Kunstmann, Ernst


Ernst Kunstmann was born on January 25, 1898 in Babelsberg and was a soldier WWI, returning in 1918. As a stagehand and camera operator, he joined the film production studio Decla Bioscop, one of the first studios in Babelsberg, which later merged into the UFA studio. Among the directors, he became known for unusual technical effects and solutions that led to his career in special effects.


In 1923, Kunstmann met the director of photography and technician Eugen Schüfftan. Together they developed the Schüfftan Process. The predecessor of the blue screen, the Schüfftan Process revolutionized special effects for several decades; a shooting technique, it made it possible to visually place actors within models of miniature buildings and other such settings. The Schüfftan Process was first used in the film Varieté, by Ewald André Dupont, and in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. In 1926, Kunstmann and Schüfftan were invited to Hollywood, where they worked on several films before returning to Germany two years later. Later he also introduced the Schüfftan Process in England.


Kunstmann continued working at the UFA studio after the Nazis took power. He was involved in Leni Riefenstahl’s monumental productions Triumph des Willens and Olympia. In the mid-1930s, he set up the special effects department at the Tobis production company, where he created his most famous special effect—the memorable flight of the Baron von Münchhausen on the cannonball. His special effects for the sinking of the ship in the 1942 film Titanic were so perfect that the same footage was used in the American remake in the 1950s.


After WWII, Kunstmann worked for a dubbing company before joining the East German DEFA Studio for Feature Films in 1947.  There he became director of the special effects department and remained in this position until 1963. He created unforgettable special effects for almost 100 DEFA films, including for the internationally-known fairy tale films, Das singende, klingende Bäumchen, Die Geschichte vom kleinen Muck and Das kalte Herz, as well as for the first East German science fiction film, Der schweigende Stern.


Throughout his lifetime, Ernst Kunstmann worked with many famous directors—including Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Kurt Maetzig, Konrad Wolf and Wolfgang Staudte. He died on May 30, 1995 in Potsdam-Babelsberg.



1962 Vom König Midas (The Story of King Midas)
1962 Die schwarze Galeere (The Black Galley)
1961 Das Kleid (The Robe)
1961 Der Traum des Hauptmann Loy (Captain Loy's Dream)
1961 Die goldene Jurte (The Golden Yurt)
1960 Fünf Tage – Fünf Nächte (Five Days – Five Nights)
1959 Weißes Blut (White Blood)
1959 Das Feuerzeug (The Tinderbox)
1958 Geschwader Fledermaus (The Bat Squadron)
1958 Sonnensucher (Sun Seekers)
1958 Das Lied der Matrosen (The Sailors' Song)
1958 Meine Frau macht Musik (My Wife Makes Music)
1958 Sie kannten sich alle (They All Knew One Another)
1958 Tatort Berlin (Crime Scene: Berlin)
1957 Abenteuer in Bamsdorf (Adventure in Bamsdorf)
1957 Das singende, klingende Bäumchen (The Singing, Ringing Tree)
1957 Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser (Berlin – Schönhauser Corner)
1957 Lissy
1957 Schlösser und Katen (Castles and Cottages)
1956 Du und mancher Kamerad (You and Some Comerade, cinematography)
1956 Die Fahrt nach Bamsdorf (The Journey to Bamsdorf)
1956 Die Abenteuer des Till Eulenspiegel (The Adventures of Till Eulenspiegel)
1956 Mich dürstet (I'm Thirsty)
1955 Der Teufel vom Mühlenberg (The Devil From Mill Mountain)
1955 Einmal ist keinmal (Once Does Not Count)
1955 Ernst Thälmann – Führer seiner Klasse (Ernst Thälmann: Leader of the Working Class)
1954 Ernst Thälmann – Sohn seiner Klasse (Ernst Thälmann: Son of the Working Class)
1954 Das geheimnisvolle Wrack (The Mysterious Wreck)
1954 Pole Poppenspäler (Pole Poppenspaeler)
1954 Carola Lamberti – Eine vom Zirkus (Carola Lamberti)
1954 Hexen (Witches)
1953 Die Geschichte vom kleinen Muck (The Story of Little Mook)
1952 Roman einer jungen Ehe (The Story of a Young Couple)
1950 Das kalte Herz (The Cold Heart)
1950 Familie Benthin (The Benthin Family)
1950 Der Rat der Götter (Council of the Gods)
1949 Die Buntkarierten (Girls in Gingham)
1948 Die seltsame Abenteuer des Herrn Fridolin B. (The Strange Adventures of MrFridolin B.)
1947 Ehe im Schatten (Marriage in the Shadows)
1943 Münchhausen
1943 Titanic
1940 Traummusik (Dream Music)
1938 Olympia
1935 Amphitryon
1935 Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will)
1933 Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Last Testament of Dr. Mabuse)
1928 Love Me and the World Is Mine
1926 Into Her Kingdom
1926 The Fourth Commandment
1926 The Love Thief
1926 Metropolis
1925 Varieté (Jealousy)
1924 Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh)
1924 Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache (Kriemhild’s Revenge)
1924 Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (Siegfried)
1922 Dr. Mabuse
1920 Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)

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