Saarbrücken, 9 October 1906.
Educated as engineer.
Stage actor for Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator, until 1933; film actor,
from 1931; writer and director of advertising films and shorts, 1930s;
directed first feature,
, for Tobis Film, also co-founder, with Harald Braun and Helmut
Kaütner, "Freie Film-Produktion-GmbH," 1943; worked
for DEFA Studios, East Germany, 1945; worked in West Germany, from 1953;
television director, from 1970s.
Silver Lion, Venice Festival, for
Ciske de Rat
Of heart failure, in Zigarski, 19 January 1984.
Akrobat schö-ö-ön (+ sc)
Ich hab' von Dir geträumt
Frau über Bord
Die Mörder sind unter uns ( The Murderers Are among Us ) (+ sc)
Die seltsamen Abenteuer des Herrn Fridolin B (+ sc)
Rotation (+ co-sc); Schicksal aus zweiter Hand (+ sc); Der Untertan ( The Submissive ) (+ co-sc)
Die Geschichte des kleinen Muck ( The Story of Little Mook ) (+ co-sc)
Leuchtfeuer (+ co-sc)
Ciske—Ein Kind braucht Liebe ( Ciske—A Child Wants Love ) (+ sc)
Kanonen-Serenade ( The Muzzle ) (+ co-sc); Madeleine und der Legionär ; Der Maulkorb
Rosen für den Staatsanwalt ( Roses for the Prosecutor ) (+ story)
Kirmes ( Kermes ) (+ sc); Der letzte Zeuge ( The Last Witness )
Die glücklichen Jahre der Thorwalds (co-d)
Die Dreigroschenoper ( The Threepenny Opera )
Herrenpartie ( Me's Outing ); Das Lamm ( The Lamb )
Ganovenehre ( Hoodlum's Honor )
Heimlichkeiten (+ co-sc)
Die Herren mit der weissen Weste ( Those Gentlemen Who Have a Clean Sheet )
Fluchtweg St. Pauli—Grossalarm fur die Davidswache
Verrat ist kein Gesselschaftsspiel (for TV); Marya Sklodowska-Curie. Ein Mädchen, das die Welt verändert (for TV)
Nerze Nachts am Strassenrand (for TV); The Seawolf
Ein herrliches Dasein
Zwei Erfahrungen Reicher (for TV)
Des Verschollene Inka-Gold (for TV); Zwischengleis ( Memories )
Gassenhauer (Pick) (role)
Der Mann, dem man den Namen stahl (co-sc)
Das Beil von Wandsbek (co-sc)
Geheimnis des blauen Zimmers (role); Tannenberg (role); Der Choral von Leuthen (role); Heimkehr ins Glück (role); Pechmarie (role); Die Bande von Hoheneck (role); Schwarzer Jäger Johanna (role); Stärker als Paragraphen (role); Gleisdreieck (role); Susanne im Bade (role); Am seidenen Faden (role); Lauter Lügen (role); Pour le mérite (role); Mordsache Holm (role); Spiel im Sommerwind (role); Das Gewehr über (role); Die fremde Frau (role); Drei Unteroffiziere (role); Brand im Ozean (role); Legion Condor (role); Blutsbrüderschaft (role); Aus erster Ehe (role); Jud Süss (role); Jungens (role); Friedemann Bach (role); . . . reitet für Deutschland (role); Das grosse Spiel (role)
"Aber wenn geschlagen wird im diesem Land . . . ," interview, in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), no. 5, 1979.
" Die Mörder sind unter uns ," interview, in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 19, no. 5, May 1991.
Bachmann, J., "Wolfgang Staudte," in Film (London), Summer 1963.
"Kurt Maetzig, Wolfgang Staudte," in Information (Wiesbaden), no. 3–6, 1976.
Karkosch, K., "Wolfgang Staudte," in Film und Ton (Munich), March 1976.
Ein Nachtrag zur DEFA—Geschicte—der Regisseur Wolfgang Staudte," in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 19, no. 9, September 1986.
Nrrested, Carl, "Glemte kontinuitets faktorer i tysk film," in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), vol. 40, no. 207, Spring 1994.
Schenk, Ralf, "Im Jahr '49. Die 'dunklen' filme von Wolgang Staudte," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 8 October 1996.
* * *
Wolfgang Staudte is one of the few important German directors of the postwar years. Die Mörder sind unter uns , the first German postwar film, remains today among the director's best works. In the film, a surgeon, Hans Mertens, returns home from the war, becomes an alcoholic, and lives hopelessly among the ruins. His girlfriend Susanne has survived a concentration camp and attempts to help him overcome his apathy. The apathy is quickly dispelled by the appearance of an industrialist, formerly a Nazi, whose outlook remains unchanged and who, just as before the war, uses deceptive phrases to justify the new situation.
This contemporary material was realized by Staudte in a thoroughly realistic style with expressionistic strokes in a manner that suggests analogies with Rossellini's Paisà. An English critic identified the director as a successor to Lang and Pabst. A phrase in the film—"The murderers are among us"—became a symbolic expression for the spirit of the time, in which progressive German intellectuals sought every means to reckon with the fascist past. It was not by chance that the film was made in the Soviet sector of Berlin and produced by the newly founded DEFA studios. Staudte's efforts to interest cultural officials in the western zones in his project met with no success. This was also the case with Rotation and Der Untertan , a satiric version of Heinrich Mann's novel of the same title, set in an actual embassy.
Staudte was a political artist because, as he said, he was a political person. He had perfect command of a variety of means of expression and narrative forms, and used a rich palette of symbolic images in realistically-structured filmic space. His films often led to comparisons with René Clément and Rossellini. Only his own country—the media and public as well as the authorities—could not accept him and systematically and conclusively thwarted him.
In the beginning Staudte was repeatedly labelled a communist because of his association with DEFA. He was urged to make West German films. In 1951 he decided to do so, and so began an unhappy period for him which consisted of attempts "to improve the world with the money of people who already find the world to be just fine." He was regularly reproached for fouling his own nest, and was reluctantly reduced to making entertainment films. In its headlong rush toward economic development, West German society wanted to see neither fundamental analysis of the Nazi past, nor pessimistic mistrust directed against the new, American-oriented NRD-model.
Years of harassment by the press and cultural authorities went by with Staudte working away, often in vain, writing unengaging comedies. He nevertheless made a few masterpieces: Rosen für den Staatsanwalt, Kirmes , and Herrenpartie. These films are united by Staudte's conviction that the present and the past are bound together and that man today remains inseparable from yesterday. The most imposing of these films is Herrenpartie : it confronts two worlds—that of today's German bourgeoisie, which would gladly bury Nazi memories, and that of a village of Yugoslavian widows who, despite everything, are better able to behave humanely than the Germans.
In the latter part of his career, Wolfgang Staudte directed television detective stories. His case demonstrates that the new German cinema has worthy predecessors who nevertheless remain unappreciated even by their colleagues.