bahnhof zoo station

Leipzig is the largest city in the state of Sachsen, Eastern Germany. With a population of 570,087 (843,619 in the larger urban zone), it’s Germany’s 10th-most populous city, located 160 km southwest of Berlin. Leipzig has been a trade city since at least the time of the Holy Roman Empire. It sits at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, 2 important medieval trade routes. It was once a major European center of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing, and became a major urban center within the DDR (former East Germany) after WW2.

Leipzig played a significant role in instigating the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, through events which took place in and around St. Nicholas Church. Since the Reunification, it has undergone significant change with the restoration of some historical buildings, the demolition of others, and the development of a modern transport infrastructure. The local opera is one of the most prominent opera houses in Germany; the zoo is one of the most modern in Europe. Outside of Leipzig the Neuseenland district forms a huge lake area for recreation.

David Bowie performs ‘Station to Station’ live in the amazing concert scene from the 1981 film Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo.


The other day, someone posted a picture of a red haired waif teen doing heroin on instagram. It had the hashtag “#christianef” in the comments, in between those that said “that’s fucked up, dude” and “heroin chic”.  I’m already familiar with what’s fucked up and what heroin chic is (Kate Moss is my style icon) so I clicked on the hashtag to know who is Christiane F. 

I quickly learned following my curiousity that it was a screen shot from a movie with that title. I never heard of it before so I decided to stream it. It took a few minutes to find a version of the film online with English subtitles. The film takes place in Berlin during the 1970s, so the entire cast is German despite a sweet cameo of David Bowie performing at his own concert (his music plays through out the movie).

The story is about a young girl named Christiane F. who lives in Berlin in an apartment complex with her mother. She despises living there but finds escape at a new disco club that’s opened called “The Sound”. Despite being underaged (she is 12 years old), she has a friend that gets her in even though the age requirement is 16. There, she meets Detlev, a boy that she falls for, and his friends. Quickly, she is introduced to hashish and LSD by her new entourage. 

Soon, she learns that Detlev is taking “H” (heroin). Though she disapproves of his use of the drug, she learns that everyone in her new group of friends is a user and eventually she wants to try it as well.

They are all teens in her circle, so to fund their habit Detlev and his roommate, Axel, go to the Bahnhof Zoo station to “pick-up” (turning tricks with johns). Detlev swears he only jerks off his clients and finds it “repulsive” but he needs to do it because it’s his job that feeds his habit. Christiane understands this and still loves him all the same. 

On her 14th birthday, Christiane decides to meet Detlev and Axel at the “Zoo”. She has 50 marks (about 30 dollars american) and decides to spend it on dope. The boys are reluctant to allow her to try it intravenously so she asks another kid in the bathroom to lend her his “kit”. This scene is momentous as the beginning of Christiane’s and her friends downward spiral that exemplifies the abyss of drug use in western Europe during the 1970s. 

Soon, Christiane begins to turn her own tricks to feed her own heroin addiction. She goes through the trials and tribulations of drug addiction with Detlev which is portrayed through out the film. To know who survives is for you to find out.  I can understand why this film became a success in Germany and still is a cult classic along with the autobiographical book it was inspired by entitled Christiane F.  Its film representation  of drug addiction and the demise of its teenaged victims is an eye opener for its era.