Missile from the East (2021) Movie Script

It's dead silence.
A hundred thousand people there.
Didn't register
It is absolutely another world.
The concentration levels are so high,
it's a sort of spiritual mental state.
Nothing can stop you.
By accepting death you lose the fear of it.
That's Grand Prix racing.
Degner was a spectacular rider.
A very very fast rider.
My father was a racing driver.
It was all racing.
This was his life
He was a star in East Germany...
..but he definitely thought
he would get a better life in the West.
I was born on 22nd September 1931
in Gliewitz, which is now Poland.
My father died
a few days before the end of the war.
And then we had to emigrate from Poland.
When the Russians were conquering again
parts that Germans had conquered before,
then all these people who were Germans
flew to be saved from the Russian troops,
and there he was also with his mother
and his sister fleeing in this track.
We went to East Germany, settled down there,
then half a year later my mother died,
so I was 14-years-old without any parents.
Peter had a tough upbringing.
I wouldn't have wanted to be an orphan
in East Germany at the end of the war.
It was a shocking place after the war.
Absolutely awful.
All those eastern countries were
bashed and bombed by the Russian and the Germans.
East Germany was just completely trashed.
I could see that he had a very tough childhood.
His father was extremely strong
He tried to educate X by beating him.
I think this is a very dark part of his life.
From Stettin in the Baltic
to Trieste in the Adriatic
an iron curtain has
descended across the continent.
Nikita Khrushchev made it clear he believed
the communist world could bury the West.
Even if there were only one
communist in the State Department,
that would still be one communist too many.
The Soviet Union launches Sputnik One
on October 4th 1957
Two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye
each other indefinitely across a trembling world.
There was competition at every level.
Eastern bloc athletes competing in the west
was enormously important.
The communist regime were very intent on proving
that there way of being
and of running things, of running a society
was superior in every way.
MZ was an East German
motorcycle racing company.
If you were an East German you aspired
to having a motorcycle
and MZ made those motorcycles.
Walter Kaaden was an exceptional engineer.
He was probably the person who advanced 2-strokes
faster than anybody else did.
He harnessed the harmonics of the exhaust system,
which made the engine a lot more efficient.
It was all done so low-key.
They were a monied company.
The materials they used
weren't the best materials
because they were limited behind
the Iron Curtain in those days
They looked a bit tinny.
Ernst I could tell admired Kaaden greatly,
but I could also tell that Kaaden admired Degner
greatly because of his ability as a rider.
and of course as an engineer.
When you were watching them together
it was almost like a father and son relationship,
he was that close to him.
They saw that he is not only a good racer,
he would also be a very big part
of the development of the engines.
The innovation was absolutely incredible.
They were two stroke wizards.
East Germany was a small nation that came out of the
ashes of fascism and the second world war
and that was -in theory trying to create
a fairer non-fascist, non-capitalist world
But East Germany had an extreme
system of repression of its own people.
In those days it was frightening. Quite brutal.
The GDR was an extraordinarily
intrusive, malicious surveillance state.
There was an organisation called the Stasi in East Germany,
which was in effect the secret police.
Everybody in East Germany was
informing on everybody else
because that was the culture sadly
and tragically that existed.
Shut your mouth. Don't speak.
You have to live like a mouse.
You just keep schtum.
You could do nothing without being spied on.
You could do nothing without having
it reported back to the government.
They wanted to keep everything literally
under control and everyone under control.
My father was observed by the Stasi all the time.
If my father was meeting known or unknown,
some Stasi person,
this person was writing down all the conversation
he had with him.
To give it to the party members.
People tried to live a normal life
in abnormal or extreme circumstances.
He had a very special status in East Germany.
He enjoyed getting special treatments.
They also gave my mother a job at MZ,
so they both could be together in the same company.
He had a better car than everybody else -
and - he could travel to the west,
which normal people couldn't.
But compared to what he saw in
West Germany it was still very little.
To come back from behind a restricted country,
that must have been like us going to Disneyland.
I remember them feeling very out of place.
Chelira and Mondal and MV and
all the top names in Italy were there then,
so you were really going into the country
and the world
that was at the top
of the Grand Prix racing scene.
MZ were hardly known and little thought of
and certainly not thought highly of.
They were persona non grata in the
motorcycle racing world after the war.
Jimmy Matsumiya was an absolute gentleman.
He came over as Suzuki's representative.
He was always dressed immaculately.
My name is James Akira Matsumiya.
And for the British, I'm Jimmy.
I was at the Italian Grand Prix circuit of Monza.
Suzuki wasn't successful.
I had to bring Suzuki's performance up,
but I didn't know what to do.
Ernst got a very good start.
He was first into the first corner.
He won by inches against the Italian hero Ubbiali
in a very nose to nose race.
It was very exciting he said.
He was telling me the story quite often.
I was trying very hard to find out
the secret of why MZ is so strong.
My job is to make Suzuki company successful.
So I started to look at Ernst Degner.
It was making Ernst a star rider.
This high speed missile
that was coming out of East Germany.
The name Degner and the name MZ
were becoming rapidly known.
People were starting to look at these hand beaten
aluminium bikes from behind the Iron Curtain.
Ernst Degner was projected into a world of
international motorcycle racing,
which took him out of East Germany
into countries all over the world
where the standard of living was
infinitely higher than the one he was used to.
I believe Degner,
as a member of the Communist State
and as a top motorcycle racer,
was actually paid sort of a basic wage.
So seeing people like Jim Redmond,
Tom Phillis, Mike Hailwood, Phil Reed
who had loads of money, loads of status, must have
hit Degner like throwing a bucket of cold water at him.
He would have liked to have been in the west
because of the freedom that we had.
He would have loved to have been with us
every weekend with no restrictions -
Not being watched. Not being kept back.
He could see then that life on the other side
of the curtain might be interesting.
I think this was a time when they started to think
about trying to find a way to escape.
The Isle of Man TT is the greatest
motorsport event in the world.
It is totally and absolutely unique.
The circuit goes through towns and villages.
The hazards were the fact that you had hedges,
ditches, trees, garden gates, ordinary roads.
And it's hurt me so many, many times.
When you hit something solid, that was it.
Mr Suzuki came to the Isle of Man.
And he said, Jimmy, we must win
the motorcycle racing in Europe.
"Then people will recognise that
Japanese motorcycle is worth buying."
So, my job was to try to bring
Suzuki's performance up to the level of MZ.
At the TT I was staying in the same guest house,
the Fernleigh Hotel,
along with Jimmy, Degner and the other riders.
Jimmy Matsumiya he was ambitious.
He was determined to get Suzuki to the top.
I was at the bar.
And then I bumped into Ernst Degner.
I said, Entschuldigung.
He said, You, you spoke German.
So I said, Yes.
I learnt German in school.
So my association with Degner had started.
In those days they had a chief commissar with them,
Herr Hartmann, who watched their every move.
And he had the ability to stop that race meeting
for them and take them back home.
These East German two strokes, radically altered
in the engine departments are sounding terrific.
And here's Ernst Degner on his East German MZ.
Degner had broken the lap record in practice.
The BBC did the TT in the Isle of Man
and I used to go round all the
individual camps and I talked to Degner.
And he certainly had a lot inside his head
as a rider and a mechanic
and someone who had worked
very closely with Walter Kaaden.
There were three Japanese Suzukis,
but they had been in trouble during practice.
None of these seemed to have
any chance of winning.
Well we had known in this team
two or three people from the Communist Party.
So Matsumiya and I had to
talk together very secret.
One day, when he was in my room
Degner said, Jimmy, I love jazz, do you like jazz?
So I said, Yes, I used to play drums.
I got a gramophone.
I intentionally made the volume of the jazz music
higher and we are talking.
I never thought he knew jazz song.
Degner and myself put together through the music.
Degner was trying desperately
to escape from Eastern Germany.
At that time, I'd made up my mind that we must
get some technology from MZ one way or another
We must have a better engine.
So I was trying to build up the relationship.
I thought that Degner is important to us.
Degner started to feel that I am trustworthy friend.
One day after dinner, Degner and myself went to
the top of the cliff, to the edge of the land.
You can see there's nobody around.
I still remember it was very windy
and the sea was very rough.
And when we are looking at the sea -
Degner said, Jimmy, beyond there there's civilisation.
Britain, America, even further you have Japan.
I have only one way to go back.
To the small cage called Eastern Germany,
where I don't have any freedom whatsoever.
I feel sorry for him.
So I said, Ernst, I can give you my word of honour,
you have money waiting for you when you defect.
Now, how shall we construct your defection plan?
Everybody is compromised
in the way that the State is compromised.
And in that sense it broke people.
Both the people who worked for it, who were
morally broken and the people that they oppressed.
We know now that Kaaden was a part of the Stasi.
so even lets say one of his friends, his team mate,
was always around him was observing him.
He didn't have a choice did he?
He wouldn't have been in the job if he hadn't said yes.
If he'd said, No, I don't agree to doing all this,
Kaaden wouldn't have been an engineer.
This was a regime that effectively used fear as fuel
and it ran on betrayal.
It asked of people to betray themselves and to betray
the most fundamental relationships in their lives.
Any top rider desired the World Championship.
And Ernst was a very, very determined person.
Because East Germany and the
Iron Curtain countries were deprived of
the spectacle of top international motorcycle racing,
they got the most enormous crowds there.
He was so close to being world champion
but he was sick of not doing what he wanted to do
and when he was doing something then it was only Kaaden
and the higher people that was getting the benefit out of it.
He wanted to have his own decisions
rather than be controlled by them.
The attention of an anxious world is focused on
East and West Germany and Berlin.
The last great exodus of refugees from the east
is processed at the Marienfelde Centre
as the communist regime moves to close
their border against further flights
Once the East Germans are processed they
are absorbed into the hungry West German labour market.
Young people were leaving in droves.
Some ex-East Germans have described
it to me as a haemorrhage.
There were checkpoints, but they were
very permeable on a daily basis.
People went back and forth.
During that period,
Berlin Wall is not created yet.
So the people in East Berlin can commute
with western Berlin through the underground.
It was before the government
started to tighten up the loophole.
It was easy, you just took the underground from
East Berlin to West Berlin and you were there.
My idea was to meet with Degner
in the western side of Berlin.
And one day Degner said,
Jimmy, we will try to come out to the west.
Now, Degner started to prepare for the defection.
They wanted to leave as soon as possible.
So, I went to Berlin and meet with him
in the western side of the underground
So about 10 o'clock I went to the station.
Not this train, okay next train, next train, next train.
I was just sitting there, waiting.
He did not come.
When I came back to the hotel
I received a telephone call
from somebody unknown,
who claims that actually he's a friend of Degner
And he said You are waiting for Degner, aren't you?
And Degner isn't coming.
He said, It is too dangerous.
The wall will be built within two days.
Degner stopped talking to me.
So I had to come back to the UK.
Overnight the guards came and started
building a wall through the city,
the heart of the city of Berlin and
round the eastern sector
to wall in the eastern part of the capital.
And at the same time then they fortified the border
between East Germany and West Germany.
People were leaping from windows
in their apartment buildings
when they could see he guards and the sandbags
and the dogs and the barbed wire outside their window.
People were separated from their jobs.
They were separated from family members
for years, for decades.
It was a desperate measure
and that really cut through people's lives.
His family, his wife and his children
were not allowed to accompany him.
They were in effect the ransom.
Gerda wasn't one of those people you would notice.
She stayed very much in the background.
Very quiet, very reserved.
Spent a lot of time with her little boy at the
race meetings obviously.
She was devoted to Ernst.
My mother is a strong personality.
She would influence you that you do it
without her telling you to do.
She was putting pressure on him
when they saw that the wall was going up.
Then she, she thought it is time now to go.
My father also wanted to go,
but I think my mother was pushing.
The western side is completely closed.
Nobody is able to go over to
West Berlin or West Germany
and then I had to change my plan.
I had to concentrate, not only for raising up for MZ,
but also to bring my family over.
And try to leave in the best way from East Germany
via Sweden for the Swedish Grand Prix.
The he started to tell me, Okay, next possibility
is Kristianstad in Sweden.
But at the same time his wife and children will be
defecting from Eastern Germany to Western Germany.
The plan on the defection
Degner told me in detail.
Eastern Germany exports lots and lots
of large tree trunks.
And there are special transporter
and in the centre there's a small cavity that was
made which is not accessible through the outside.
And his wife and sons are supposed to be inside.
That had to be an absolutely secret operation. -
Or you could be in prison just for planning it.
The risks were enormous.
If Gerda had been caught trying to defect,
the children would be separated from their parents.
they were put in state institutions
and often they were adopted
by leading SED, Communist Party or Stasi cadre.
And then brought up as good model socialist citizens.
The border was pretty drastic.
They didn't want people going out or coming in.
From West Germany to East Germany we had to
go through guards with sub machine guns
sticking the machine gun through
the window to question you.
When you looked out the other window
there was a gunning tower
with a machine gun watching all the traffic coming in.
If you were in a vehicle there would be
a check underneath the car with a mirror.
They would check the boot for its contents
and also take out the bottom of the boot to check
there were no people in secret compartments.
There was a massive place.
One control. Second control. Third control.
It was pretty scary.
Of course the elections were utterly sham.
There was only one party, the so called
opposition parties were fictions or fronts.
And the ruling SED Party won every election
with margins of about 98, 99 percent.
We drove from Berlin towards the West German border.
Stopped somewhere at a parking place.
I brought them to a special place where
they had to change over to the other car.
I went back to Streizel which is the point
where the ferry went to Sweden.
He had this race in Sweden.
It was all part of the plan.
I hired a car and drove to Kristianstad.
I went to the hotel where MZ was also staying.
We stayed all in one hotel, the MZ people
and I took a single bedroom.
I waited for, for their call.
If they wouldn't have crossed,
I wouldn't have moved from Sweden.
We took tranquilisers so that we would be calm.
My brother was a small baby and I was 2.
That information he got that his family
managed to cross over the border
was given to him before he started racing.
That's when he knew now he can defect,
because his family's already in the safe side.
There's no more going back,
because when he goes back he'll be caught.
His wife is no longer there.
He has to go one way or another.
I give him my key of my hired car.
He was gonna be world champion
and he was gonna be
world champion for East Germany!
He took full advantage
of the performance of his MZ bike
and got light years ahead of everybody else.
He was very fast, placed number one.
The eyes of the world were on him.
So the mental pressure on him
must have been absolutely gigantic.
In Sweden he would have liked
to win the world champion,
but on the other hand it would have
been even more difficult to escape.
The last lap, the last corner, the first gear
jumped out and the engine quickly overran
And the chains were broken and that was it.
When I want to do something
and I want to achieve something...
...I will do anything.
I think after so many years, 50 years,
I'm sure it's okay to say it now
he over revved intentionally.
And machine seized or broken down.
If he'd won the race, he was gonna be
involved in the podium,
getting the adulation of the crowd,
being interviewed.
And, most important of all, having his Stasi minder
or minders within controlling reach of him.
He had key of my hired car.
So he drove straight away.
The secrecy they must have lived in that week
because we were there with them all.
We knew nothing of it.
He disappeared.
It was absolutely mind blowing.
After racing, a few hours later
everybody said Where's Degner?
So I said, Maybe Degner has gone back to his
room and is sleeping or something
because he must be very depressed by not
scoring the world champion, the title.
I was hanging round until midnight.
So I was drinking, drinking and the
MZ people are drinking, drinking, drinking.
Degner's car was there in front of bar.
So nobody suspected I had something to do
with Degner, because Degner's car is there.
And nobody's thinking Degner's driving my car.
And after everything's getting quieter,
I left with Degner's car.
My heart is beating.
It's a dark night. I started, gone.
For Degner to give up the world championship
must have been an enormous sacrifice.
But it showed that his wife and children,
his family were more important than
his craft, his calling, his living,
motorcycle racing.
I met him in Denmark.
The ferry boat was about to set sail.
I said goodbye to him.
When he left on the ferry towards
Western Germany...
...he's a defector.
And from that time onward,
Degner was free to go anywhere else.
He was happy.
Everybody's down for breakfast
and Kaarden comes up to Frank
and he says, Have you seen Ernst this morning?
And Frank said, No.
Which is true, Frank hadn't.
I mean, we've been to bed and we didn't
know anything of what was going on.
He was like a chicken with his head cut off.
Can you imagine Kaarden's feelings
when the whole story eventually came out
when he found what had happened.
That all his secrets were going, you know?
It must have been devastating for him, of course.
We know the consequences for him going back
without Ernst would be totally unacceptable.
You didn't look after him.
You should have brought him back."
And everybody said he treated him like a son
and you do everything for them, don't you?
He taught him everything that Ernst knew.
And that would have hurt when Ernst went.
Would have hurt a lot.
After Degner left it was very bad for us.
We had no help from the government.
Government was not interested to have motorcycle sport.
I admire what they did,
because at this time it was quite a thing.
It takes a lot of courage to defect,
because it was so dangerous.
The official line by the SED government
and by the Stasi would have been - it's a crime.
You are leaving us.
You are going over to the enemy.
The air of the fascist state.
I remember them, these Japanese people
were coming to our house.
They met up with my father.
It could be that these were the people from Suzuki
that just wanted to make a contract with him.
He goes to Japan, a foreign country.
And not just a foreign country,
a totally foreign culture.
And he goes from a starvation level in terms of
facilities to develop the bike that he had at MZ
to you name it, you can have it with Suzuki.
Because Suzuki was a big company
and they wanted success
and they'd got all the money
and facilities that he needed.
And he works over the winter in those
circumstances and develops a bike.
I'm just making the final touches to finish the first
cylinder ever I have done for Suzuki.
When Mr Okana saw that that cylinder,
he rushed to Mr Suzuki to show him.
And they looked at it and well,
they have seen what I was able to do.
And the Japanese were not stupid.
They only needed a lead from a knowledgeable,
intelligent, experienced and successful chap like Degner
to pick that up and go with it.
Once Ernst brought the knowledge out
and Suzuki gained that,
the MZ's then didn't have a chance really.
He had everything in his head. Yeah?
He didn't have to take any papers.
It was all... They had part
of the development of the MZ.
Degner was the favourite for Friday's
two-lap, 76.5 mile race.
Right from the fall of the flag,
Degner rode like a man inspired.
Degner had increased his lead.
The last lap was a scorcher.
Degner of Suzuki has beaten his competitors
and broken the 30 minute lap record.
The winner is Suzuki's Degner of Japan.
Ito, Ichino and Suzuki have also won prizes.
All of the Suzuki team are winners.
And it's a mark incidentally of not only his ability
and his acumen as an engineer,
but his skill and brilliance as a rider.
Suzuki has gained the championship...
with an unbelievable maximum record speed
of 144.84 kilometres per hour.
These outstanding records have brought glory,
not only to Suzuki Motor Company,
but have also made a deep impression
in business circles throughout the world.
Increasing Japanese foreign trade.
We were the fastest.
And in the end, when we won that race,
I cried. It was fantastic.
We won.
We Japanese. Every Japanese.
We want to be equal to Europe.
This is how we are so strongly motivated.
I was the first guy who ever won the Isle of Man
on a Japanese motorcycle.
I can remember that there was a good prize.
He got a Mercedes.
There was his brand new white convertible
Mercedes, lit up. And this was the prize.
So the whole neighbourhood came.
Because at this time, to have a Mercedes
was something very special.
Maybe. Anybody's life.
Must, you must do something crazy.
Suzuki never did anything good
or was big enough to compete.
And from one year to the other with my father's help,
they were at the top. Yeah for years.
He was a friendly man
and he got friends in Japan.
He immediately started to learn
a little bit of Japanese.
Spoke a few words. And so he could communicate
with them. Not only in English.
And I think that made also a big difference.
For Suzuki he was a hero.
And I think Suzuki was
a very big part of his life.
Speed is something that once you've
sampled it once, you want more of it.
It's an addiction that you can't give up.
In the Sixties we were probably
losing a rider every couple of months.
Well he gets to Suzuka
and crashed at a double right hander.
I had a very bad start
and I had to risk a lot in the first lap
to get the connection to the top.
And it was on the second corner I went off the line
and I hit with my head, I hit the ground.
Your first instinct if you're a motorcycle racer
or a car racer
and you go off the course, is to rejoin it.
You are taking part in the race against your rivals
because you want to beat them.
You want to win.
That's the thing that's driving you all the time.
So I run up to the bike. I wanted to pick it up
but the motorcycle inside the cover
it was burning but I didn't see it.
But when I start to pick up the motorbike,
I went unconscious.
And then a big flame sprang into the tank.
The tank exploded and that was the end.
For Frank that was the worst thing
that he's ever seen.
And so luckily the Japanese chap came over
and the two of them pulled Ernst out of the fire.
All he could remember is Ernst's face bubbling.
Yeah, it was burning away, bubbling away.
He was very, very badly burned
And had umpteen operations subsequently
and was never the same again
physically or mentally.
The transplants were sometimes
accepted in a good state
and sometimes the skin from somewhere else,
from the back didn't get accepted in the face
and it was hard for one year he was
in the hospital to recover.
We moved to visit him every day.
As a 3 or 4 year old child I had to go
every day to the hospital to visit my father.
He doesn't have the perfect face
for perfectionists anymore.
He never got over this. And no wonder why depression came.
And with depression comes everything else, yeah?
Somehow you get hooked on drugs
cos you can't help it anymore
or whatever and you go deeper and deeper and deeper.
From then on, although Degner won races,
basically his life went downhill.
The competition is big. Young drivers are coming up.
So you have to push right to the limit,
and he had so many accidents.
He broke his arm I think 12 times.
He showed me X-rays, so it was a mesh
and he was saying they were putting some
metal pieces inside to keep them straight
and this must have hurt all the time.
Things didn't work so well for Ernst with the bikes.
You know, he was riding and it wasn't
as good like he used to feel,
you know and all that sort of thing
is always not quite as happy.
He accused Gerda of looking at other men all the time.
This is what broke up their marriage,
because he then felt so insecure.
You know, he's no longer good looking
so you know she's not...
And it was the opposite.
She would do anything for him.
She was always with us.
For her, the family came first.
But I could see that my parents start
to separate more and more
And my mother was lacking quite a bit of
him being away all the time.
This I think was sometimes really hard on her.
He was mostly of racing I have to say.
It went to the point that his own dog didn't recognise him
and was barking at him when he came home.
He had a very tough childhood.
And this is why probably he was missing this,
holding together family part. Yeah?
Nothing seemed to go his way.
He retained his place in the team for another year,
but the following year he was dropped.
Because he wasn't riding well enough.
They didn't need his knowledge anymore.
Income was shrivelling up.
The relationship with Gerda and Ernst had sort of gone.
So he left.
At this time I saw my father
less and less and less.
He had his life and we had our life.
And there was always a big gap in between. For years
He left Suzuki and he ended up in doing all sorts of
odd jobs including running a garage in Tenerife.
After he spent almost everything he earned in his
racing career, there was still some money left over.
And so he tried to find a business he could do
so that would give him some money easily.
And there were some friends there
wanted to sell rent-a-car.
In the beginning he thought it's a good idea.
He bought it and he tried to work it
but he could see that this is not his business.
His business was racing.
And as he never had a real good contact
to us later on, we also didn't know his state.
Because he was also a good actor.
Acting nicely to everybody else,
but then pulled back to be on his own.
I have to say,
he never asked the family to help him.
I don't know why. Maybe he didn't trust us.
Maybe he thought we couldn't help him.
He wanted to go his way.
He wanted to do it all by himself.
He stayed in this apartment and we got these calls
that he can't control his medicine
and it is better when somebody is coming
to check what he's doing.
And as my mother was working
and my brother as well
and I was a student and
I had holidays in the summer,
it was me who got sent out to see how he is.
So I came here and all I found was a dead body.
I came too late.
I think it's pretty fair to say that
if Degner hadn't defected
and taken his knowledge to Suzuki,
as a result of which
they were able to achieve racing success
that it dramatically affected the whole
worldwide motorcycle industry.