Film Screening Trace of Stones (1965/66)

Frank Beyer: Spur der Steine © DEFA-Stiftung/Klaus Schwarz © DEFA-Stiftung/Klaus Schwarz


Goethe-Institut New York

With an introduction by Cosmo Bjorkenheim.

Beside frank depictions of social problems in New York in the 1960s, Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries also gives an unsparing and unsentimental portrait of East Germany, where Johnson lived until he departed for West Berlin in 1959.

Filmed in widescreen black-and-white, Frank Beyer’s Trace of Stones is perhaps the best-known East German film in today’s Germany, a daring political statement presented in the form of an interpersonal drama, and a great cinematic document of social conflicts in East Germany at the time. On a construction site plagued by shortages and poor planning, two men from different worlds confront each other—the swaggering pragmatist who leads an elite crew of carpenters, and the obedient bureaucrat who represents the Party’s interests. They fall in love with the same woman, an engineer on her first big assignment. (Museum of Modern Art, Germany 66)

Arguably the most important DEFA film of the 1960s, Trace of Stones was censored and shelved by East German officials for 25 years following its release. Beyer suffered professionally as a result and was forced to leave DEFA studios and work in television until he filmed his comeback Jakob the Liar in 1975, which went on to receive East Germany's first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Beyer was originally set to direct the TV mini-series adaptation of Anniversaries in the late 1990s, but was replaced in pre-production by Margarethe von Trotta due to creative differences with the producers. 

Trace of Stones (Spur der Steine)
East Germany, 1965/66, 134 minutes
Directed by Frank Beyer. With Manfred Krug, Krystyna Stypułkowska, Eberhard Esche

Cosmo Bjorkenheim is a bookseller and a long-time contributor to Screen Slate. He lives in Queens.