Castles and Cottages

Schlösser und Katen (Castles And Cottages) is an East German black-and-white film, directed by Kurt Maetzig. It was released in 1957.

Schlösser und Katen
Directed byKurt Maetzig
Produced byHans Mahlich
Written byKurt Barthel
StarringRaimund Schelcher
Music byWilhelm Neef
CinematographyOtto Merz
Edited byRuth Moegelin
Distributed byProgress Film
Release date
8 February 1957 (both parts)
Running time
  • 203 minutes (combined)
  • Part 1: 102 minutes
  • Part 2:101 minutes
CountryEast Germany


Part 1: Hunchback AntonEdit

In a feudal estate in Mecklenburg, the hunchback coachman Anton Zuckman married maid Marthe, who was pregnant with Baron von Holzendorf's illegitimate child, in exchange for a letter promising that the baron would recognize his offspring when it would wed and endow it with 5000 Mark. Marthe gave birth to a daughter, Anna, nicknamed Annegret.

At 1945, the baron and his family fled to the West, leaving their serfs and servants under Soviet occupation. The former estate inspector, Bröker, plans to have Anna marry his son, after discovering the baron's letter. Anna, now a young woman, falls in love with Klimm, a war veteran who returned from captivity. When she realizes her father's plans, she and Klimm flee to the city.

Part 2: Annegret's ReturnEdit

The new communist government handed the nobles' lands to the common people, and Anton became a small farmer. He and his wife have a small income of their plot. Annegret, now a zoologist, returns to the countryside to implement reforms in livestock management that would improve productivity, as the government intends to collectivize the farms. The farmers, especially the richer ones, are skeptic. Anton is frustrated by one of the communist functionaries' constant demands, assaults him and is thrown to jail. The people become tired of the collectivization efforts. The Baroness von Holzendorf returns from the west, and begins to stir trouble. On 17 June 1953, the farmers revolt against the government, as part of a wave of statewide demonstrations. Soviet troops quell the uprising. Anton, who understands the letter he received is worthless, turns to aid the local officials. After a life of misery, he is accepted as an equal member in the new collective farm. Marthe, Anton, Annegret and Klimm reunite as a happy family.



Director Kurt Maetzig told that the idea to make the film came to him during the brief period of liberalization that took place in East Germany after Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech. He claimed that the film's realistic style was also influenced by his wish to correct the impression of the highly propagandistic Ernst Thälmann pictures.[1]

The script's approval by the DEFA Commission was delayed by the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolt at October 1956. As the Soviets put their forces in East Germany on alert, fearing a repetition of the 1953 events, the scene in which Soviet tanks dispersed the rebelling villagers had to be reconsidered. The script was authorized at late November, after the situation in Hungary was stabilized.[2]

Principal photography commenced in the end of 1956. The main obstacle that faced Maetzig was the alcoholism of actor Raimund Schelcher, who was constantly drunk on set and often did not appear for the filming. Eventually, the director was forced to have him replaced for two weeks by actor Hans Hardt-Hardtloff. This was partially remedied in the editing stage.[3]


Castles and Cottages was viewed by more than three million people,[4] although failing to secure any awards.[5]

Joshua Feinstein asserted that while the film still had featured subversive agents from the West and other typical communist themes, it had a historical and psychological depth rare to East German pictures. He also claimed that Anton's deformity represented "an inner self-debasement, worse than any external oppression can cause."[6] Heiko R. Blum considered Castles and Cottages as Maetzig's best film, and one of the best ever made in East Germany.[7]

Andrea Brockmann wrote that Castles and Cottages was one of the few East German pictures which made a reference to the 17 June 1953 Uprising, and has portrayed it as a complex event, not a counterrevolutionary putsch. [8] Maetzig himself told interviewer Martin Brady that the interpretation of the June events was his own, and different from the view held by the governments of both German states; he stressed that he depicted the uprising neither as a purely popular act of resistance to the communists, nor as an influence of Western subversion, but rather, as resulting from the combination of external influence across the border and frustration with the rashness of the government's reforms.[9]

Author Johannes von Moltke noted that the film used the motifs of the classical German "homeland" films, but instead of directly manipulating them for propaganda purposes as done in The Condemned Village, Maetzig's work was a more honest attempt, and only diverged slightly in what Mettke called "the prototype of Heimat in Socialism." He also pointed out another dualism characterizing the plot: while the re-distribution of the count's land to the serfs was portrayed as far from an unmitigated success, and the hardships facing the serfs-turned-farmers were emphasized, this was done not only for realism's sake, but also to demonstrate the necessity of a further change - the nationalization of all the plots to create the collective farms.[10] Still, the farmers were presented as unwilling to agree to the latter move, fearing to lose their personal property; this, too, was a relatively realistic approach by the filmmaker.[11] Helmut Pflügl and Raimund Fritz wrote that it was one of "surprisingly few" East German films to deal with the problems that arose due to the nationalization and later collectivization of the former feudal estates.[12]

Critics Antonin and Miera Liehm regarded the film as "poor propaganda".[13] The West German Catholic Film Service cited Castles and Cottages as "a film which, in spite of the good performance of the actors, was not thoroughly well made on the plot level... although it had many depictions of authentic human behavior."[14]


  1. ^ Ingrid Poss. Spur der Filme: Zeitzeugen über die DEFA. ISBN 978-3-86153-401-3. Page 114.
  2. ^ Thomas Lindenberger (editor) (2006). Massenmedien im Kalten Krieg: Akteure, Bilder, Resonanzen. Böhlau Verlag. ISBN 978-3-412-23105-7.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link) page 56.
  3. ^ Frank Beyer. Wenn der Wind sich Dreht. ISBN 978-3-548-60218-9. Pages 71–72.
  4. ^ List of the 50 highest-grossing DEFA films.
  5. ^ Castles and Cottages Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine on PROGRESS' website.
  6. ^ Joshua Feinstein. The Triumph of the Ordinary: Depictions of Daily Life in the East German Cinema, 1949–1989. ISBN 978-0-8078-5385-6. Page 42.
  7. ^ Heiko R. Blum. Film in der DDR. C. Hanser (1977). ISBN 978-3-446-12453-0. Page 64.
  8. ^ Andrea Brockmann. Erinnerungsarbeit im Fernsehen: Das Beispiel des 17. Juni 1953. Böhlau Verlag (2006). ISBN 978-3-412-29905-7. Page 91.
  9. ^ Seán Allan, John Sandford. DEFA: East German cinema, 1946–1992. ISBN 978-1-57181-753-2. Page 90.
  10. ^ Johannes von Moltke. No Place Like Home: Locations of Heimat in German Cinema. University of California Press (2005). ISBN 978-0-520-24410-8. Pages 191–198.
  11. ^ Ralf Schenk (editor). Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg. DEFA- Spielfilme 1946–1992. ISBN 978-3-89487-175-8. Page 109.
  12. ^ Helmut Pflügl, Raimund Fritz. Der Geteilte Himmel: Höhepunkte des DEFA-Kinos, 1946–1992, Volume 1. ISBN 978-3-901932-09-0. Pages
  13. ^ Miera Liehm, Antonin J. Liehm. The Most Important Art: Soviet and Eastern European Film After 1945. ISBN 978-0-520-04128-8. Page 264.
  14. ^ "Review quoted on". Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-05-11.

External linksEdit