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The Singing Ringing Tree

The Singing Ringing Tree

By Patrick Samuel • December 1st, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 3/5

Original release: December 15th, 1957
Running time: 148 minutes

Country of origin: East Germany
Original language: German

Director: Francesco Stefani
Writers:Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Cast: Fredy Barten, Maria Besendahl, Richard Kruger

The Singing Ringing Tree

The Brothers Grimm gave the world some of our most treasured children’s fairy tales including Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty and of course Snow White. But these 19th century writers were also responsible for writing Das singende springende Löweneckerchen from which The Singing Ringing Tree is based on.

Made in 1957 by the East German studio DEFA, it’s a surreal tale shot in stunning ORWOcolor, formerly known as Agfacolor, which was developed by the Third Reich to compete with Hollywood’s Technicolor. It tells of a handsome but foolishly naive prince (Eckart Dux) who sets off on a quest to find the Singing Ringing Tree. After his gift of pearls to an arrogant princess (Christel Bodenstein) is rejected, she demands that he find and bring her this tree instead.

When the prince finds the tree, he also finds it’s guarded by a sinister dwarf (Richard Krüger) who will only let him have the tree if he agrees to one condition – the princess must fall in love with him by sunset for the tree to sing and ring for her. If she fails to do this, the prince will become the dwarf’s prisoner. He’s so confident the princess will love him that he adds his own condition – that he shall turn into a bear if he doesn’t win her heart It’s no easy task to accomplish because the princess is not only arrogant, she has no heart. The naive prince turns into a bear and takes the princess with him to live in a cave but her arrogant behaviour incites the eavesdropping dwarf to cast a spell causing her beauty to fade.

The Singing Ringing Tree

Without her beauty, without her subjects and without her wealth, she gradually comes to learn what a simple act of kindness can afford her and how much more powerful it can be against meaningless material items or even a wicked dwarf.

As an East German film, made for children, its Socialist ideas are firmly in place but there’s an abundance of creativity to be found in it as well. The set pieces and costumes, ranging from the sublime to the bizarre, goes against the usual propaganda that’s pumped out about what life in the DDR was like with limited resources stifling the world of art and culture.

Especially in the 1960s and 1970s, there’s been much talk about The Singing Ringing Tree being a vehicle for East German communist propaganda — understandable as the apologists on both sides of the ‘Iron Curtain’ used any chance to The Singing Ringing Treeslander the adversary with wild and unfounded claims. However, 40 years later everyone would see such talk as political sparring far away from the story and not least the work of cinematic art. Most likely, “the world’s first communist princess” always has been the hero of a fairy tale that didn’t hurt anyone’s mental health.

With its message about the importance of kindness over material wealth The Singing Ringing Tree, with its East German origins, certainly tells viewers a lot more about the important things in life. It’s in stark contrast to other Brothers Grimm fairy tale adaptations favoured by the Walt Disney Company where Snow White, Cinderella and Rapunzel either reclaim their birthrights as princesses or rise to become one, rather than learn such intrinsic truths.

The Singing Ringing Tree

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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