Follow TV Tropes


Film / Bornholmer Strasse

Go To

Bornholmer Strasse (aka Open the Wall) is a 2014 TV movie from Germany directed by Christian Schwochow.

Berlin, November 9, 1989. Harald Schafer is the commander of the Bornholmer Strasse crossing point of the border between East and West Berlin—namely, the Berlin Wall. It's been a tumultuous year in the Eastern Bloc, but it's a quiet night at the station, with the biggest business of the evening being a stray dog that wanders into the border crossing. Quiet, that is, except for Harald's constantly rumbling insides, which keep forcing him to the toilet with diarrhea.

The quiet night ends when an East German official named Günter Schabowski holds a press conference to announce a more liberal policy for allowing East Germans to visit the west. The idea was that the East German government would issue exit visas and tourist visas in a strictly controlled manner, but Schabowski, having not read the speech in advance, instead implied that all restrictions on travel to the west would be lifted, and when he was asked when, said "Immediately."


Harald and his men watch this announcement on the TV and wonder what it means. It doesn't take long to find out. A few curious East Berliners show up at the gate, taking the evening press conference as an announcement that the border has been opened. Then a few more. Then more. Then a lot more. Soon thousands of people are thronging the border post, booing and heckling the guards, chanting "Open the gate!" As the situation grows tenser by the minute, a stressed-out Harald has to decide what to do.



  • Based on a True Story: Harald is based on Harald Jager, the officer who did in fact open up the Bornholmer Strasse gate at 11:30 pm on November 9, 1989. Events that night largely played out as shown in the movie, starting with the infamous press conference, the appearance of huge crowds at the border stations, and the order to let out only a selected few, before Jager decided to open the gate completely.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: The officers and men of the unit are smoking up a storm in the break room as they try to figure out what to do. A stressed-out Harald has to ask one of his men for a cigarette.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The opening shots play like someone is trying to sneak past the border checkpoint. It's a dog.
  • Growling Gut: Harald's intestinal distress and rumbling stomach is a Running Gag.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One of the guards keeps urging Harald to let him break out the machine gun and open fire on the people in front of the gate. Later, after the border's been opened, that same guard is telling a Western reporter "I always favored a peaceful solution."
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Harald, who is acutely aware that he's going to have to answer for opening the border, says exactly this to himself in the bathroom, while practicing what to say to his bosses.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Kummer, Harald's superior back at headquarters, starts swilling cognac when he realizes what is happening. By the end of the evening he's quite drunk.
  • Lawful Stupid: That one officer who keeps insisting that Harald sign a form for the receipt of the dog, even as things are going to hell all around the station.
  • Magical Negro: Harald's guts have been rumbling loud enough to distract people. The ambassador to Mozambique arrives at the checkpoint and demands to be let through. As they're arguing, Harald's stomach rumbles loudly. The ambassador lays his hands on Harald's stomach, and Harald's intestinal distress is gone.
  • Momma's Boy: One guard's elderly mother apparently lives within walking distance of the checkpoint, as she arrives with sweet rolls for the gang. She sees her son with a rifle in hand about to take position, and she tells him to put the gun down immediately. Later, as things are going from bad to worse, another guard walks by the break room and sees the first guard crying on his mom's shoulder.
    "You always hide behind your mom!"
  • No Hero to His Valet: Harald gets back to his apartment after the longest night shift of his life. He tells his wife "I opened the wall last night," and her only response is to blink and then say that he shouldn't joke about stuff like that. Harald smiles a rueful smile and the film ends.
  • Sarcasm Mode:
    • Harald asks how many men they have on hand to block the untold thousands of civilians at the gate, and he is told "Sixteen." Another officer says he can get two more, which prompts one of his comrades to say "Oh, now we're saved! Eighteen!"
    • When Achim the border guard officer arrives Harald is relieved, saying that he and the other customs officers will do whatever Achim and the border security people want. Achim says uncertainly that actually, he was looking for Harald to tell him what to do.
    Harald: Thanks, Achim, you've been a big help.
  • Staggered Zoom: A three-shot zoom onto the picture of East German leader Egon Krenz, as Kummer seethes that when he was called that night, Krenz had not even known what was happening. Kummer then pulls out a pistol and shoots the picture.
  • Stock Footage: Of the press conference in which Gunther Schabowski carelessly said that the border would be opened "immediately", and thus changed history.
  • Title Drop: When Harald calls in for orders after the surprising TV announcement, he says he's calling from Bornholmer Strasse station.