Reviews and notes
The young Party secretary, Werner Horrath, has arrived at a large construction site. He has an academic background, and he brings with him not only ideology but even more so idealism, and thus also the courage to correct mistakes in the sacrosanct plan. Both he and Hannes Balia, the leader of a group of carpenters, fall in love with the young engineer, Kati Klee, who has turned down a more comfortable job which, as the daughter of a Party boss, she could have got without any trouble. At first it is the intellectual and not the carpenter who wins the young woman's heart; however, the Party does not permit the married man to indulge in any unrestricted passions. Horrath's rival Balia is actually the real boss at the construction site; he argues with the representatives of the political authorities and procures every kind of needed building material in a highly unconventional way. Actually Balla and Horrath are very much alike, and it is only the circumstances that make them opponents...
About the film:
After a long period of arguing over the film, THE TRACE OF STONES
was shown for the first time in the GDR in the summer of 1966, but after a number of organised protests it was withdrawn from the movie theatres a short time later. This example of the state's power also gives an idea of why the GDR always had so much difficulty with its own development: whatever cannot be tamed is regarded as anarchistic and dangerous - like Beyer's fearless protagonists, Balia and Horrath, or like the film itself.
In the story no threat to the system and no fundamental doubts about it are expressed. It is, more importantly, a vigorous plea for a more open, more courageous and more human way of dealing with people, and against the less endangered moral cowards and opportunists. When the construction worker Balia and the other members of his team appear for the first time, dressed in carpenters' attire, lined up in battle formation, and beaming with energy and self-confidence, this image of these seven men is a reference to the film The Magnificent Seven
and other Westerns. In the best style of Brecht, Beyer has taken the ideas of others and adopted them for himself, and has then given now meaning to them.
The director tells the story in the form of an extensive flashback that is interrupted again and again by the present time. The analytical, dramatic technique also makes those an object of investigation who claim to have the right to pass judgement. At this point Horrath is already one of the victims, one of those who, because of political dogmatism, are no longer employed in that field that might best be able to meet their qualifications. In spite of the delightful, satirical remarks and the undaunting comic effect, the production is void of all malice. Stories such as this one probably occurred thousands of times - it is hard to understand why those officials responsible for the arts in the GDR did not wish to face this challenge.
-Hans-Gunther Pflaum, Frank Beyer Retrospective, Goethe Institut, 1996.
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