Scen.: Edith Gorrish, Walter Gorrish. F.: Günter Marczinkowsky. M.: Anneliese Hinze-Sokolowa. Scgf.: Alfred Hirschmeier. Mus.: Joachim Werzlau. Int.: Annekathrin Bürger (Magdalena), Armin Mueller-Stahl (Michael), Ulrich Thein (Jürgen), Marga Legal (Mutter Seifert), Betty Loewen (Hanna Batels), Monika Lennartz (Katja) Gertraud Kreißig (Ursula), Natalja J. Iljina (Wera). Prod.: Deutsche Film (DEFA). DCP 4K. D.: 89’. Bn.
Frank Beyer (1932-2006) was one of East Germany’s most important DEFA film directors. Some of his internationally best-known films – including Fünf Patronenhülsen (Five Cartridges, 1960), Königskinder and Nackt unter Wölfen (Naked Among Wolves, 1963) – focus on the communist resistance against National Socialism. All three of these films feature the famous actor Armin Mueller-Stahl and share the same cinematographer – Günter Marczinkowsky, with whom Beyer had a long-standing professional relationship. The stylised visual language of Königskinders, which draws on the expressive style of contemporary Soviet and Polish cinema, deserves special mention and is regarded as unique among DEFA productions.
The metaphorical leitmotif is the German folk ballad Es waren zwei Königskinder (There Were Two Royal Children), which is about a love that cannot be fulfilled because of a hostile environment. Here, the “royal children” are two working-class teenagers in Berlin in the 1930s: Magdalena and Michael. Michael is arrested by the Nazis for fighting against the regime; he is sentenced to prison and later sent to a penal battalion at the eastern front. Meanwhile, Magdalena continues working in the communist resistance. They hope to be reunited one day. Some aspects of the story are based on personal experiences of the screenwriter Walter Gorrish, a former member of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. He was accused of treason and imprisoned by the National Socialists in 1940. Later he was sent into a penal battalion and deserted to the Red Army.