Decomposition of the Soul (2007)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

A look at the central preventive prison for political prisoners of the Ministry for State Security (the STASI) in Berlin's Hohenschoenhausen district under the former repressive East German regime. The building--which never figured on maps of East Berlin and which, today, still bears the marks of Germany's recent past (Nazism, the Soviet occupation and the Communist dictatorship)--has the sinister distinction of possessing as many interrogation rooms as detention cells. Its topology and organization betray its true function--a huge interrogation center, a veritable laboratory of psychological destruction. It is a symbol of the ex-German Democratic Republic GDR's general system of repression: a place dedicated and devoted to the art of operative decomposition. The arrest of a suspected enemy of the state was of course, part of the procedural process. It may be limited to intimidation, or lead to an investigation with graver consequences: permanent preventative detention, repeated interrogations, total isolation, the semblance of a trial, heavy sentences, the impossibility of social and professional reinsertion, harm inflicted upon loved ones, stripping of nationality and expulsion from the country, incitement to suicide, or even thinly disguised murder. Part of the detention center's buildings have now been taken over by offices and shops, but a STASI museum was opened there to inform about the inhumanity of the GDR's state security system. In October 2001, the Free Democratic Party tabled a motion to the Bundestag calling for the Hohenschoenhausen detention center to be preserved as a permanent memory to the second dictatorship under the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED)'s regime alongside the STASI headquarters in Normannenstrassee and the Berlin Wall memorial at Bernauer Strasse.
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Critic Reviews for Decomposition of the Soul

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (8)

There are touching interviews with a couple of former inmates, who were 'reeducated' for years after they were caught trying to help people attempting to escape to West Germany after the Berlin Wall went up.

Full Review… | February 9, 2007
New York Post
Top Critic

Decomposition bears powerful, uncompromising witness to man's inhumanity to man, which is one of the most important things any documentary can do, though, it's also one of the most grueling.

Full Review… | February 9, 2007
AV Club
Top Critic

Too slow and morbid for American viewers without an existing interest in the subject.

Full Review… | February 8, 2007
Top Critic

A thorny subject is handled with care in this meticulous reconstruction of life inside the East German police state, as boiled down to the experiences of just two ex-inmates.

Full Review… | February 7, 2007
Top Critic

[A] darkly poetic study of psychological brutality.

Full Review… | February 7, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The Decomposition of the Soul tackles the unsettling topic of the East German Stasi in a way that might make your flesh crawl.

February 7, 2007
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Decomposition of the Soul


[font=Century Gothic]"The Decomposition of the Soul" is an insightful documentary about the East German State Police, the Stasi, and the pretrial prisons where people would be kept while awaiting trials for months at a time. Through interrogation and coercion, the Stasi would attempt to break the prisoners psychologically. It seems attempts to break people were not always successful, even if there were deleterious side effects years later.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]In the documentary, two of the former prisoners, Sigrid Paul and Hartmut Richter, visit the former prisons to talk about their ordeals while other evidence is given by declassified government documents. It is interesting to note that they were both at least tangentially involved with people escaping to the West.(Were these the main crimes the Stasi was interested in?) [/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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