Fairy Tales and Literary Adaptations


Fairy Tales and Literary Adaptations

Early on the DEFA made a policy of presenting the GDR as heir to Germany's best cultural traditions. In this spirit it produced adaptations of familiar fairy tales and filmed German literary classics such as "Emilia Galotti" (1957), "Kabale und Liebe" ("Intrigue and Love", 1959), "Die schwarze Galeere" ("The Black Galley", 1961/62) and "Minna von Barnhelm" (1962), all by theater director Martin Hellberg.

Source: DIF© DEFA-Stiftung
Thomas Schmidt (left) in "Die Geschichte vom kleinen Muck" ("The Story of Little Mook", 1953)

The popular fairy-tale films include Paul Verhoeven's "Das kalte Herz" ("Heart of Stone/The Cold Heart", 1950), the DEFA's first color film, Wolfgang Staudte's "Die Geschichte vom kleinen Muck" ("The Story of Little Mook", 1953) and "Das tapfere Schneiderlein" ("The Brave Little Tailor") by Helmut Spieß from 1956. This tradition of fairy-tale and children's films was successfully carried on to the very end of the DEFA: from the 1960s, with such productions as Siegfried Hartmann's "Die goldene Gans" ("The Golden Goose", 1964), on into the 1970s with films like Egon Schlegel's "Wer reißt denn gleich vor'm Teufel aus" (adaptation of "The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs", 1977), ending in the late 1980s with Konrad Petzold's "Die Geschichte der Gänseprinzessin" ("The Tale of the Goose Princess", 1989). To boost its international reputation, the DEFA also took part in a number of European co-productions, mainly with France, resulting in such films as "Die Abenteuer des Till Eulenspiegel" ("Bold Adventure/Till Eulenspiegel", 1956) directed by and starring Gérard Philipe, and the German-Czech co-production "Drei Nüsse für Aschenbrödel" ("Tri orísky pro Popelku/Three Nuts for Cinderella") from 1973, which is still hugely popular today. In 1957 "Die Hexen von Salem" ("Les Sorcières de Salem/The Crucible") was filmed from a screenplay by Jean-Paul Sartre based on Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible", starring Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, and "Die Elenden" ("Les Misérables", 1957/58), based on Victor Hugo's classic, featured Jean Gabin and Bernard Blier.

Source: DIF© DEFA-Stiftung, DEFA-Kilian
Lutz Moik and Paul Bildt (from left) in "Das kalte Herz" ("Heart of Stone / The Cold Heart", 1950)

Arthur Pohl's "Die Spielbank-Affäre" ("The Casino Affair", 1956/57), a co-production with Sweden, featured West German stars as well and was filmed in color and CinemaScope – in the GDR, however, it was shown only in black and white due to politicians' fears that its colorful decadence might make the west appear too attractive. A planned East/West German co-production of Thomas Mann's novel "Buddenbrooks", a project which had the author's express support, was stopped by the West German government.