Trace of Stones

(Spur der Steine)

GDR, 1966/1990, 134 min, b&w
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Music (Score)


Foreman Balla is the self-proclaimed king of a massive construction site. His co-workers stick close to him, like musketeers, as long as he makes sure they are paid. But things stop running smoothly when materials get scarce and two newcomers arrive on the site: Kati, a young engineer, and Werner Horrath, the new Party Secretary. Balla’s swaggering, reminiscent of Hollywood gunslingers, melts away as he realizes he is in love with Kati.


Kati is able to see Balla's true nature and he falls in love with her. But Horrath loves the young engineer as well, despite being devoted to his wife and children in Rostock. A love triangle ensues. Things get complicated when Kati gets pregnant, which threatens the accomplishments that the brigade has achieved at the construction site. She faces an uneasy decision: to protect the identity of her child's father or to lose face in front of co-workers and party members.


Based on Erik Neutsch's novel of the same title, Trace of Stones is a complex political drama blended with an at times comic triangular love story. 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.


2020 Retrospective Beyond the Wall: East German Cinema, Entrevues Belfort International Film Festival, France
2018 Images of the Future: The Cinema of East Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1991 Recent Films from Germany, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1990 FIPRESCI Prize – Honorable Mention, Berlin International Film Festival
2024 Int. touring film series, 70 Years of German Cinema - A Success Story, German Films, Munich, Germany

Press comments

"An art-house hit!"
— Pacific Cinematheque


"A German cinema classic."


"The historical film has become topical. Such political clear-sightedness - 23 years ago - such a wise analysis and - such great art which has survived the many years of banishment! There is no other film like this one around."
— Felicitas Knoefler in the Berlin Tribüne of Nov. 27, 1989


"My assessment of the film has not changed after these many years. The film's late re-screening has even enhanced my admiration for this work of art and my intense and respectful affection for this director who bears the full weight of the stones..."
— Rosemarie Rehahn in the Berlin Wochenpost of Dec. 8, 1989


“A well-balanced mixture of comedy, drama, and social satire!”
The Guardian


“Beautifully acted and wittily scripted! The film is technically slick.”


Buy the DVDStream
DVD Bonus Features:
  • Biography & Filmography
  • Film Interview with Actress Krystyna Stypulkowska, by Peter Rollberg
  • Introductory Essay, by Peter Rollberg, George Washington University
  • "Censored! Trace of Stones" - Historical timeline

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