“What’s in a name?” // “Was ist in einem Namen?”
(from Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet – Act II, Scene II)
Explaining our name…
WIR KINDER FROM LONDON = WE CHILDREN FROM LONDON
You might find yourself asking why this website is not entitled in the conventional German of “Wir sind die Kinder vom London Stadt” (“We are the children from London town”).
Well, aside, from the URL being ridiculously long and confusing for anyone who can “nicht sprechen Deutsch” it is to do with one city, one book, one film, one song (Bowie’s Heroes) and one woman. That woman being the protagonist from Ulrich Edel’s cult film Christiane F – Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo (1981).
Yet Christiane is no fictional character, living in West Berlin during 1975, during the height of the divided city and the wall, she became embroiled in a world of drugs – hashish, LSD, pills and heroin. What makes this tale so shocking is that her decline into depravity began when she was only 12 and by the time she was 14 her heroin addiction was so strong that she was a full time sex worker. This was a decade, documented in both Stern magazine and Edel’s film, when teenage drug use and child prostitution were rife.
The pivotal axis upon which the film turns is that of David Bowie and his input – both acting as himself and providing the musical soundtrack. Christiane maintains that her first heroin experience was at a Bowie concert – a scene that is re-enacted in the film and which exposes a 14 year old girl’s adoration for the singer.
There is also a fucked-up but tragically emotive love story between Christiane and the (gorgeous) Detlef who she meets at the infamous nightclub Sound. It is her love for him the leads her into a whirlwind of drugs and crime – all in an attempt to be closer to him. Detlef introduces her to the sordid underworld of the sex and drug scene at the Bahnhof Zoo train station – yet it is here that she learns her lover and best friend is also engaging in homosexual prostitution behind her back – his yearning for heroin is stronger than his love for her.
Be warned – Stealing from family, performing underage sex acts, junkies overdosing and graphic withdrawal is shown in lurid detail.
Modern day Berlin is not typified by this film – where the cinematography is dark, unclean and rundown. Former landmarks used in the film no longer exist and the child actors used in the film (most of whom were still in school) have never gone on to great fame.
David Bowie’s Heroes is a song that resonates through the soul, however, very few know of Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo and the warning that Bowie was trying to give – having struggled with his own demons during his Berlin Years of 1976-79.
Christiane F. is not an easy watch, despite the unfounded promise that the real character went on to live happily ever after…
This is a gritty bildungsroman, showing that life is never easy, but this film is a piece of history and an artistic expression that is not to be ignored. Indeed, it is by observing literature, music and cinema (in this cult classic and in general) that one sees reflections of life – both the highs and the lows. Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo stays with you long after you have finished watching it. Perhaps it will inspire you in some way to make something of yourself no matter what life throws at you.
“At 12 it was Angel Dust. At 13 it was heroin. Then she took to the streets”