I was a teenager when I read the biographical novel ” We, the boys of the Berlin zoo ” (1979) by Christiane F. And, like most critics and the public, I was very impressed by the bloody experience of drug addiction narrated by the protagonist , Christiane precisely. Little more than a child, Christiane in fact begins to use synthetic drugs at the age of twelve and her first dose of heroin dates back to thirteen, the addiction of which will drive her into prostitution to get the daily dose.
The novel was born from an interview conducted by two journalists of the German weekly Stel, who interviewed Christiane in 1978 about a trial for solicitation and child abuse of a man and in which the girl is involved. Christiane’s story was published in installments in the magazine and the following year became a novel, with great success with the public. It is also transposed to the cinema, with the same title, in 1981, directed by Uli Edel.
Christiane, following the trial, is convicted of drug possession. But this is not just the tip of the iceberg: from the interviews emerges the complete story of this very young girl, practically a child, and of the world she comes from.
Christiane lives in a working-class and run-down area of ​​Berlin, together with an often absent mother and little sister. In the loneliness that surrounds her, she Christiane searches for a family outside the home and finds her in a group of friends, first in a youth center (where she experiments with LSD and other drugs) and then in the historic Sound nightclub. Here she meets two girls, Babsi and Stella, and the three will become inseparable, sharing everything, including syringes and men. In fact, the three friends begin to consume heroin. Babsi, real name Babette Doge, will go down in history as the youngest drug victim, dying of an overdose at the age of fourteen.
To get the drugs, the three girls go to the Berlin Zoologischer Garten station, inhabited by junkies and young prostitutes. At the back of the station Christiane sells herself to customers for the money to buy heroin. In this squalid environment inhabited by people who seem to be walking dead and dragging her towards drug addiction, Christiane nevertheless finds happiness in a boy she met at the Sound, Detlef, and also a heroin user and addicted to prostitution.
Despite the boy’s presence, the situation in which Christiane finds herself only precipitates: by now she uses drugs daily and her slender body is deteriorating more and more; in addition to prostitution, she finds herself selling what she owns (for example her beloved vinyls) to get the doses, and accepts that Detlef lives as a guest in the home of a customer who is in love with him.
When her mother finds out about her daughter’s problem, she takes her away from Berlin for detox.
The continuation of Christiane F.’s story is told in a subsequent book, My second life (2013), in which, now a woman, she tells what happened to her after that experience. Despite the success of the first detoxification, the success with the book and the film catapulted her into a reality of notoriety and money that, in the long term, she was unable to manage and brought her back to the path of drugs and prostitution.
In the wake of his success he initially worked in the world of cinema and music in the German scene, but then, thanks to bad acquaintances and wrong loves, he returned to old habits. A glimmer of serenity appears with the birth of her son Jan Niklas, but this is not enough to save her from drugs and the malaise that haunts her and that she manifests by constantly moving from Germany to Greece, from Switzerland to Holland. The latest news about her reveals that she is following a detox plan and regularly sees her child, who is currently in the care of another family.
Like the novel, Uli Edel’s film We, the boys from the Berlin zoo was also very successful, thanks to the appearance of David Bowie in the concert scene that Christiane attends and thanks to the soundtrack that is based on the songs. most famous of the White Duke of his Berlin period (Heroes, Station to Station to name the most famous).
The film is much more concise than the story of the book, which is also full of profound personal reflections that allow us to understand Christiane (or, at least, to try). Despite this, the film is still very successful because the naturalness and inexperience of the acting of the characters (boys taken from the street and from the schools or real junkies of the station) best expresses adolescent innocence and recklessness.Valentina Morlacchi

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