He was the declared rebel among German directors, rebelled against the cinematic mainstream: Klaus Lemke has now died at the age of 81.

Director Klaus Lemke couldn’t relate to the cinematic mainstream. His works polarized and provoked. He radically drew attention to social weaknesses. Lemke has now died at the age of 81, as confirmed by ZDF.

Most recently, he appeared at the Munich Film Festival at the end of June – physically already visibly battered. He could no longer walk well, he said at the time and held up a sign: “Art comes from kissing”.

Many of Lemke’s films resembled Schwabing milieu studies. They brought him success and awards, but he never conformed to them. Rather, the director regularly complained about state film subsidies.

Against “state dough”

“German state cinema is a coffee gossip that is subsidized to the point of helplessness,” rumbled the man with the flat cap pulled low over his face in an interview on his 80th birthday in October 2020. As long as all film funding from “state clay” is not abolished, German cinema will remain the ” Top bores worldwide». He was convinced that without state funds, Germany could be the most creative film country in Europe within just two years: “I swear!”.

Lemke himself traditionally shot on a small budget – even in the Corona crisis. «Because all my film equipment fits easily into a travel bag that qualifies as hand luggage.» The cameraman also does the sound and as an actor he picks a few people off the street.

Cooperation with amateur actors

Lemke has been filming in this way since the 1960s. Most of the time he worked with amateurs, whom he discovered in Munich, Hamburg or Berlin in cafés or on the street and often hired them on the spot. His discoveries include television stars such as Wolfgang Fierek and Cleo Kretschmer. He often didn’t have a detailed script, leaving the actors room for improvisation.

Even with his first films, which were mainly produced for television, such as “Brandstifter” (1969) or “Rocker” (1972), Lemke focused the spotlight on the dark side of society. With films like “Idole” or “Amore” studies mainly followed the Schwabing scene. For the director, who was born in Landsberg/Warthe in what is now Poland, Munich had become the focus of his work – and the city honored him in 2010 with the Munich Film Prize for “Dirty South” and in 2014 with his own series at the film festival.

Lemke spent his school days in Düsseldorf after fleeing from East Germany to West Germany with his mother and sister. He studied philosophy and art history for a few semesters and eventually made his first short films.

ups and downs

After the successes of the 1960s and 1970s, things quieted down around Lemke, and films like “Bibo’s Men” (1986) and “The Rat” (1993) were panned. “A Bewitched Summer” (1989) with Günther Maria Halmer and “The Flittchen und der Totendigger” (1994), which brought his successful couple Kretschmer and Fierek together in front of the camera, met with approval from the critics again.

In recent years he has also shot film after film: “Underwear Lies” (2016), “Bad Girl Avenue” and “Neue Götter in der Maxvorstadt” (both 2018) and “A Call Girl for Ghosts” (2020).

“Again, a great man of German film has left the stage,” wrote the Munich artist Flatz, who was a friend of Lemke and worked with him, the German Press Agency. “He will be missed.”