Christiane F. (1981)

Forgotten DVDs


21 July 2019| No Comments on Christiane F. (1981)     by Sean Chavel


It’s like having your head washed in a toilet for a little more than two hours. Christiane F., from Germany, is one of the heralded foreign films of the early 1980’s, aggrandized by the shock value of graphically depicting 13-year old children helplessly hooked on heroin. Somehow in the DVD age, it has become unbearably difficult to track it down and find a legitimate copy (the film is notoriously known for having a cut that features terribly out-of-whack and embarrassing English dubbing; go the extra mile to find the German audio with English subtitles). I’m hear to tell you, that while not a masterpiece, it is a must-see that’s worth your while to seek out. Unsparing, explicit, striking in its blue-tones cinematography, searingly well-acted, at times agonizing.

Christiane (Natja Brunckhorst) slips into a nightclub called Sound that is a labyrinth of dispensed alcohol, hangout pockets, movie showcases, drug user corners, more and more corridors, more that’s seemingly endless. She meets various characters there, some of them longtime users and a few guys on the hunt to look for vulnerable young girls. Eventually, the core addiction is too costly to even hangout at the club. Forget dancing or people mixing, the band of teens just want to go off somewhere quiet and get high.

The film suggests a time in the early 70’s when train stations, specifically the Bahnhof Zoo Station, were a druggie barter zone and cruising spot for johns. Christiane at first shows up to offer love and support to her boyfriend Detlev (Thomas Haustein) who is there to find older men who want tug-jobs, then it’s a matter of weeks until Christiane moves from begging for loose change to turning tricks herself.

Where is Christiane’s mother in all this? True affluence is non-existent, but there’s middle class means within her family. But the problem is the mother, who appears to have a good job, believes in letting her daughter go out and live her life as an adult — as a way to grow up as an adult. Let the young go out and learn through their own mistakes, is the mentality. That low monitoring method also coincides with the mother’s preference at a time when, if Christiane is out the door, she can have more privacy with her new boyfriend.

When she does catch Christiane using heroin, the mother goes the cheap route, and suggests she and her boyfriend stay locked indoors to go through the withdrawals. The withdrawals are painful to watch, and you get probably the most vivid scene of projectile vomiting that serves the drama that I’ve ever come across.

“I can control my using,” is Christiane’s declaration at the beginning. Her druggie friends told her that no one can control it once you start. Once everyone is hooked, Christiane and her friends are too high to think about doing anything else but shooting up, and in the process, forget to take care of their bodies because drug using is one endless spiral. The number of blotches and bruised skin piles on. Christiane at one point breaks apart her mother’s apartment, tossing things left and right, looking for spare change to go out and buy. The most hideous scenes of the film come after, for at some point she uses a toilet bowl to clean her syringe.

Damn if “Christiane F.” doesn’t bring on a heavy litany of horrors. Let it be known it is specifically based on a true story. But it could be any reckless teen’s true story at any place in the world today, some nearly forty years later.

Note: The region-free Blu-Ray is often cheaper than the DVD, that’s the way to go as long as you have a region-free Blu-Ray player.

138 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Less Than Zero” (1987); “Drugstore Cowboy” (1989); “Thirteen” (2003); “Lilya 4-Ever” (2003, Sweden).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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