The Frog Prince

(Der Froschkönig)

GDR, 1987, 66 min, color
In German; no subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Production Company


Princess Henriette must work and prove herself before she is able to receive her reward in this DEFA adaptation of the Grimms’ original.


Henriette loses her golden ball in a well and the frog retrieves it for her. In exchange, he asks to be her companion; to drink from her cup, to eat from her plate, and to sleep in her bed. At dinner, Henriette consents unwillingly under pressure from her father, but loses patience when it is time for bed.


When she breaks her promise by throwing the frog against the wall in revulsion, the beautiful prince who suddenly stands before her is not really freed from the spell. To break the evil magic, the king's daughter follows him through fire, water, and tempest to the end of the world in the guise of the true servant Heinrich—learning along the way to only make promises she can keep.


In contrast to the conflicting messages of the original, where Henriette's self-absorbtion and unwillingness to keep her promises go rewarded with her prince and happy ending, this version is true to the Socialist ethic of the former East in that the princess must work and prove herself before she is able to receive her reward.  Interesting also is the role reversal between the prince and the princess: here, it is the princess who must fight for her prince. As some critics pointed out, the character of the Frog Prince, who is bewitched so that he can neither love nor feel emotion, is not appealing enough to inspire desire in and of himself.  On the other hand, this gives even greater strength to the character of Henriette; it is her stubbornness and determination that get her through all her trials.  


Praised for the creative retelling of the tale, as well as the interesting and surprising set-design, this film was well-received by critics.  Jana Mattukat was praised for her spunky and complex portrayal of the true servant Heinrich, more so than for her portrayal of the spoiled and self-involved Henriette.  And Jens-Uwe Bogadtke, who was praised for his acting in the 1986 film The Bear Skinner (also directed by Walter Beck), returned to further positive reviews as the Frog Prince.


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