Abwärts (movie)

Abwärts (lit. “downwards”, also known as “Out of Order”) is a German film directed by Carl Schenkel . It was released in 1984.


Gössmann, a bookkeeper who has just been robbed his employer of a large sum of money gets stuck in an elevator of an office tower together with Jörg, his lover Marion and the young Pit. Because it is Friday night and an engineer working on the elevators made a mistake, the alarm system is not working and nobody can hear them call for help.

Jörg and Pit antagonizes each other from the beginning based on their age and world views. Gössmann remains quiet in a corner of the cabin, while Marion shares with Pit and continues its ongoing quarrels with Jörg. Jörg and Pit who are the only ones who are physically fit, climb to the roof of the elevator and attempt to reach, but fail.

When Jörg returns the roof to a second time alone, he begins to climb and almost falls to death. Meanwhile Pit and Marion start flirting heavily, and Jörg becomes aware of when he returns. Jörg and Pit continues to grow in the face of a growing tension between them. When he gets his grip on the elevator shaft on the rope and accidentally slips, he is openly accusing Jörg of trying to kill him. Pit starts a fight on the elevator roof, but he slips and falls. Soon Jörg is suspected of having murdered Pit.

Then finally the malfunction in the alarm system is discovered. Engineers start to rescue the passengers, eventually with a rope through the shaft, after they fail to move the cabin with failsafe motors. Pit suddenly reappears after climbing up on a rope which is wrapped around it and is rescued first, heavily wounded. Marion and Gössmann are rescued, both without injuries. Jörg, who has minor injuries is rescued last, just as the last of the steel cables fails and the cabin crashes down. Because he would not let go of Gössmann’s money, only to fall in love with his death.


  • Götz George as Jörg
  • Hannes Jaenicke as Pit
  • Renée Soutendijk as Marion
  • Wolfgang Kieling as Gössmann


The main theme of the movie is the sudden life threatening situation. The film also explores the rivalry between men and women and being obsolete, or by being fired like Gössmann, who is too old to learn to adapt to computer bookkeeping and also Jörg, being fired for an unspecified reasons and losing his lover to another man. The conflicts do not happen independently of a reasonable collective effort to escape the predicament, but they determine the conditions for it, leading to further injury and death. A story told by Jörg to Pit in the film may be a metaphor for their situation: It is about a man who gets trapped in a refrigeration train because of its journey. He writes down notes of how to get away from him. But the refrigerator was not even turned on.


The movie was received favorably by both audience and critics. While the characters were criticized as being shallow and stereotypical, the movie itself was referred to as being authoritative and part of the way in which it was portrayed by the characters and their interactions under extreme circumstances. The film received several awards for directing, acting and best camera. It was among a few West German movies to be shown in the German Democratic Republic .