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DEFA 70mm in Oslo
Introduction to the presentations

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Ingolf Vonau, Berlin, Germany Date: 15. January 2007
The 70mm Film festival in Oslo 2007 is very pleased to present 3 Films from the former East German Film company DEFA. Not from all DEFA 70mm productions are show able prints available today. The choice is limited, but each selected film stands as a qualitative highlight of its genre.

As a short introduction a few words about the DEFA 70mm history:

DEFA's work with 70mm film in the 1960s was closely related to worldwide attempts to better the quality of film significantly. By improving the nature of the film-going experience, the film industry hoped to draw viewers back into the cinema. In one fell swoop, they intended to reach a "world-class" level, as they saw this technology's possibility to produce popular and influential productions on a large scale. However, in East Germany, film never existed without politics. Party and state leaders never considered film to be an industry, but rather a cultural tool that was ideal for the distribution of an prevailing ideology. In order to become third in the world in 70mm wide screen film production (behind the United States and the Soviet Union), DEFA needed to set a broad range of technological and structural improvements in motion. Project '70mm' as it was called in the GDR economic plan included not only the filming, editing, copying and dubbing, but also the Presentation of the films in newly-built or renovated theatres. The domestic film factory in Wolfen (first AGFA and then ORWO) delivered the necessary material and made possible the development of new artistic forms in colour wide-screen cinema. The actual filming was done with Russian cameras that had been adapted specifically for this use and also with a camera that was specially made in the DEFA Studio - the DEFA 70 Reflex. The developing, copying and sound editing were done with components that were specially adapted for this purpose.

Technicians built universal projectors (UP 700) and amplifiers (P 60) for the 70mm cinemas. With this technology it was also possible to play 70mm films from the West. The development of 70mm in the GDR did not proceed without objections in some circles, which resulted in the first feature production appearing in 1968.

DEFA 70mm production includes a total of three documentaries and seven feature films. At the beginning of the 1970s, the 70mm film project was cancelled primarily due to the enormous cost of such productions.

Short summary of an article by Ingolf Vonau about the 70mm-Filmformat in the GDR
First Appearance in the book:
Weltwunder der Kinematographie Sechste Ausgabe 2002,
Polzer Media Group GmbH D-14413 Potsdam

(Contributions Towards The Cultural History Of Film Technology, Edited by Joachim Polzer, Sixth Edition 2002, The Rise and Fall of Talking Movies)

More in 70mm reading:

9. Todd-AO 70mm-Festival 2013
Looking for DEFA 70
Widescreen Weekend 1999
DEFA70 films

Internet link:


The 70mm Productions of DEFA

(1967, Director / Director of Photography: Werner Bergmann)

Hauptmann Florian von der Mühle
(1968, Directed by Werner W. Wallroth,
Director of Photography: Eberhard Borkmann, H. J. Kruse)

Du bist Min - Ein deutsches Tagebuch
(1969, Directed by: Annelie & Andrew Thorndike, Director of Photography: Ernst Oeltze)

Wladimir lljitsch Uljanow Lenin
(1970, Director: Annelie & Andrew Thorndike, Director of Photography: E. Oeltze and H. Ihde)
-documentary, using only old material and art skills to combine and six channel sound-mix

Signale - Ein Weltraumabenteuer
(1970, Director: Gotfried Kolditz, Director of Photography: Otto Hanisch)

KLK an PTX - Die Rote Kapelle
(1971, Directed by Horst E. Brandt, Director of Photography: G. Haubold, W. Heydn)

Goya - oder der arge Weg der Erkenntnis
(1971, Directed by Konrad Wolf, Director of Photography: W. Bergmann, K. Ryshow)

(1972, Directed by Werner W. Wallroth, Director of Photography: H. J. Kruse)

(1972, Directed by Herrmann Zschoche, Director of Photography:G. Jauthe)

Orpheus in der Unterwelt
(1974, Directed by Horst Bonnet, Director of Photography: Otto Hanisch)


Du bist Min – Ein deutsches Tagebuch

Du bist Min – Ein deutsches Tagebuch
DEFA 1969, Directed by: Annelie & Andrew Thorndike,
Director of Photography: Ernst Oeltze

A declared belief in socialism – filmed in ORWO colour and 70mm. Be aware it could be propaganda!

This film is the final result of an five years development-, testing- and production period with 70mm of the DEFA documentary filmmaker Andrew Thorndike and with no doubt  the most expensive and large-scale documentary film-project of DEFA. But in the end the final film version is just a torso of an original idea of the big East German 70mm Documentary Film Production.

Annelie and Andrew Thorndike definitely belong to the most important documentary film makers of Eastern Europe. Their film “The Russian Wonder” alone, was shown in 80 countries and got awarded with the Russian Lenin Prize.
That opened many doors for DEFA officials. Andrew Thorndike was a key figure in the whole development of using 70mm in east German filmmaking. He wanted to make in 70mm an ultimate artistic film poem about the creation of a truly German Wonder, the GDR, connected to and based on German history.

The project was given the name “Germania und ihre Kinder” (“Germania and its Children”) but was later renamed into “Die Deutschen” (“The Germans”), a 70mm documentary film in two parts, filmed at important cultural and political sites of both East- and West Germany. This film was finished in the summer of 1968 but could get in no way an official permission to be shown in public. On the contrary the ministry of culture demanded subsequently changing's and handed out a cutting list. The filmmakers agreed with bleeding hearts as the party demanded, just to rescue the project in a way for Andrew Thorndike and his love for 70mm. The Intention of the film was basically changed and became a more or less glorification of the eastern part of Germany in a declared love to the GDR and a reckoning with the unchanged society in western Germany. Now the leading topic of the film becomes the question: Who in Germany did more for Germany?

The new title. "Du bist Min – Ein deutsches Tagebuch" ("You are mine – a German diary") based on a very old German love-minnesong from the poet Walther von der Vogelweide, taken as a motto for the whole film. The diary of Annelie Thorndike makes the viewer familiar with her life and professional activities, her thoughts, convictions and emotions.

A unique project, highly poetical words, wonderful 70mm aerial photography with a stabilized camera and avant-garde music, artistically arranged historical footage, a six channel stereophonic sound and never seen better ORWO colour deliver a distinctive experience.

Festivals and Awards:

• Moscow International Film Festival, Special Jury Award, 1969
• Paris UNIATEC Conference, Consolation Prize, 1970

Goya – oder der arge Weg der Erkenntnis

Goya – oder der arge Weg der Erkenntnis
(Goya – or the hard way to enlightment)
DEFA 1971, Directed by Konrad Wolf,
Director of Photography: W. Bergmann, K. Ryshow

Certainly the most important and artistic significant 70mm Feature Film Production of DEFA

Don Francisco de Goya Lucientes (1746 - 1828) is an artist to the court of Karl IV of Spain. He is well known and well-to-do, but feels himself becoming more and more remote from the daily life and suffering of the Spanish people. After meeting the singer Maria Rosario in a Madrid tavern, where she is singing revolutionary songs, he becomes even more reflective. Rosario is hauled before the Inquisition. Goya is invited to attend as a warning not to stray from the official path. But it doesn't stop him from increasingly leaving the castle to portray the desires and nightmares of simple people in his paintings. Soon the Inquisition is on his trail…

Based on Lion Feuchtwanger's novel "This is the hour – Goya", and starring the Lithuanian actor Donatas Banionis as main character, the director Konrad Wolf creates an unconventional adaptation with images of lasting impressions.

Declared aim of that big DEFA co production with the Russian LENFILM was to portrait the character of the artist Goya and to show his painful process of enlightenment in realizing the true Spanish society. How closely can an artist align himself with the powers that be if he wants to be honest and creative?

A destiny of an artist as allegory to present.

The film was supposed to be different to the western style of biographical illustrative screen adaptations in using the cinematographic tools.

Director of Photography Werner Bergmann and his Russian Colleague Konstantin Ryshow were trying to bring to appear their special view on how to use wide-screen photography in filmmaking. According to their principle that only the task not the possibility demands the format. A point of view sometimes contrary to the western view of cinematography.

At premier night the 2 part film had a length of 161 min. Some months later the director himself changed the montage and shortened the film to 134 min. It was his own decision to make the intention in portraying the painter Goya more understandable. This last version is the only available one.

Festivals and Awards:

• Moscow International Film Festival, Special Jury Award, 1971


DEFA 1972, Directed by Herrmann Zschoche
Director of Photography: G. Jauthe

Eolomea - A look into a communist future on a peaceful earth and beyond. Or as it's called by DEFA technicians: A soviet camera, ORWO film and 70mm – The most difficult job of all.

Eight space ships have disappeared without a trace near space station Margot. Shortly afterwards Morse-code-like signals are received, which spell out the word "Eolomea". Scientific director Maria learns that her rival, Professor Tal, has been working on a forbidden project with this name. She confronts Tal, who then tells her of a legendary planet which is Earth's counterpart….

After "Signale – Ein Weltraumabenteuer" ("Signals – An adventure in Space", DEFA 1970) this film is the second and last attempt of DEFA to tell a science fiction story in 70mm. For the trick and special effects department "Eolomea" stands as the highlight of the whole DEFA development on this field. For the new time-laps photography and its model animation technology the film has been awarded by the UNIATEC in 1972 with the Grand Prix.

But special effects and space technology are just one aspect of the film, at least a small. In its priority the film tries to discuss human moral questions about the man of tomorrow. But a tomorrow of mankind without conflicts from the outside does not create a dramatically storyline. These lack of suspense in a spectacular film is quite pitiful and hard to compensate. But there is a good play of the international cast, especial lead by the Dutch actress Cox Habbema and the East German actor Rolf Hoppe. The future in the film had many connections to the present of the viewer in 1972, some items placed in the set and also some verbal jokes had certain hidden messages but are maybe hard to understand for a western audience today. To accept that challenge delivers the fun of this motion picture now.

The film score of the young East German Jazz-Composer Günther Fischer is quite remarkable. His music between art rock and electronic rock represents a tuneful parallel to images recalling James Bond movies, as well as the psychedelic impressions of Kubrick's "2001 – A Space Odyssey". Fischer's pieces were produced with his own personal sound equipment, the likes of which the DEFA music department could only dream of. The final 6-channel Soundtrack has been mixed at DEFA sound facilities. A sixties style movie, filmed in Bulgaria and DEFA Studios in cooperation with MOSFILM Moscow.

"Eolomea" an 1972-East Germany-Psychological Sci-Fi. This East German space-travel film depicts the difficulties experienced by intrepid explorers: resistance to new exploration by bureaucrats, confusing instructions from scientists, the lure of the familiar and, of course, the difficulties of the exploration itself. In this film, the planet which might be explored, if the bureaucrats will look the other way for a moment, is called Eolomea. ~
Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide

Festivals and Awards:

• Berlin UNIATEC Conference Grand Prize, 1972
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