Memory of a Landscape - For Manuela

(Erinnerung an eine Landschaft – für Manuela)

GDR, 1983, 84 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Music (Score)
Production Company


This documentary tackles a difficult and politically sensitive East German environmental issue taking place in the early 1980s. South of Leipzig, villages are being demolished to make way for open-pit mining. For almost four years, the film crew follows two of these communities and, as the landscape changes, so do the lives of the people. It is a struggle for the older generation, in particular, to leave their familiar homes, but some of the younger people enjoy the unaccustomed comforts of newly-built apartment buildings.


This film calls on allegories about the loss of homeland and the destruction of nature in the name of progress and prosperity; the birth of baby Manuela represents the hope of a new beginning.


2018 Doc History: German Democratic Republic retrospective, Lussas, France
1983 Leipzig International Festival for Documentary and Animation Films


Press comments

“The film reveals the alienation that displaced individuals feel in their replacement Heimat, the large conurbation of prefabricated tower blocks that are here unmistakably linked with the state’s urban planning policies. […] The film reminds the modern-day viewer that the regime’s efforts to foster an attachment to a GDR-Heimat were as un-successful as were its attempts to deny the population their inveterate Germanness.”   —Nick Hodgin, Screening the East: Memory and Nostalgia in German Film since 1989


“At the studio approval screening, officials confronted the DEFA film crew with the apprehension that Memories of a Landscape might perhaps be too depressing, because it paints an unvarnished picture of displacement and the loss of homeland. Director Kurt Tetzlaff argued in response that to him, in this case, demolition always also means a new start.” —rs, Zeughauskino, Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin


“By 1989, the GDR had reached a production rate of 300 million tons of coal per year, a worldwide that has not been beaten to this day. This made an enormous impact on the cultural landscape south of Leipzig as well. Until the mid-1970s, “only” smaller towns were affected; but from 1977 to 1981 and 1984 to 1986, respectively, it was the end for Magdeborn (Espenhain coal mine) and Eythra/Bösdorf (Zwenkau coal mine), both towns of around 3,000 inhabitants. In the midst of these developments, a remarkable documentary, especially for the time, was created. Over years, director Kurt Tetzlaff accompanied these two towns through their downfall. He shows the painful separation of people from their familiar places, which will vanish. The film is a document of social changes that is dedicated to Manuela, the last child born in Magdeborn, in memory of her ancestors’ landscape.”   —



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