Bergmann, Werner


Werner Bergmann was born in Niederkaina, Germany on January 14, 1921. After an apprenticeship as an industrial and portrait photographer, he worked as a lab and lighting technician and as a camera assistant at the Boehner Film company in Dresden. Following the outbreak of WWII in 1939, he was called up to serve as a cameraman on the front for the German Weekly Newsreels and as the lieutenant of a propaganda company. In 1943, he lost his right arm in a serious injury. He was relieved of his duties and posted to the cultural unit of the Ufa Film Studios, again as a cameraman.


After the war, Bergmann worked as a freelance photographer in Potsdam. He joined the newly established DEFA Film Studios in 1946, working as a director and cameraman at the Educational Documentary Studio. In 1953, he moved to the feature film division of the studio, where he shot over 50 films before retiring in 1984. His first important feature film was Gerhard Klein’s Alarm im Zirkus.


Bergman came to be recognized as one of the most important East German cinematographers, in part because of his 25-year and 12-film collaboration with director Konrad Wolf. Using grainy film and short-focus lenses, he created a documentary and realistic style that was unusual for DEFA at the time. Always open to new experiments, Bergmann designed the first optical script for Sterne along with Wolf. He directed DEFA’s test film in the 70mm widescreen format and later used this new technology in making Wolf’s film Goya. Another collaborator on these films, the Bulgarian scriptwriter Angel Wagenstein, later used Bergmann’s WWII experiences as his inspiration for the character of Werner Gauke in his 2004 novel, Sbogom, Shanghai (Farewell, Shanghai).


After retiring, Bergmann organized his enormous personal archive as a first step in capturing his life experiences in a book or film. He died in an accident in October 1990, however. Werner Bergmann’s personal archive is now housed at the Potsdam Film Museum.



Festivals & Awards:

1977 Art Prize of the Free German Trade Union Federation for Mama, ich lebe
1971 National Prize, Class 1, for Goya oder der arge Weg der Erkenntnis

Bibliography & More:

Bergmann, Werner. Das verwundete Objektiv: Ein Bericht aus Briefen und Notizen 1939-1943 (Transl. The Injured Lens: A Report Based on Letters and Notes 1939-1943). Berlin: Aufbau Taschenbuch. 1992.



Im Durchgang (In Transit, co-camera, doc.)


Die Gänse von Bützow (The Geese of Buetzow)

1982 Der Mann von Cap Arkona (The Man from Cape Arkona, TV)
1981 Die dicke Tilla (Fat Little Tilla, also director, script)
1980 Darf ich Petruschka zu Dir sagen? (May I Call You Petruschka?)
1977 DEFA Disko 77 (DEFA Disco 77)
1976 Liebesfallen (Love Traps)
1976 Mama, ich lebe (Mama, I'm Alive)
1973 Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz (The Naked Man on the Sports Field)
1972 Januskopf (Janus Face)
1971 Goya
1968 Rosen (Roses, TV, director, co-script)
1967 DEFA 70 (also director, script)
1967 Ich war neunzehn (I Was Nineteen)
1966 400 cm³
1964 Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven)
1964 Fezters Flucht (Fetzer’s Escape, TV)
1961 Professor Mamlock
1960 Leute mit Flügeln (People with Wings)
1959 Sterne (Stars)
1958 Sonnensucher (Sun Seekers)
1957 Lissy
1956 Genesung (Recovery)
1955 Einmal ist keinmal (Once Does Not Count)
1954 Alarm im Zirkus (Alarm at the Circus)
1951 Unsere jungen Künstler (Our Young Artists, short, doc.)
1950 Der Weg nach Oben (The Ascending Path)
1948 Zurück ins Leben (Return to Life, short, doc.)
1950 Ein kleines Wunderwerk (A Little Technical Marvel, short, doc.)

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