Forgotten Drugs Movies #4: Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (1981)

2 months ago

Or why I never touched any of the hard stuff. A slightly different “review”.

To me Christiane F. is more than a Forgotten Drugs Movie. It is a movie with a real place in my heart, but more even the book the movie is based on is. I first saw the movie in K12, in 11th grade.

We just had a new teacher for German — as Belgian German is a compulsory language we have to study 2 hours/week for at least 2 years in K12 — and boy was he a rebel. Our “college”, as it was named because of its catholic origins, in fact even Jesuit origins, was a top school on the Flemish side of Belgium. We had some of the most respected teachers for secondary school in the country.

And then, all of a sudden, things started changing.

A new school director, a former Jesuit priest, a new vice director — he was a blast — and all of a sudden new teachers were young teachers and most seemed utterly out of place in the structure of the school. They were “curriculum rebels” and we got to see a movie about heroin which would never have been allowed previously.

It was painful to watch too because I didn’t care about languages, even less about German. Which is funny to say nowadays, considering how much I have published online over the years and how little of that was written in my native tongue. If you guessed less than 1% was written in Dutch, you are spot on. But I digress.

Mondays, the third hour of class, and Tuesdays, the 6th hour, were a chore. Something I never looked forward to, the weekly German classes. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t struggle with German. Being Flemish speaking you only had to stick a hot potato in your mouth and you spoke pretty much perfect German. Not fluent because speaking with a hot potato in your mouth is not that easy but pretty decent German nevertheless. 👌

After some months of German classes, one Monday we had to move for the German class. Move to one of the classes which were also library. Usually that meant only one thing: video time. Over the next three German classes we saw the movie “Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo” (We Children from Bahnhof Zoo).

I don’t think I had ever been that interested in a German movie. Or in German at all. No, it didn’t have anything to do with David Bowie, although his presence in the movie definitely contributed to it. But contributed mostly in me further discovering Bowie later.

Heroin Comes in My Life — Or Maybe Not

I hadn’t had my first experience with drugs yet. I hadn’t used anything other than alcohol so far in life. I hadn’t started clubbing yet, that would only start few months (weeks?) later.

I was a virgin so to say.

No, don’t even think about asking, I will plead the fifth to any question that sentence may incite. Even though as European citizens we have no such right.

And all of a sudden a movie about heroin took over my mind. A shocking story, the perfect anti-drug movie. A movie that haunting, and possibly offensive, that I was even not allowed to watch it at home or borrow the book from the library.

The movie definitely left its marks on me. That includes David Bowie, and even an intriguing love for the night life scene in Berlin over the decades. I had found a match. I had found the deepest me and drugs definitely were a part of it.

A haunting heroin story took root in my mind and never left the place anymore.

Regular Smoke readers have had the occasion to find anecdotes from the #unnamed-story across the platform. Some shared in own posts, others in comments. Yes, I’ve had a nice life and night scene and life — with all that comes with it — are a pillar of the first stage of my adult life.

I wasn’t always a saint. I YOLO’ed long before hipsters had discovered both hip and YOLO.

But one thing I never did. All because of a movie, and later also the book. The book which I always had with me across my travels, my relocations through Europe and often even on travels beyond. I’ve read it in 3 languages even: German, French, and English.

4827C262-621D-4427-B971-B8F735C4178F.jpeg

The story of Christiane F, the 13-years old girl who became a heroin junkie, and ended up in prostitution in West-Berlin, became my leitmotiv. Even without knowing about her later life.

The invisible barrier between me and ever touching any of the hard stuff.

Some Things Are Forever, Heroin Is.

Nowadays marijuana is pretty much the only thing I consume. And caffeine.

But I can’t say there is much I haven’t done or at least tried. But if I’ve never tried anything which is known to be truly addictive, it all is because of Christiane F. That also includes crack and spice, even though the latter has been legal for way too long until recently.

I didn’t live in an era similar to the mid-70s, clubbing had started to mainstream and with a less bad reputation than in the 70s and early 80s. Trips were still common in clubs but Es started to take over. Charlie was for the upper middle class and not yet something often offered by most house dealers. There definitely was still a heroin crisis when I started going out, and soon crack would mainstream, but it had moved to the backalleys of railway stations and wasn’t common anymore in clubs at all. Or at concerts.

If I hadn’t seen a movie because of a new teacher, a curriculum rebel, I don’t know how I would have reacted the first time I was offered any of the hard shit.

All because of Christiane F. — Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo.

AB5BA4CA-48FE-4578-A56C-CD3C0769BA9E.jpeg
Christiane Felscherinow at 51 - photo afp/Marcel Mettelsiefen via Berliner Zeitung

Christiane Felscherinow will turn 57 this year. She has regularly relapsed after her youth. She has claimed she never wanted to (fully) abandon illicit drugs. She even has been arrested for heroin possession while in the USA.

In 2013 she published an autobiography, “My Zweites Leben” (My Second Life) which is about her life after the movie.

I hope that My Second Life scares people away from taking drugs more than my first book. I'm quite sure it will. It describes how much pain I've had in my life, and [explains] that I will die a very early and painful death.
Source

In 2013 she wasn’t dependent on heroin anymore, although still a frequent methadone user. Also an occasional cannabis smoker and a regular alcohol drinker.

Christiane F. is a cult movie. Not only did it highlight the until then mostly denied heroin crisis in Berlin — and also the rest of Europe — but with both David Bowie and Brian Eno performing in the movie too, the movie instantly became a hit in the scene.

The shocking, biographical story only adds to the still cult status.

Anybody who has never seen the movie, or read the book, should do so at the first possible opportunity. Trainspotting is a great anti-drugs movie, but also a black comedy. Christiane F. is probably one of the best anti-drugs movies ever.

Maybe not the movie, or rather review style, you would have expected in this Forgotten Drugs Movies series but leaving its honest meaning to me out would be shameful. Both to every regular reader and... to myself.


Beyond the shocking tale and personal impact it had on myself, it’s also a great movie with a stellar performance from Natja Brunckhorst who was only 15 when she played the role of Christiane F.

It’s a must watch.

For everyone and definitely also for parents, and their children when they reach adolescence.

#movies #biographies #drugs



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Where you found this movie mate, 1981 / I was 21 years old lol / Anyway, I will watch it as you recommend it, but as always Sunday afternoon.

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Saw it in school. :)

I’ve seen many older movies tho. Have the full IMDb Top 250 and regularly update that collection.

Otherwise over the years I’ve been a regular reader of late Roger Ebert, A/V Club, and of course gone through the online social review sites starting with IMDb. After that it was trakt.tv and then letterboxd. Although I’m ready for something new after letterboxd which has now become rather popular and thus is more box office geared too, there’s still plenty of people who review things which are down my alley.

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You saw it in school! I Think that I watch 10% from what you watch when I was young / I try to recover now, watching more movies as never is so late, lol.

Best article !!! We really have a lot in common.
Heroin is a taboo subject because of this movie.
I also did a lot, a lot of testing and I do not regret it, this week I will be 30 years old and from then on I'm determined to consume only cannabis. It was really fun to read, because I find myself in this text again.
I wish you a nice week. Greetings from Germany :-)
And I follow you

Deutsch:

Bester Artikel!!! Wir haben echt viel gemeinsam.
Heroin ist ein Tabu Thema genau wegen diesem Film.
Habe auch ziemlich viel, sehr viel sogar getestet und bereue es auch nicht, diese Woche werde ich 30 Jahre und ab dann habe ich mir fest vorgenommen nur Cannabis zu konsumieren. Hat wirklich Spaß gemacht zu lesen, da ich mich selbst in diesem Text wieder finde.
Wünsche dir eine schöne Woche. Grüße aus Deutschland :-)
Und ich folge dir

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Thanks for your comment and glad to find likeminded. Also, happy (early) birthday!

PS: I can’t say I won’t ever be tempted again to some shrooms or other things. But they would be situational, not something I care about.

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Exactly. If it turns out and the right people are there, why not.
Thank you

I never watched the movie or read the book but I did hear about it. My best friend loves that movie.

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same here but I don't have a friend

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Well you should find a friend everyone needs friends 😁

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He does have design apps skillz tho.

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🤣🤣

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app* (canva only) 🤣🤣

free version only

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Free version only means you can’t collab on those designs but make them all all alone?

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I just don't have access to some templates and styles

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I like being alone, even my girlfriend is disturbing me sometimes

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What are you waiting for?! :D

Never heard of this... man where do you find these movies 😀 are you a movie buff? 🤔

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That would apply to me, yes... movie snob buff. I should write more not drugs movies related reviews on WLS. Gives you something new to watch, even if they’re old already. :D

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You should than I can atleast up vote more when I do go on... as for the movies I seem to have no time lately for anything but hey that's parent hood right 🤣 no time for me lots of tine for someone else 🤣

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I live online. I deal with hundreds of kids every day have no time for parenthood. 😆