secrets.

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Die russische Produktion "Starling and Lyre" veranschaulicht auf recht explizite Weise die ideologischen Grabenkämpfe im geteilten Europa.

"The Celluloid Curtain" Documentation

The Spy Who Came in from the Past

Spy films document the spirit of their time: a world of ideological trench warfare and nuclear menace. Today, in the age of Al-Qaida, WikiLeaks and the confrontation over the Iranian nuclear programme, they still have a depressing ring of truth. This discussion, featuring well-known experts, provides some intriguing food for thought.

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Der Filmkanon

Auf Initiative der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung wurden 35 bedeutende Werke der Filmgeschichte zusammengestellt. Ziel war es, für das Medium Film zu sensibilisieren und der filmschulischen Bildung in Deutschland Auftrieb zu geben.

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Film als Teil schulischer Bildung


Die Tagung gliederte sich in drei Sektionen, die in thematisch verbundenen Vorträgen und Workshops jeweils einen Aspekt der Filmbildung in der Schule im Detail behandelten. Im Mittelpunkt der ersten Sektion stand die Auseinandersetzung mit dem Filmkanon der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung sowie Möglichkeiten, mittels der Kanonfilme Filmgeschichte im Unterricht zu vermitteln. Die zweite Sektion fragte nach Methoden, filmische Techniken zu behandeln. Die dritte Sektion schließlich konzentrierte sich auf Filmästhetik und wie diese in verschiedene Fächer eingebunden werden kann.

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Wird die DDR-Diktatur verharmlost? Und warum begann die intensive Auseinandersetzung mit der NS-Vergangenheit erst so spät? Die Deutung von Geschichte ist oft umstritten - und nicht selten ein Politikum.

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