Der kleine Prinz (1966/1972) has been even more thoroughly buried by history than the rest of Wolf’s work, or the corpus of DEFA production in general. The reasons for this neglect are multiple on the one hand, the film got caught in the crossfire of the Eleventh Plenum, which took place during the shooting of the film. Although the project had been conceived of as a vehicle for the eventual launch of color TV in the GDR (an undertaking that was repeatedly started and stopped), Heinz Adamock (1921-2010), Intendant of the DFF from 1954 to 1989, sought to get out of his commitment to fund the film, until Albert Wilkening insisted he honor it. The film is thus an unwitting document of noncooperation between film and television at a time of political crisis. On the other hand, rights were not requested from the author’s family until the film’s completion, and could not be obtained. As a result, the film was not shown until May 21. 1972 on GDR television, and after that not again until 1995; only with the expiration of the copyright term in 2015 did it enter public domain and was given special showings at the Brottfabrik in Berlin in June 2015. Saint-Exupéry’s story has become a minor classic of children’s litterature. It begins with the narrator telling of how he once drew a boa constrictor eating an elephant, which was misinterpreted by adults as a drawing of a hat. (This vignette may have inspired a later episode in Der Nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz, where the hero’s son gets into trouble in school for drawing a horse on a submarine.) The narrator (Eberhard Esche) crashes his plane in the Sahara and meets the Little Prince (Christel Bodenstein, Wolf’s then-wife), who tells him about his life over the next eight days. The Prince comes from a remote planet, and has left to explore the universe, meeting up with various figures: a king with no subjects, a vain man, a drunkard, a businessman, a lamplighter who pointlessly lights and extinguishes a lamp, over and over, and a geographer. Before the pilot is able to repair his plane and leave, there are further parabolic stories of a snake, a desert flower, and a fox
The film’s delay in exhibition makes for an unusual degree of archival latency in the film, even more than in the case of the Kaninchenfilme that were at least shown in the last months of the GDR’s existence. Der kleine Prinz is mentioned in none of the literature on DEFA children’s films. Not only is the film historically obscure: it does not fit easily within the rest of the director’s oeuvre either (Jacobsen and Aurich call it a “Fremdkörper” or “alien body”). Reviews were muted when it was shown in 1972. When the film was brought out of the vaults to celebrate Christel Bodenstein’s seventieth birthday in 2008, a reviewer saw it as “eher eine verfilmte Theateraufführung” (more like a filmed theater performance”) and added, “Er wirkt statuarisch, kühl, die Typologie der Gestalten ist ganz und gar der literarischen Vorlage entnommen, er findet zu keiner filmischen Interpretation. Ein Film, der sich stark auf das Wort des Dichters konzentriert.” (It has a statuary, cool effect; the typology of the figures is completely derived from the literary basis, and no filmic interpretation is reached. A film that is strongly concentrated on the word of the poet.
The criticisms were made by one of the only scholarly essays devoted to the film, a graduating senior’s thesis from the Hochschule für Film und Fernschen from 1987. Due to the “sehr distanzierte Kamcraführung,” “man hat den Eindruck, dass Konrad Wolf die Ereignisse mehr ausstellt, um nicht an die Realität der dargestelten Phantasiegebilde zu glauben, sondern nur um den Parabelcharakter zu rezipicren. […] Konrad Wolf “zeigt” Saint-Exupérys Kleines Prinsen, aber er schafft nicht seinen eigenen Kleinen Prinzen mit Filmbildern.”(One has the impression that Konrad Wolf prefers to exhibit the events in order not to believe in the reality of the represented fantasy-images, but only to acknowledge the parabolic character […] Konrad Wolf shows Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince, but he does not create his own Little Prince with filmic images.)
Not only is the magical story shown in extremely distanced and text-dominated fashion, but Wolf felt obliged to frame it with an added prologue and postlude, showing the pilot’s plane over the desert and linking the entire story to the author’s mysterious disappearance during his last reconnaissance flight in 1944. After a typewriter punches out the facts of Saint-Exupéry’s own wartime flights in Courier script, as if reported by a war correspondent, we hear Manfred Krug’s voice singing a ballad penned by Wolf’s frequent collaborator Paul Wiens, as the screen shows us topical documentary photographs of then-contemporary anti-imperialist struggle in Vietnam and elsewhere. The juxtaposition feels forced, to put it mildly. It is thus hard to make the case that this is a forgotten masterpicce of children’s film, and yet one senses that one’s judgment may also be affected by the film’s historical obscurity, its lack of reception or resonance.
(From : Larson Powell The Films of Konrad Wolf: Archive of the Revolution)
1.21GB | 1h 12mn | 768×576 | mkv