SUN SEEKERS (Konrad Wolf, 1958)

The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest Films from Germany, Scandinavia, Finland & Austria list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis

Sun Seekers, an East German-Soviet co-production, didn’t see the light of day for more than a dozen years after the Soviet Union suppressed it, ostensibly to keep details of uranium mining for its nuclear industry from the West.
     The protagonist is 18-year-old Lotte Lutz, whose barroom misbehavior gets her and a prostitute-friend impressed into being forced labor at Wismut mines in Felsach—the peacetime equivalent of being sent to the battlefront. Indeed, memories of World War II hang over the 1950 mining community as socialists and former SS members mix. It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mine, and the film’s overelaborated script, by Karl-Georg Egel and Paul Wiens, presents numerous metaphorical instances of people being bereft of light. For instance, the Soviet engineer directing Wismut, one of three men who fall in love with “Lutz,” is a widower, whose wife, a painter, murdered by the German army, was always “searching for the light.”
     Lutz’s youthfulness offers men hope of renewal, but her more or less imprisoned life, not to mention the fact that she lost both parents in the war, casts her adrift in drudgery. Although she becomes pregnant by a young German miner, she marries instead the older pit boss, a former German army officer. Lutz, then, is herself tied to the past, although her husband conveniently becomes a casualty of a mine disaster, leaving her happily independent, holding Germany’s socialist future in her arms.
     Konrad Wolf’s direction of the camera is dynamic and intricate, full of eclectic camera angles and movements, including sudden instances of subjective (point-of-view) shots, such as a seemingly freefalling descent into the mine. By contrast, many scenes in the mine are static, claustrophobic. Visually, Wolf suggests both a world of socialist possibilities and the “buried” past these must persist in overcoming.*

* Please also see my full essay on Wolf’s 1967 I Was Nineteen. It is to be found elsewhere on this site under “film reviews.”

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