Love is a prison in the East German classic The Fiancee

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This week marks the end of Gene Siskel Film Center's worthwhile series of 1970s and '80s dramas from East Germany, including Solo Sunny, Jakob the Liar, Coming Out, and Gunther Reisch and Gunther Rucker's The Fiancee (1980), a study in devotion that takes place almost entirely inside a women’s prison. The protagonist (Jutta Wachowiak in a memorable performance) has been sentenced to ten years—the first two in solitary confinement—for conspiring with her fiance against the Nazis. As her sentence drags on, her love for him becomes not just the indirect cause of her suffering but her only means of transcending it, and even some of the women staffing the prison are humbled and ennobled by her. Reisch and Rucker establish a spare, ascetic tone with their scoreless soundtrack and muted blue-gray color scheme, creating a drab world where the only shafts of sunlight come from within. The Fiancee screens Saturday afternoon and Thursday night at Film Center.

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