Reviews and notes
The year is 1945, shortly after the end of the war. A group of workers are standing in front of the ruins of a cigarette factory in Dresden. Determined to rebuild the plant, they send their fellow worker Kalle to Wittenberge; his brother-in-law there might be able to get them some carbide for the welding torches.
Soon Kalle is confronted with seven barrels of carbide and also the problem of how to transport them from Brandenburg to Saxony by himself. The first stage of the trip, barely one kilometre, he completes in a wagon driven by the farmer's wife, Karia, with whom he also spends the night. Little by little he makes his way back, hitchhiking in a truck, in an undertaker's horse and cart, on a small, leaking barge and in a motorboat owned by the Americans, and sometimes even on foot, always rolling the individual barrels in front of him. Numerous dangers are lurking on the way...
About the film:
The summer of 1945. In the German cinema this is above all a time of deprivation and depression. Frank Beyer accomplishes the rather daring feat - viewed, of course, from today's standards - of making a comedy about the very first months of reconstruction, a film which undauntedly keeps itself free of any kind of ideology.
Whereas usually slogans pertaining to the period of rebuilding after the war often serve as a starting point, here it is the desire of a few workers who just want to be able to produce cigarettes again - even for their own consumption. Kalle, a figure somewhere between naive innocence and cunning imaginativeness, is constantly operating on the edge of legality. His procurement measures, namely, are in no way totally in accordance with the law. Thus, when a German police officer is shown a document that Kalle has bought from a Soviet officer in exchange for carbide, and which the policeman mistakes for a political mission, the thought of clearing up the misunderstanding never even enters Kalle's mind.
Although the soldiers of the Soviet Army were officially celebrated as liberators, Beyer allows the protagonist in his road movie to keep himself hidden from the Russians as much as possible. The hiking song that he once whistles to drown out the Russian "Kalinka" praises the "land of the Franks", which, as is generally known, lies in the west. Finally, the film's comical climax shows Kalle riding a boat on the Elbe, on whose banks American and Soviet soldiers are standing opposite each other - a long time before the outbreak of the "Cold War". The important thing here is still human beings and not political systems; otherwise the comedy would hardly at all be possible.
- Hans-Gunther Pflaum, Frank Beyer Retrospective, Goethe Institut, 1996.
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