Trace of Stones
|Trace of Stones|
|Directed by||Frank Beyer|
|Produced by||Dieter Dormeier|
|Screenplay by||Frank Beyer
|Based on||Trace of Stones
by Erik Neutsch
|Music by||Wolfram Heicking|
|Edited by||Hildegard Conrad-Nöller|
|Distributed by||PROGRESS Film-Verleih|
|Country||German Democratic Republic|
|Budget||2,700,000 East German Mark|
Trace of Stones (German: Spur der Steine) is a 1966 East German film by Frank Beyer. It was based on the eponymous novel by Erik Neutsch and starred Manfred Krug in the main role. After its release, the film was shown only for a few days, before being shelved due to conflicts with the Socialist Unity Party, the ruling communist party in the German Democratic Republic. Only after 23 years was the film shown again, in November 1989.
The film revolves around three characters. Hannes Balla is a talented, yet vulgar construction foreman. He leads a crew of about 20, all of which dress and act in a similarly delinquent fashion, to head a state-funded construction project. The Party sends secretary Werner Horrath to keep on eye on the construction site and get Balla to calm down. Entering the situation is Kati Klee, an ambitious technician who has come to the construction project against the advice of her superiors. What forms is a love triangle set against the personal politics of "The Party" as well as the work the three are supposed to be doing in benefit of the state. While the romance is the main focus of the film, socialist politics, particularly those working against corruption, lie prominently in the background. The party struggles to clean its ranks of the "morally defective" in order to get their projects done. In the end, the love triangle collapses while the lives of all three are worse because of it, ending with no one getting what they want. Not only that, but the work they were supposed to be doing suffered as a result. The film portrays going against the tenets of socialism as having a negative effect on their lives. By the end, they all realize this. Particularly Balla, who has matured greatly since the beginning of the film. He has become a much more disciplined socialist citizen. Overall, the portrayal of the party is a neutral one. They seem to be a nuisance, but in the end their existence is seen as justified. Balla is at first very critical of the party, but by the end has come to accept his role. While the film doesn't celebrate the party's role, it does not condemn it either. More importantly, the system of socialism is ultimately seen as a beneficial one.
The film version of Trace of Stones was based on the novel of the same name by writer Erik Neutsch. The novel was celebrated by the Socialist Unity Party (SED) of East Germany, and production of the film was expected to be free of the normal interference normally subjected to DEFA by the SED. Since the novel was 900 pages, some major alterations would need to be made to the story in order to make a film of reasonable length.
Initial screenings of the working print were attacked by high-ranking officials of the SED, much to the surprise of director Frank Beyer. They took issue with the portrayal of "The Party" in the film. While socialism is celebrated by the film, the party's role in it was viewed as neutral. The SED wanted their portrayal in the film to be one of a proactive agent of socialism. The SED, in an effort to create the illusion of studio autonomy, gave the film over to DEFA's internal approval process. It was approved, and the SED reluctantly allowed for distribution of the film.
11th Plenum and its aftermath
Many films were banned by the SED as they were seen as anti-socialist. This changed however in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell.
- Feinstein, Joshua. "Constructing the Mythic Present in the East German Cinema: Frank Beyer's 'Spur der Steine' and the 11th Plenum of 1965", Central European History, Vol. 32, No. 2 (1999): 203-220.