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The Birth of DEFA Genre Cinema, East German Sci-fi Films, New Technologies, and Coproduction with Eastern Europe: Der schweigende Stern (Silent Star, Kurt Maetzig, 1960)

  • Sebastian Heiduschke

Abstract

The launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, threw the Western hemisphere into a crisis and put the Cold War space race on another level. The communist world, led by the Soviet Union, had landed a psychological victory, something it would repeat when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space on April 12, 1961. The moon landing and the first steps taken on the moon by the US astronaut Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969, helped the western world catch up. This portion of space exploration took place over nearly 15 years, but in science fiction, time is often handled differently. The first East German sci-fi film, Der schweigende Stern (Silent Star, 1960) illustrates this by taking place in the future—1970—and by following an international team of scientists on an expedition to planet Venus. Studying Der schweigende Stern from a variety of angles, as we will see, reveals a fascinating glimpse into East German filmmaking at the end of the 1950s. Der schweigende Stern also set a number of records: DEFA’s first science fiction film, its first genre film, and the “most expensive DEFA film ever made.”1

Keywords

Atomic Bomb Eastern Bloc Foreign Actor Moon Landing Nuclear Chain Reaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Stefan Soldovieri, “Socialists in Outer Space: East German Film’s Venusian Adventure,” Film History 10 (1998): 382–398.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kurt Maetzig, Filmarbeit. Gespräche, Reden, Schriften, ed. Günter Agde (Berlin: Henschel, 1987), 124.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Stanislav Lem, Astronauci (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1951).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Michael Grisko. “Zwischen Sozialphilosophie und Actionfilm: Grenzen und Möglichkeiten des Science-Fiction Genres bei der DEFA,” in Apropos: Film 2002: Das Jahrbuch der DEFA-Stiftung, ed. Ralf Schenk and Erika Richter (Berlin: Bertz, 2002), 112. See also chapter 1 in this book about the genre Gegenwartsfilm.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    In the eyes of Detlef Kannapin, international solidarity is the main issue of DEFA sci-fi films. See Detlef Kannapin, “‘Peace in Space’: Die DEFA im Weltraum. Anmerkungen zu Fortschritt und Utopie im Filmschaffen der DDR,” in Zukunft im Film. Sozialwissenschaftliche Studien zu “Star Trek” und anderer Science Fiction, ed. Frank Hörnlein and Herbert Heinicke (Magdeburg: Scriptum, 2000), 55–70.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Mariana Ivanova, “DEFA and East-European Cinemas: Co-Productions, Transnational Exchange andArtistic Collaborations,” PhD diss., (The University of Texas at Austin, 2011), 117.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    For more on DEFA genre cinema, see Daniela Berghahn, Hollywood Behind the Wall: The Cinema of East Germany (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), 39–43.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Intervision, officially called OIRT (Organisation Internationale de Radio-diffusion et de Télévision), did exist as a counter-organization to the Western European Eurovision. See Kenneth Harwood, “An Association of Soviet-Sphere Broadcasters: The International Radio and Television Organization,” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 5, no. 1 (1960): 61–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 21.
    Frederic Jameson. “Science Fiction and the German Democratic Republic,” Science Fiction Studies 11, no. 2 (July 1984): 194–199.Google Scholar
  10. 28.
    Burkhard Ciesla, “‘Droht der Menschheit Vernichtung?’ Der schweigende Stern / First Spaceship on Venus: Ein Vergleich,” in Apropos: Film 2002: Das Jahrbuch der DEFA-Stiftung, ed. Ralf Schenk and Erika Richter (Berlin: Bertz, 2002), 121–136.Google Scholar
  11. 29.
    See Sebastian Heiduschke, “Communists and Cosmonauts in Mystery Science Theater 3000: De-Camping FirstSpaceship on Venus/SilentStar,” in The Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000: Essays on Film, Fandom, Technology and the Culture of Riffing, ed. Robert Weiner and Shelley Barbra (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011), 40–45.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sebastian Heiduschke 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Heiduschke

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