DEFA Film Library
at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Cinema of East Germany
Der schweigende Stern (The Silent Star)
/ GDR, 1960, color, 95 min.
The original and unedited version available for the very first time on the North American market!
Special DVD features: gallery of original set
design sketches and original international distribution posters, interview with
the director, essay and information about film and production team
Synopsis and additional information:
The first sci-fi film made in East Germany. The Silent Star is based on Stanislaw Lem's science fiction novel, The Astronauts (1951). An international expedition is sent to Venus in 1970 to uncover the mystery of a reel of unknown material found in the Gobi desert in 1908. A member of the crew deciphers a message on the reel and discovers it is a declaration of war on the Earth. The movie was praised as a technical masterpiece and hit theaters during the U.S.-Soviet space race set off by the Sputnik launch. The film team understood it as a warning against atomic war as well as a parable about international communication.
An abridged and altered version of The Silent Star was released in the U.S. in 1962. Dubbed and 15 minutes shorter, this version introduced new names, changed the dialogue and deleted important scenes.
In addition to director Kurt Maetzig, one of the pioneers of postwar German cinema, The Silent Star features two key figures in film history:
Scriptwriter Jan Fethke (1903-1980) also wrote the script for the famous German movie, Mother Krausen Goes to Heaven (1929). Fritz Lang's last big production The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) was based on a Fethke crime story.
Special effects innovator Ernst Kunstmann (1898-1995) helped develop the Schüfftan effects which premiered in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927). After Hollywood successes, such as Dupont's Love me and the World Is Mine (1928), he and Eugen Schüfftan worked on Fritz Lang's The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse (1932). He was F.W. Murnau's special effects designer for The Last Laugh (1924) and worked on Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia (1938). His special effects for the sinking of the ship in the 1942/43 German film Titanic was so perfect that it was used as footage in the American remake of the 1950s. After WWII, Kunstmann became the director of the DEFA special effects department, where he worked on almost 100 films including, Marriage in the Shadows, The Singing, Ringing Tree and The Story of Little Mook.
This DVD release is supported by Film Polski, the DEFA Foundation and the Filmmuseum Potsdam.
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