Hand illustrated film posters, champagne-colored sequins, imposing crystal chandeliers and a panoramic foyer – the GDR’s functionaries certainly put everything they had into the Kino International. Situated halfway along Karl-Marx-Allee, between Alexanderplatz and Strausberger Platz, Kino International was the GDR’s premier cinema and one of its architectural highlights. With its light and spacious architecture, this freestanding, three-storey reinforced concrete building is a stylistic departure from the area’s prevailing Stalinist architecture. Josef Kaiser designed the building that has become a testament to modernist architecture and is now a designated monument. Sensitive renovation of the cinema means that today’s filmgoers can experience the atmosphere of a bygone era.
Distinctive architecture attracts distinctive people. In this, Strausberger Platz is no different from Shanghai’s French Quarter or New York’s Meatpacking District. Authors, filmmakers, architects – as well as regular folk who don’t want to live somewhere regular – populate these hot spots.
In the aftermath of World War II, artists living in the Soviet-occupied zone initially aligned themselves to classical modernism. Art condemned by the Third Reich as degenerate, such as Expressionism, New Objectivity, Dadaism or avant-garde, experienced a brief renaissance. Alongside the philosopher Ernst Bloch and returning exiled writers Bert Brecht, Anna Seghers and Arnold Zweig, the former Expressionist Johannes R. Becher quickly became the central figure of cultural events.