Trail of the Stones (movie)

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original title trace of the stones
production country GDR
original language German
Publishing year 1966
length 139 minutes
age rating FSK 6
directing Frank Beyer
script Karl Georg Egel ,
Frank Beyer
music Wolfram Heicking ,
Hans Kunze
camera Gunter Marczinkowsky
cut Hildegard Conrad

Trace of the Stones is a contemporary film from 1966 produced by the DEFA Studio for Feature Films, Artistic Working Group (KAG) "Heinrich Greif". The director was Frank Beyer , who also wrote the screenplay with Karl Georg Egel . It is based on the novel of the same name by Erik Neutsch . The film premiered in Potsdam on the eve of the 8th GDR Workers' Festival and then ran in a number of cinemas before it was withdrawn from the program due to "anti-socialist tendencies". It is therefore one of the banned films of the GDR . The film was not allowed to be shown again in the GDR until October 1989, and a little later it was shown at the 1990 Berlinale in the Federal Republic of Germany.


The carpenter and brigade leader (foreman) Hannes Balla works on the GDR construction site in Schkona . Balla and his people don't think much of the bureaucratic rules of the planned economy , but they are still among the most productive work brigades in construction. If necessary, they use force to obtain missing material. Nevertheless, their methods are initially tolerated by the construction management due to their work performance. One day, when the idealistic SED party secretary Werner Horrath took up his duties at the construction site, he initially felt his authority was being undermined, but he nevertheless succeeded in winning over Balla, whom he values ​​as a first-class worker, to his idea of ​​higher productivity in order to improve working conditions to improve.

The two men soon share a mixture of mutual respect, but also a certain rivalry for the love of engineer Kati Klee, who is also new to the construction site. Both men fall in love with Kati, but Horrath finally manages to win Kati's heart. He starts a secret love affair because he is already married, doesn't want to jeopardize his party post and also can't separate from his family. Later Kati becomes pregnant. Out of party loyalty, however, she does not reveal her father's name and thus protects Horrath, who in turn becomes more and more estranged from Kati and gets into a crisis in which he has to decide between fulfilling his duty and his love for Kati. This creates unrest on the construction site as long as paternity has not been clarified. Only when Kati finally wants to break away from him does he publicly confess to her and thereby lose all party posts. His wife files for divorce, so Horrath has to work as a laborer in Hannes Balla's brigade. Balla is ultimately the person who defends him in a disqualification process.

origin story

novel template

The film is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Erik Neutsch, which was published in 1964 and won the GDR National Prize in the same year. The DEFA studio for feature films offered film director Frank Beyer, who was a permanent member of the DEFA staff at the time, but was not entirely convinced of the project at first, to film the novel. As he later said, Beyer needed some time to recognize the quality of the extensive material. Despite the novel, which was praised by the SED, and a clearly socialist position, the novel depicts a realistic depiction of everyday life in the GDR.

Although Neutsch agreed to a film adaptation, he was not interested in later working on the film adaptation, so Beyer conceived a screenplay for a 180-minute film together with Karl-Georg Egel. In another version, the author duo later shortened the script to just under two hours and submitted it to the cultural department of the Central Committee of the SED for assessment, knowing full well that the project was on the edge of what is permissible.

pre-production and production

Film director Beyer initially wanted to cast the three main roles with Manfred Krug , Armin Mueller-Stahl and Jutta Hoffmann , but was only able to fall back on Manfred Krug because the other actors were already involved in other film projects. The singer and actor, who was already very popular at the time, embodied Hannes Balla in a rather cheerful and natural way due to his talent for improvisation. In this way, he was able to enrich the film with humorous improvisations that were not planned at the beginning and were only later developed together with Beyer. In addition to Krug, Jutta Hoffmann also took part in the strip, but only as a dubbing voice for the Polish actress Krystyna Stypułkowska.

Spur der Steine had a film budget of 2.7 million marks , about three times more than an average DEFA film in the mid-1960s.

When shooting began on May 3, 1965, Frank Beyer was summoned to the then Minister of Culture , Hans Bentzien , who was concerned about a "correct" portrayal of the SED party officials, although Beyer, as was customary at the time, had given the script to all instances months in advance submitted and finally received approval for production. Nevertheless, the shooting, which took place outside in the industrial areas of Leuna and Schwedt and in Coswig (Anhalt) , was completed on October 5, 1965, so that by the end of the month a rough cut version was available for approval by the Film Department of the Ministry of Culture . The acceptance was overshadowed by the increasing critical appraisal by the members of the Film Head Office, who had previously not approved the productions Just don't think, I'm crying by Frank Vogel and I'm the rabbit by Kurt Maetzig . The contemporary film Trace of the Stones was approved by the committee at the end of October and was expressly praised, although Beyer feared massive criticism.

Only two months later, on the XI. Plenum of the Central Committee of the SED in December 1965, the cultural and political mood changed fundamentally. Under the chairmanship of the Central Committee Secretary at the time , Erich Honecker , twelve productions – almost the entire DEFA annual production of contemporary films – were classified as critical of the regime and withdrawn from distribution. These films were unofficially referred to as basement films because they disappeared into the archives unscreened. Other film projects were banned from further work as early as the planning phase or early production. The Minister of Culture at the time, Bentzien, and DEFA director Jochen Mückenberger , who were relieved of their posts and replaced by compliant party functionaries, were considered politically responsible for this anti-socialist attitude . These in turn were subordinate to the new Minister of Culture , Klaus Gysi .

Spur der Steine , which had previously been released by the Ministry of Culture's main film department, was now intended to rehabilitate the DEFA studio for feature films. He encountered severe criticism from cultural officials and Minister of Culture Gysi, so that Beyer was forced to edit his film before it was finally released for showing at the Potsdam Workers' Festival.



On June 15, 1966, Spur der Steine premiered on the eve of the 8th Workers' Festival in Potsdam's Thalia cinema, where it ran for 14 days. It became a hit with the public. Driven by the positive mood, 56 film prints were planned for a nationwide cinema release in the GDR and participation at the International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad). The film should be classified as "particularly valuable" - all good prerequisites for a solid cinema success.

Nevertheless, the film subsequently came under the crosshairs of the censors again . On June 29, the secretariat of the ZK (Central Committee of the SED) discussed Trace of the Stones and decided to discontinue the film no later than a week after it opened in cinemas. “Advertising was reduced, posters were pasted over, and a review of the film was only allowed to be published in Neues Deutschland . In addition, participation in the festival in Karlovy Vary was canceled and the film was not given a rating after all."

At the film premiere on June 30, 1966 in East Berlin 's International cinema , where director Frank Beyer and all the main actors were present, a scandal broke out. After a few minutes, the screening was disrupted by organized protests, which had a massive impact on film operations with heckling. The reason for their displeasure was the portrayal of the workers and party secretaries in this film, which allegedly "presented an SED that is deeply divided internally, that has two opposing wings". The Minister for Culture in the GDR at the time, Klaus Gysi , justified the protest as "because of the incorrect political positions of his director [was] also artistically very weak, just a botched work in every respect!" With the exception of one performance, it took place in the " International" until July 3rd to no further disturbances. After that the film was cancelled. However, further film screenings in East Berlin, Rostock and Leipzig were boycotted in the same way, so that the film had to be removed from the program after only three days. Reporting in the media of the GDR was forbidden, only the SED-controlled New Germany published a "controlled" film review at the time. Nevertheless, in the few days before the ban, 8,000 people watched the film in East Berlin alone.

“The film Trace of the Stones does not do justice to the size of the subject. It gives a distorted picture of our socialist reality, the struggle of the working class, its glorious party and the self-sacrificing work of its members. […] The film does not capture the ethos, the political and moral force of the party of the working class and the idea of ​​socialism, but it does bring scenes to the screen that rightly aroused outrage among viewers.”

Hans Konrad : Traces of the stones? To a film by Frank Beyer . Movie review. In: New Germany , July 6, 1966

The film Spur der Steine , classified as anti-party and anti-state , then disappeared from the DEFA archives for 23 years. Frank Beyer, who did not want to distance himself from his work, was accused of alienating and falsifying a novel and was unable to make any cinema films for years – despite the intervention of the author Erik Neutsch . His contract with the state film production company DEFA was terminated and he was banished to the theater in Dresden. From 1969 he worked as a director for East German television and shot television series. From 1974 Beyer worked again at DEFA, where he later staged Jurek Becker's Jakob der Lügner . It was the only GDR production to be nominated for an Oscar in the best foreign language film category. Nevertheless, there were constant arguments with those responsible for culture in the GDR, which hindered Beyer in his artistic endeavors. From 1980 he received permission to also realize film projects in the Federal Republic.


Manfred Krug (left) and Egon Krenz (right) at the re-release of the film on November 23, 1989 at the Kino International in Berlin

On October 28, 1989, the film was shown publicly for the first time since 1966 in the Berlin club of cultural workers "Johannes R. Becher" and from November 23, 1989 it was again shown publicly in East German cinemas. This time he received consistently favorable film reviews, as he did later in West Berlin at the 1990 Berlinale .

With 256,948 cinemagoers in 1990, Trace of the Stones took 62nd place on the list of the most successful films of the year in Germany.


The fictional main location of the film, the town of Schkona , is reminiscent of the neighboring industrial locations (and in the 1950s actual large construction sites) Schkopau (Bunawerke) and Leuna in the chemical triangle near Halle and Leipzig, where the filming partly took place. The proximity of Schkona to Leipzig is mentioned in the film.


  • Frank Beyer: When the wind turns , Munich Ullstein paperback publishing house 2002, ISBN 3-548-60218-5
  • Film Museum Potsdam: The Second Life of Film City Babelsberg: DEFA 1946-1992 , Potsdam 1994, ISBN 3-89487-175-X
  • Gabriele Muschter and Rüdiger Thomas: Rolf Richter in Flashbacks, Beyond State Culture , Munich 1992, ISBN 3-446-17059-6
  • Ralf Schenk: director: Frank Beyer , Edition Hentrich, Berlin 1995, ISBN 978-3-89468-156-2
  • Ralf Schenk : The art and the power. Frank Beyer's 'Trail of the Stones' and his plea for democratic socialism. In: Ralf Schenk & Andreas Kötzing (eds.): Forbidden Utopia. The SED, the DEFA and the 11th Plenum , series of publications by the DEFA Foundation , Bertz + Fischer Verlag , Berlin: 2015, ISBN 978-3-86505-406-7 , pp. 257–276.
  • Jeanette Toussaint: Cinema in the film city of Babelsberg. Hundred Years of Thalia , Potsdam 2018, ISBN 978-3-00-058875-4
  • Stefan Volk: Trace of the stones . In: Stefan Volk: Scandal films. Cinematic excitement yesterday and today. , Marburg 2011. pp. 163–169. ISBN 978-3-89472-562-4

web links


  1. Frank Beyer: When the wind turns. Munich Ullstein paperback publisher 2002, ISBN 3-548-60218-5 , p. 127
  2. Joshua Feinstein. The Triumph of the Ordinary: Depictions of Daily Life in the East German Cinema, 1949-1989 . University of North Carolina Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-8078-5385-6 . p. 187.
  3. ^ a b Axel Geiss. Repression and freedom: DEFA directors between foreign and self-determination . Brandenburg State Center for Political Education, 1997. ISBN 978-3-932502-03-3 . p. 79.
  4. Jeanette Toussaint, Cinema in the Filmstadt Babelsberg, pp. 88/89. According to new research by the author in the Potsdam daily press, the film ran for 14 days and not for a week as stated on page 88.
  5. Stefan Volk in Scandal Films , p. 166
  6. a b cf. Ralf Schenk in director: Frank Beyer , pp. 54-64
  7. Jeanette Toussaint, Cinema in the Filmstadt Babelsberg, p. 89.
  8. Hans Helmut Prinzler . Political cinema spook in East Berlin . The Time , July 29, 1966.
  9. Matthias Judt (ed.): GDR history in documents . Federal Agency for Civic Education, Volume 350 (1998), ISBN 978-3-89331-307-5 , pp. 327/328
  10. Nominations and Awards from the Internet Movie Database
  12. Top 100 Germany 1990 .