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Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty)

1971, East Germany, 73 minutes, color
Director: Walter Beck
Script: Margot Beichler, Gudrun Deubener-Rammler, Walter Beck
Directors of Photography: Lothar Gerber
Music: Klaus Lenz
Cast: Juliane Koren (Sleeping Beauty), Burkhard Mann (Prince), Helmut Schreiber (King), Evamaria Heyse (Queen), Dorothea Garlin (1st Fairy), Angela Brunner (2nd Fairy), Gerlinde Leider (3rd Fairy), Karin Gundermann (4th Fairy), Margot Busse (5th Fairy), Theresia Wider (6th Fairy), Renate Michel (7th Fairy), Renate-Catharina Schroff (8th Fairy), Verena Grimm (9th Fairy), Sonja Hörbing (10th Fairy), Brigitte Krause (11th Fairy), Barbara Dittus (12th Fairy), Vera Oelschlegel (13th Fairy)
Based on the tale by the Brothers Grimm
VHS-PAL, no subtitles
- renting information


The King and Queen plan an opulent feast to celebrate the birth of their long-awaited child, Dornröschen.  They invite not only the members of the court, but also the fairies, so that they may bestow wealth and virtue on the Princess.  But there are thirteen fairies, and only twelve golden plates-- so the king instructs his messenger to leave one fairy out, the Fairy of Industry.  Furious, she arrives at the celebration and wishes death upon the child:  on her fifteenth birthday, the child will prick her finger on a spindle and die.  Luckily the curse can be made milder, and one of the fairies prevents the death of Dornröschen.  However, to punish the King for his obsession with wealth and his rude treatment of the 13th fairy, she proclaims that when Dornröschen pricks her finger, she and the entire court will sleep for 100 years.

In an attempt to prevent this curse from taking effect, the King orders that all spindles in the kingdom be burned.  But nothing can stop the fairy's curse;  on her fifteenth birthday, Dornröschen is left alone in the castle, and she finds the thirteenth fairy in a tower, with the last spindle in the kingdom.  As predicted, Dornröschen pricks her finger, and the court must wait 100 years for a prince to wake them up.

Great attention is paid to the King's self-centered and indulgent attitude towards wealth. Visually, the court is designed to look like that of Louis XIV, and it is notable that his gift for Dornröschen's fifteenth birthday is that he has had her face engraved on the side of a coin.  More importantly, it is the King's self-interest that brings ruin upon the kingdom;  in trying to shield his daughter from the fairy's curse, he loses sight of all those whose livelihood depends on spinning.  More clearly than any other DEFA fairy tale, Dornröschen shows the importance of placing the good of the collective ahead of the good of the individual.

Also clear in this version of Dornröschen is the element of the modern.  The costumes of the fairies and the princess have a distinct 1970's flair, as does the music.  This is not to confuse time periods, but rather to indicate a separation between those who are stuck in their ways (ie, the King, the court), and those who accept the changing times (ie, Dornröschen, the Prince).  The passing of the crown from the King and Queen to Dornröschen and the Prince marks the beginning of a new era-- an era in which all social strata are dissolved, an era in which the kitchen help work next to royalty to build a new and forward-thinking society. 

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Jessica Hale