Der Tunnel

  • Directors: Roland Suso Richter
  • Producers: Nico Hofmann, Ariane Krampe
  • Writers: Johannes W Betz
  • Genres: Action, Drama, History, Thriller
  • Actors: Heino Ferch, Nicolette Krebitz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Sebastian Koch

The central character of the film is Harry Melchior, played by Heino Ferch and based on the real tunneler, Hasso Herschel. Despite being imprisoned for several years for his role in the June 1953 uprising in East Germany, Melchior competes for and wins the national swimming championship in 1961. With the aid of a false passport and disguise, Harry succeeds in fleeing to West Berlin. His best friend, Matthis (played by Sebastian Koch) manages to escape through the underground sewer, but Matthis’s pregnant girlfriend Carola (played by Claudia Michelsen) was not so lucky and remained in East Berlin. Harry’s beloved sister, Lotte (played by Alexandra Maria Lara) and her husband and daughter are ambivalent about leaving the confines of the GDR.

Committed to getting their loved ones out of the GDR but knowing that ground routes are heavily guarded, Harry and Matthis have the idea of going underground. Matthis is an engineer by training. They link up with a small circle of others, initially Vittorio ‘Vic’ Constanza (played by Mehmet Kurtulus) and Fred van Klausnitz (played by Felix Eitner). They find an unused factory building close to the Wall that has ample underground space. They are eventually joined by Fritzi Scholz (played by Nicolette Krebitz), whose fiancé Heiner is also trapped in the east.

Finally the pieces are in all place for the planned escape of about 30 people. Word is spread by surreptitious means, though the Stasi are watching closely. They go to the home of Fred’s widowed mother to take her into custody, but she takes her own life first. Carola has admitted to Lotte that she has been an informant but swears she can now be trusted. In a ruse that means leaving her baby with Lotte’s family, she leads her Stasi tail to a remote location far from the actual escape site. Fritzi has crossed the border with a fake passport and Harry has entered through the tunnel. Surprising a border guard, Harry takes his uniform, steel helmet and gun, and blends into the troops swarming through the area. The would-be escapees gather in a café across from the building where the tunnel ends, and Fritzi gradually escorts them over. Tense moments ensue as Colonel Krüger closes in, and pursues the escapees through the tunnel. A sign has been erected marking the boundary of the French sector of West Berlin, and they have the political sense to know they can go no further.

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