Carbide and Sorrel

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Karbid und Sauerampfer
Directed by Frank Beyer
Produced by Martin Sonnabend
Written by Frank Beyer , Hans Oliva
Starring Erwin Geschonneck
Music by Joachim Werzlau
Cinematography Günter Marczinkowsky
Edited by Hildegard Conrad
Release dates
27 December 1963
Running time
85 minutes
Country East Germany
Language German

Carbide and Sorrel (German: Karbid und Sauerampfer) is a 1963 East German film directed by Frank Beyer and starring Erwin Geschonneck.


At [In] 1945, in the devastated city of Dresden, Karl 'Kalle' Blücher - a former worker in the cigarettes factory - returns home, wishing to resume his job. [He finds the factory in ruins, presumably destroyed during the war.] The chief of the reconstruction team explains that the plant cannot produce cigarettes without carbide [needed for welding in order to replace the destroyed roof]. He assigns Kalle with the mission to obtain the material. The worker [Kalle] travels [walks] to Wittenberge and manages to secure nine [seven not nine] [50 kilo] barrels, [but has no transportation. He proceeds to try to hitchhike back to Dresden with his seven 55 gallon sized barrels.] but his return to Dresden turns into a long chain of comical incidents: at first, a war widow named Karla allows him to travel on her wagon [about 2 kilometers to her farm house where they become romantically entwined]. Afterwards, he encounters [a comical portrayal of a stereotype] greedy American soldiers [actually only one, a corporal in a speed boat], Red Army troops [both helpful and not] [One of whom] who confiscate some of his barrels [while others assist him with permits and rides. Remember that at the time the film was shot the Red Army still occupied the DDR and had to be shown in essentially a positive light] and other obstacles. Eventually, after many [mis]adventures, he brings two barrels back and [the movie ends as Kalle heads back to Karla on a borrowed bicycle]. [Maybe he] marries Karla. [that is not part of the picture.] A marvelous film showing ordinary people dealing with the aftermath of the war. Not at all like some of the more strident films coming out of the former East Germany. This film shows a variety of appealing characters - both good hearted and rogues - each trying to cope in his or her own way.


  • Erwin Geschonneck as Karl 'Kalle' Blücher
  • Fritz Diez as reconstruction chief
  • Fred Delmare as coachman
  • Horst Giese as uncredited role
  • Frank Michelis as worker
  • Hermann Eckhardt as worker
  • Georg Helge as worker
  • Marita Böhme as Karla
  • Manja Behrens as Clara
  • Margot Busse as Karin
  • Peter Dommisch as Paul
  • Werner Möhring as Peter
  • Rudolf Asmus as singer
  • Hans-Dieter Schlegel as American soldier
  • Bruno Carstens as Police officer
  • Fred Ludwig as Ganove
  • Günter Rüger as man with the marmelade
  • Alexei Presnetsov as Soviet commandant
  • Leonid Svetloff as Red Army supply officer
  • Jochen Thomas as Locomotive driver
  • Albert Zahn as Locomotive driver
  • Otto Saltzmann as old man
  • Wolfram Handel as traveler
  • Gerd Ehlers as butscher
  • Hans Hardt-Hardtloff as the commissar
  • Peter Kalisch as the man with the hut
  • Elsa Grube-Deister as woman in the sawmill
  • Gina Presgott as woman in the sawmill
  • Agnes Kraus as woman in the cemetery
  • Sabine Thalbach as woman in the cemetery
  • Else Koren as woman in the cemetery
  • Maria Besendahl as woman in the cemetery
  • Gertrud Brendler as woman in the cemetery


Frank Beyer recounted that the script was authorized without unusual problems. But after the filming ended, the representatives of the East German Ministry of Culture were worried that the portrayal of Red Army soldiers as comical plunderers would offend the Soviet Union. The deputy Minister then took a copy of the film to Moscow and arranged a screening for a local audience. The attendants broke into a loud laughter during the viewing, and it was approved for mass screening.[1]

Actor Erwin Geschonneck told that "In Carbide and Sorrel we did not ignore the hardships of the time. We did not turn the people who rebuilt the country into a joke... We knew that, in spite of all the challenges back then, the people also had funny experiences and knew to laugh about them."[2]


The film was well received.[3] Author Joshua Feinstein noted that "the picture spared no one, including the Red Army, in its satire. The work also subtly undermined the official accounts of the GDR's history."[4] Seán Allan and John Sandford wrote that "it took a deceptively light-hearted look at the division of Germany" and was a "milestone in DEFA's history."[5] Catherine Fowler concluded that it was one of the "most prominent" examples of "DEFA comedies... relaxed enough to laugh at their own Germanness."[6]

Frank Beyer's codename in the Stasi files, Karbid, was inspired by the film's title.[7]


  1. ^ Ingrid Poss. Spur der Filme: Zeitzeugen über die DEFA. ISBN 978-3-86153-401-3. Pages 186-7.
  2. ^ Dagmar Schittly. Zwischen Regie und Regime. Die Filmpolitik der SED im Spiegel der DEFA-Produktionen. ISBN 978-3-86153-262-0. Page 123.
  3. ^ Margaret McCarthy. Light motives: German popular film in perspective. ISBN 978-0-8143-3044-9. Page 236.
  4. ^ Joshua Feinstein. The Triumph of the Ordinary: Depictions of Daily Life in the East German Cinema, 1949-1989. ISBN 978-0-8078-5385-6. Page 178.
  5. ^ Seán Allan, John Sandford. DEFA: East German cinema, 1946-1992. ISBN 978-1-57181-753-2. Page 11.
  6. ^ Catherine Fowler. The European cinema reader. ISBN 978-0-415-24092-5. Page 155.
  7. ^ Daniela Berghahn. Hollywood behind the Wall: the cinema of East Germany. ISBN 978-0-7190-6172-1. Page 28.

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