Christiane F. ("Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo")
“The images are so powerful, the horrors so strong and the performances (by a cast of young unknowns) so utterly, bleakly, realistic... This is a movie of hell” — Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
The story of Christiane F. (Christiane Felscherinow) first came to the public eye in 1978, when a couple of writers for a German news magazine were interviewing her because she was a witness in a court case, testifying against a man who had paid underage girls with heroin for sexual favours. She was 15 at the time of the interview, and the initial two-hour session turned into several months of interviews that eventually became Christiane F.’s autobiography, “H: Autobiography of a Child Prostitute and Drug Addict”, which came out in 1979. Before the book was published, these reporters ran a series of articles about her in Stern magazine, so by the time her book came out she was already famous.
When the tale begins, Christiane is an average 12-year-old kid, who falls in with the underage nightlife surrounding Berlin’s notorious Zoo Station and becomes a heroin-addicted prostitute before her 13th birthday (her age was upped a year in the film). The book was a sensation around the world, its sales likely bolstered in the U.S. by the fact that it was taught in many schools as part of the ongoing campaign against teenage drug use. In 1981, Uli Edel (director of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN and THE BAADER-MEINHOF COMPLEX) made the film version, casting a series of underage high-schoolers who had never acted before (and most of them never would again). Natja Brunckhorst, who plays the title role, is only 14 in the film — which would never happen now given the severity of the part. With her single mother blissfully unaware, Christiane and her seedy makeshift street family spend their leisure time at youth nite-spot Sound, where drugs flow freely, David Bowie pumps out of the speakers and finding an ashen delinquent O.D.’d on the bathroom floor is a regular occurrence.
But despite the film’s unglamorous depiction of hard drug use — withdrawal is greasy and brutal, youthful skin becomes sallow and blemished, optimistic beliefs are thrown out the window as sex becomes currency — Christiane F.’s story spawned a sea of teenage imitators worldwide who found romance in her plight. This unlikely side effect notwithstanding, CHRISTIANE F. remains the most uncompromising drug film ever made.
— Kier-La Janisse