Snow White


GDR, 1961, 60 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)


Once upon a time, there was a beautiful and haughty queen who had a magic mirror. She would ask it, "Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"  And as long as the mirror answered, "You, Queen, are the fairest here," she was content. 


But now that the queen's step-daughter, Snow White, has grown up to become the fairest in the land, the queen commands the Hunter to take Snow White to the woods and kill her. He can not bring himself to do it, so he takes Snow White into the woods and leaves her there, bringing back the heart of a pig to trick the wicked Queen. The mirror, however, does not lie.  


True to the Grimm's version of the tale, the Queen finds Snow White staying with the Seven Dwarfs and tries three times to kill her, seemingly succeeding the third time, with a poisoned apple. Luckily for Snow White, the Prince has been searching for her as well, and the Seven Dwarfs happen to be a bit clumsy. 


Made in 1961, the year the Berlin Wall was erected, Schneewittchen has a distinctly Socialist slant. The dwarfs, kitchen staff, and Snow White herself are all portrayed as industrious and cheerful workers and the film is clearly critical of the Queen's wasteful and condescending ways. The influence of Disney's 1937 version of Snow White is unmistakably present, particularly in the characterization of the dwarfs and their slap-stick antics. However, there is also a Brechtian element in the DEFA adaptation, as the audience is intended to recognize the artificiality of the set, costumes, and so on. The moral of the story is the focus here: that all kinds of people, from all social strata, must work together to create a better world.  


Enormously appealing to children with songs that are easy to remember and fun to sing, Schneewittchen is one of the most popular DEFA feature film fairy tales. It is excellent for use in the classroom with students of all levels and language abilities.  

Press comments

“One of the best-kept secrets of the Cold War was East Germany’s production of a series of marvelous fairy-tale films for children.”   —Jack Zipes (The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of the Genre)


“Gottfried Kolditz's 1961 Snow White with its exquisite visuals and delightful soundtrack has become one of the most screened DEPA fairy-tale films. [...the film] constituted different gender and class images than those in West Germany and the United States, which were influenced by their respective socioecnomic systems, consciously or unconsciously.”   —Qinna Shen, The Politics of Magic: DEFA Fairy-Tales Film



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