Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (film)

Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder ('Mother Courage and Her Children') is a DEFA film which documents the staging of Bertold Brecht's play of the same name from 1959 to 1961, which Manfred Wekwerth and Peter Palitzsch directed with the Berliner Ensemble, modelled after the original production by Bertolt Brecht and Erich Engel from 1949, with Helene Weigel in the title role. The film, made in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), received a prize at the Locarno Film Festival.

Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder
Entrance of the theatre on the opening night, 10 February 1961
Directed by
Produced byDEFA
Based onMutter Courage und ihre Kinder
by Bertolt Brecht
StarringHelene Weigel
Music byPaul Dessau
CinematographyHarry Bremer
Edited byElla Ensink
Release date
1961 (1961)
Running time
151 minutes
CountryGerman Democratic Republic


Bertold Brecht had directed his play Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder with the Berliner Ensemble, together with Erich Engel, in 1949. Manfred Wekwerth worked as his assistant for the production from 1951.[1] After Brecht's death, the film Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder intended to be a faithful rendering of this model production on stage. It was taken in black and white in 1960 and 1961, with Wekwerth and Peter Palitzsch directing.[1][2]

The film's first presentation was on 10 February 1961, in the presence of Alexander Abusch, minister of culture, at the Berlin cinema Oranienburger Tor Lichtspiele. The film was shown simultaneously at 14 regional capitals of the GDR, marking the 63th birthday of Brecht.[3] The first presentation in West Germany was in October 1962 at the Internationale Filmwoche Mannheim.[4] It began in other cinemas there on 12 March 1965, and was recommended in June 1965 by the Evangelische Filmgilde as best film of the month.[5] The film was first aired by the Deutscher Fernsehfunk, the GDR television, on 27 March 1973.


Henryk Keisch wrote in the daily paper Neues Deutschland that the film was a faithful reproduction of the staging which was then performed already 400 times at the theatre of the Berliner Ensemble.[6] Helmut Ullrich of Die Neue Zeit noted that facial expressions were dominant compared with a stage production of the same actors.[7]


Actors filling a major roles were:[2]



  • F.-B. Habel: Das gro├če Lexikon der DEFA-Spielfilme, Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-89602-349-7, pp. 424 to 425


  1. "Manfred Wekwerth". Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  2. "Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder". (in German). DEFA Foundation. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  3. Neues Deutschland, 10 February 1961, p. 4
  4. Neue Zeit, 19 October 1962, p. 1
  5. Die Neue Zeit, 20 June 1965, p. 3
  6. Neues Deutschland, 12 February 1961, p. 4
  7. Die Neue Zeit, 12 February 1961, p. 6
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