The Invisible Frame (2009) and Cycling the Frame (1988)


From West to East 

Following on from the end of World War Two, on October 7, 1949, The United States of America, Britain, France, and Russia agreed to divide Germany into four sectors. Three of the Sector’s were joined together to form The Federal Republic of Germany or West Germany. The Soviet part became The German Democratic Republic of East Germany (GDR).  The city of Berlin, which was located in the heart of the Soviet Sector, was divided in the same way except that in 1961 a physical border was erected around the western section of the city something that became known as the Berlin Wall.  This division between the two sectors remained in place until November 1989; on July 1st1990 the complete reunification of Germany took place.

The Checkpoint Charlie Standoff 1961.
A year before the wall was breached in 1988, actress Tilda Swinton toured around its boundary on a bicycle accompanied by a film making team led by Berlin based writer and director Cynthia Beatt. At this time the filmmakers had no idea that within a very short time after their documentary was completed the Wall would no longer be the formidable impasse it had been for the previous 27 years. This film, Cycling the Frame (1988), originally made for German television, is now a rather fascinating modern historical artifact. 

Some sections of the wall remain in Berlin as a tourist attraction.


One of the last remaining watch towers.  

The East Side Gallery.
21 years later in June 2009 both Tilda Swinton and Cynthia Beatt revisit the 160-kilometre bike tour following the same route as the previous documentary, but this time filming from both sides of the former Wall. The Invisible Frame (2009) starts once again from the Brandenburg Gate but this time there no concrete fortification to stop our progress only a line in the roadway to mark the original barrier. Beatt documentary now shows a more vibrant Berlin of new buildings and developments. A city that has had inordinate sums of capitalist finance pumped in making it a most interesting place to visit and one which you can still witness the attempt to forge a state-run utopia.

A Trabi bursts through the wall! 


Brandenburg Gate 1989.

Brandenburg Gate 2012.

Both of these films have been released on a single DVD allowing you to watch the earlier one before comparing it to the longer and later documentary. Both have minimal dialog and next to no explanation, which if you have little or no idea of the cities geography could make it difficult to follow the locations. As way of compensation the camera work on both films is excellent and the eccentricity of the younger Tilda Swinton is a real bonus.  


The last remaining Soviet car park in Berlin.

Modern Berlin.