The Kiss is a podcast series written and presented by Bibi Berki and made by Tempest Productions. For the first time, it presents the backstory to the making of the all-woman German film of 1931, Mädchen in Uniform. The series is part tribute, part history, part biography as well as a personal journey of discovery for the author. This page has been designed to accompany the series and to provide the listener with further bibliographical information as well as pictures and transcripts of each episode. The Kiss is not intended to be a scholarly work and therefore this page will not supply notes and references but if anyone is interested in source materials, then please do get in touch.
A bit about the author. Bibi Berki is a writer and journalist based in London. She writes on news issues for several titles and websites as well producing fiction. But her passion is writing about film. The Kiss is the result of years of research and wider reading. The Kiss is aimed at all listeners, those who are interested in film, in women’s history, general history or who just love to get lost in a fascinating true story.
She has a degree in English from Cambridge University and an MA in Film and Television Studies from the University of Westminster.
The Soul at Work
This episode introduces the podcast series and explains how it came to be. It gives a rundown of the film’s plot and discusses how the series will progress – namely how a detailed look at aspects of the lives of the women involved in the project can be “heard” in the film they made.
Further reading: Kracauer, Siegfried, From Caligari to Hitler, A Psychological History of the German Film, Princeton University Press, 1947
There is also a reference to the online film store which specialises in old German movies, Rare Films and More https://www.rarefilmsandmore.com/
The transcript of the episode can be found here: file:///C:/Users/bibib/OneDrive/Documents/Non-fiction/Madchen/The%20Kiss%20episode%201%20transcript.pdf
A Motherless Girl
This week’s episode begins with the great tragedy of Christa Winsloe’s early years – the death of her mother – and touches on the life she led as the daughter of a Prussian cavalry officer. It also visits Darmstadt of the early 1900s and asks why she might have felt so out of place in her family and wider world as a young girl.
In terms of further reading, the authority on Christa is unquestionably Doris Hermanns who has written two books on her, one an autobiography. It’s only available in German but let’s hope it comes out in translation some time soon.
Doris Hermanns, Meerkatzen, Meissel und das Mädchen Manuela, Die Schriftstellerin und Tierbildhauerin Christa Winsloe, Aviva 2012.
A. Fischer, The Scots in Eastern and Western Prussia, Otto Schulze & Co, 1903.
Christa Winsloe, Children in Uniform, adapted by Barbara Burnham from the play Madchen in Uniform, Samuel French, London, 1933.
Christa Winsloe, The Child Manuela, Virago, 1994, trans Agnes Neill Scott.
The transcript to episode 2 is here:
Some images to accompany this week’s episode, including Darmstadt circa 1900, some pretty impressive Prussian soldiers and Heinrich Jobst’s marble bust of a the 19-year-old Christa Winsloe, in a permanent collection at the Matildenhohe in Darmstadt.
Mothers of Soldiers
This episode concentrates on Christa’s days at the Empress Augusta boarding school for girls in Potsdam, Berlin. Much of the atmosphere is gleaned from her novel, The Child Manuela, and from interviews she later gave to newspaper as well as remembered comments recorded by friends.
Her early artistic life is also captured in fiction in her novel Life Begins.
Here’s an interesting quote from the novel, not mentioned in the podcast. It’s spoken by the main character, Eva:
“What precisely that word “different” implied, a word that haunted her like a commandment, she was not at all sure. At any rate, not the kind of person she was at home. She loathed herself when she thought of herself.” [p25]
So, the main new reading references for this episode are:
Winsloe, Christa, Life Begins. English translation by Agnes Neil Scott, Chapman & Hall, 1935
Mancoff, Debra N. Danger! Women Artists at Work, Merrell, 2012
The transcript for the episode is here:
Our pictures are of the Empress Augusta herself, last empress of Germany, Potsdam in all its magnificence in 1900 and Munich at around the time Christa would have been training as a sculptor and hanging out with her artist friends.
Shouting from the Mountain
We meet Leontine Sagan (then known as Schlesinger) in this episode. Born in Budapest, Viennese for her earliest years and then taken to South Africa where her father was a prospector and businessman. She arrived in her new home of Klerksdorp aged 10 in 1899, just as the Boer War broke out. Leontine would always call South Africa home although she spent many, many years away from it, living in turn in Vienna, Berlin and London. Her memoir, Lights and Shadows, is our main reading reference for this episode.
Sagan, Leontine, Lights and Shadows, edited and introduced by Loren Kruger. Witwatersrand University Press, 1996
The pictures below are of the Klerksdorp concentration camp and of Johannesburg taken around the turn of the last century.
The transcript for this episode can be found here:
And the podcast epsiode itself is here:
When Leontine Sagan was still a young actress, barely out of training, she was invited by a friend back to her house. The friend came from the Junker class of Prussian aristocracy and Leontine’s description of entering the home is fascinating and very telling. It’s like she’s come upon another country with strange inhabitants. The women are very feminine in their pretty dresses, the men formal in their uniforms. They seem so dull to Leontine. Staid, boring, traditional. And they view her as a strange creature, someone they don’t really understand. An oddity. The two worlds cannot meet, don’t want to and wouldn’t know how.
I think of this passage often when I consider the life that Christa Winsloe came from. Although I’ve often described her as a bohemian, someone from the artistic set, she came from exactly this traditional background and I don’t think it ever really left her. Although she married into aristocracy it was a very different, far more glamorous and metropolitan kind of aristocracy. Much, much richer as well. But nonetheless Christa’s background was one of class and decorum and keeping up appearances. She needed to grow and adapt into her new avant-garde world, whereas Leontine, a genuinely classless artist whose background was peripatetic and chaotic, could make herself at home anywhere and was a real free spririt.
So, some pictures…
Here is Christa looking rather lovely and bohemian – you can see how she would appeal to a man like Laci Hatvany, who was in love with that world and gathered the artistic set around him wherever he went. And here, too, is Laci, self-assured, dapper, a young man of wealth, confidence and ambition. Were the two a good match? On paper, yes. As a married couple? How could they be?
You can find the transcript of the episode here:
And the podcast episode here: