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The siblings are discovered by the film at an early age. But at which locations were fairy tale films about "Hansel and Gretel" made? A search for traces in the German fairy tale forest.
A "little house made of bread ... covered with cake ... the windows made of light sugar": That's how delicious the Brothers Grimm describe the witch's house in the fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel". It is probably one of the most famous accommodations in literature - and at the same time also one of the most illustrated. When the Grimms and the fairy tale collector Ludwig Bechstein wrote the story about the two siblings who were abandoned in the forest by their parents and fell into the clutches of a witch, it was above all the pictures of the crispy house that gave the fairy tale a real boost in popularity.
"Hansel and Gretel" (FRG 2012): A gingerbread house in the middle of the pine forest in the Brandenburg region / © RBB / SR / Hardy Spitz
“Hansel and Gretel” is one of the fairy tales that theater and film discovered early on: In 1893 the composer Engelbert Humperdinck brought his fairy tale opera “Hansel and Gretel” to the stage and in 1897 the film pioneer Oswald Messter produced Grimm's fairy tale for the first time as a silent film. Many adaptations - often lost today - follow. Two of the most successful are Hanns Walter Kornblum's and Alf Zengerling's "Hänsel-und-Gretel" film adaptations from 1921 and 1933.
Berlin: “Hansel and Gretel” learn to speak for the first time
We know about the latter that it was produced as a silent film around 1933 and dubbed two years later. The so-called approval card has been preserved from this sound version. This was issued by the state film testing agency: It decided whether finished films could be shown in the cinema - or not. The 61-minute fairy tale film "Hansel and Gretel" was well received by the Nazi officials and on June 28, 1935 received the rating "popular education".
The story sticks closely to the Grimm’s template, but also contains a few innovations. A rich, large farmer relentlessly collects the rent from the starving family of Hansel and Gretel. On the other hand, according to the dialogue scenes on the registration card, the mother appears less cruel. With the Grimms, it is she who urges the father to abandon the children in the forest. Now Hansel and Gretel get caught up in the clutches of the wicked witch - but she is defeated in the end.
Movie: "Hansel and Gretel" (1933/35, D: Alf Zengerling, D). Has not yet been released on VHS / DVD.
Berlin: “Hansel and Gretel” get lost in the film studio
The first new sound film about the siblings was released in 1940. The fairy tale film producer Hubert Schonger directed and wrote the script. The film was only shot in the studio - the fairy tale forest in which Hänsel (Gunnar Möller) and Gretel (Gisela Bussmann) get lost and discover the witch's knusper house (Elsa Wagner) was also shot in a Berlin film studio. The script and film are closely based on Grimm's original.
"Hansel and Gretel" (D 1940): Gretel (Gisela Bussmann) pushes the witch (Elsa Wagner) into the oven / Source: SDK
But that was precisely what was viewed critically. A mere illustration of the fairy tale without setting new narrative and creative accents did not go down well even with the youngest, reported the "Deutsche Filmzeitung". The competition paper “Film-Kurier”, however, found that the fairy tale “has to be exactly right in terms of its content in the film, otherwise - as is reported by many American drawing films - the child fails to follow” (Henseleit). With this in mind, the Nazi fairy tale film was given the title “popular education”.
Movie: "Hansel and Gretel" (1940, D: Hubert Schonger, D). Has not yet been released on VHS / DVD.
Location: It is probably the Tobis-Lignose-Atelier (formerly: Rex-Atelier) in Berlin-Wedding, Sellerstraße 35 / corner Müllerstraße 182-183.
Inning am Ammersee: “Hansel and Gretel” for the first time as a color film
It wasn't until 14 years later that "Hansel and Gretel" was filmed again in Germany - and twice. The two West German assembly line producers Fritz Genschow and Hubert Schonger - who adapted the fairy tale as early as 1940 - brought the story to the screen in color for the first time in 1954. In his first film adaptation, Schonger was anxious to tell the fairy tale as faithfully as possible, but now he is turning around.
"Hansel and Gretel" (FRG 1954): The siblings meet the wicked witch (Barbara Gallauner) in the forest / © Kinowelt
The film is being shot again in the studio (in Inning am Ammersee, Bavaria), but screenwriter Gerhard F. Hummel and director Walter Janssen decouple the story. Hansel (Jürgen Micksch) and Gretel (Maren Inken Bielenberg) are not abandoned in the forest by an evil stepmother, but go on a search themselves to find a mysterious forest house with treasures. All hardship would then come to an end for the poor, loving family.
It is precisely these deviations that make one thing clear: the “idea of a broken family life” (Kaiser), as it was with the Grimms, does not fit into the family harmonious world of the West German 1950s. Evil characters, which every fairy tale needs, can therefore only be found in old (witch: Barbara Gallauner) and new (landlord: Wolfgang Eichberger) secondary characters - who do not belong to the family.
Movie: "Hansel and Gretel" (1954, D: Walter Janssen, FRG). Has been released on VHS / DVD.
Location: Film studio, 82266 Inning am Ammersee
Braunlage / Harz: dummy house for "Hansel and Gretel"
If Schonger decides to produce his fairy tale film in the studio, director and producer Fritz Genschow goes to the Harz Mountains to shoot some of the scenes for his version of "Hansel and Gretel". This is how some exterior shots are made in Herzberg. The gnusper house dummy is set up in the forest and mountain area around Braunlage. Too bad that the landscape in every static camera position resembles a sunlit and idyllic home film setting.
"Hansel and Gretel" (FRG 1954): The wicked witch (Elisabeth Ilna) lures the children into her house / © CROCO Filmverleih
Hansel (Uwe Witt) and Gretel (Heidi Ewert) really don't need to be afraid there. The special thing about this fairy tale film, however, is not so much its locations as a black and white framework that takes place in the present and embeds the actual Grimm fairy tale in color. Genschow wants to show "how inappropriate the fear of the bad stepmother is, and [...] that there is a bad stepmother in fairy tales, but not in reality, [...]". In this film version, too, a family harmonious world has priority.
Movie: "Hansel and Gretel" (1954, D: Fritz Genschow, FRG). Has been released on VHS / DVD.
Note: The original 87-minute version with a real frame plot (in black and white) and a colored middle section has been shortened to 37 minutes in the current DVD editions. These editions only show the middle part, which tells the fairy tale of "Hansel and Gretel".
Filming locations: i.a.
- Ateliers Berlin-Tempelhof / Berlin-Wannsee
- 37444 St. Andreasberg
- 38700 Braunlage
- 37412 Herzberg am Harz
- Glienicke Palace, Am Schlosspark, 13187 Berlin
Hamburg-Wandsbek: TV fairy tale film "Hansel and Gretel" is made in the studio
In the 1970s, a series of TV fairy tale films was made on behalf of Swiss television for German and Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland (SF DRS). The German Ullstein AV Produktions- und Vertriebs GmbH based in Berlin was also involved. The film was shot in the studios of Studio Hamburg, which belongs to the North German Broadcasting Corporation (NDR). The co-productions were staged by Rudolf Jugert. The director began working alongside Helmut Käutner in the 1940s as an assistant director, and later made many films himself.
From 1971 he filmed seven Grimm’s fairy tales, including "Hansel and Gretel". The half-hour fairy tale film is based on the original, but - like all Jugert fairy tales - looks like a filmed theatrical performance. What is more interesting is the music of Peter Thomas. The film composer combines the quite cruel story with fresh children's songs and funny melodies that are reminiscent of the 70s commercial for a well-known herb bitters: "Come with me to the Underberg". Well then, cheers!
Movie: "Hansel and Gretel" (1971, D: Rudolf Jugert, BRD / CH). Has been released on VHS.
Location: Studio Hamburg GmbH, Jenfelder Allee 80, 22039 Hamburg
Thuringian Forest: "Hansel and Gretel" vs. "Blair Witch Project"
In the 1954 version, the two siblings didn't have to be afraid of walking through the sunlit forest, but that doesn't necessarily apply to Hansel (Johann Storm) and his sister Gretel (Nastassja Hahn) in the 21st century. In the 2006 ZDF fairy tale film, the forest shows itself in a “Blair Witch Project” aesthetic: archaic, mysterious, ambivalent - partly recorded with a handheld camera.
"Hansel and Gretel" (BRD 2006): The siblings lost their courage. You are lost / © ZDF / Mario Pfeifer
Here the viewer can also be scared. Director Anne Wild shot these scenes in 2005 in the Thuringian Forest, among others. in Friedrichroda and Tambach-Dietharz.
In contrast to the two film adaptations from 1954, in which the parents do not abandon their children in the forest as with the Brothers Grimm, but are persuaded to do so by a fortune teller or Hansel and Gretel look for the witch's house on their own, screenwriter Peter Schwindt goes to ZDF Fairy tale film back to the roots of fairy tales. The wicked stepmother (Claudia Geisler) experiences her “rebirth” as a figurative preliminary stage of the man-eating wicked witch (Sibylle Canonica). Worth seeing.
Movie: "Hansel and Gretel" (2006, D: Anne Wild, BRD). Has been released on DVD.
Filming locations: Thuringian Forest and others
- 98716 Elgersburg, Germany
- 99894 Friedrichroda
- 99887 Georgenthal
- 98693 Manebach
- 99869 Mühlberg
- 99880 Waltershausen (OT: Schnepfenthal)
- 99897 Tambach-Dietharz
Ferch b. Potsdam: Witch lives in the Brandenburg landscape
In the Grimm Year 2012 - the 200th anniversary of the publication of the “Children's and Household Tales” - ARD is filming the story of “Hansel and Gretel” anew. In April 2012, outdoor shots were taken near the village of Ferch near Potsdam: Hansel (Friedrich Heine) and his sister Gretel (Mila Böhning) also discovered a house in the middle of the forest in this film version made of gingerbread, chocolate and liquorice - and from whose chimney there is no smoke, but sweet cotton candy.
"Hansel and Gretel" (Germany 2012): The witch (Anja Kling) of the 21st century - without a hump / © RBB / SR / Hardy Spitz
Although Ferch is not exactly known for its fairytale forests, the location is quite romantic in the midst of pine trees, meadows and broken landscapes. And: According to legend, Ferch was conjured up by a fairy out of love for a knight on the picturesque Schwielowsee. Apropos fairies: Apparently, fairy tale film author David Ungureit has studied the Fercher Chronicles intensively, because he also includes a forest fairy in the script for "Hansel and Gretel" - who is evidently related to the witch (Anja Kling) ...
Movie: “Hansel and Gretel” (2012, D: Uwe Janson, D). Has been released on DVD.
Location: i.a. 14548 Ferch b. Potsdam
Braunschweig: "Hansel and Gretel" as witch hunters on Burgplatz
After Hollywood filmed “Snow White” in a double pack in 2012 - “Mirror, mirror - The really true story of Snow White” (D: Tarsem Singh) and “Snow White & The Huntsman” (D: Rupert Sanders) - 2013 also comes “ Hansel and Gretel ”is the turn. The film action begins 15 years after the siblings fled the witch's house. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are now out as witch hunters: in black leather clothes with huge rifles.
"Hansel and Gretel: Witches Hunters" (USA / FRG 2013): On Burgplatz in Braunschweig / © Carsten Przygoda / pixelio.de
The Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola adapted the Grimm classic as a weird horror comedy. The filming location for the German-US-American co-production "Hansel and Gretel: Hexenjäger" is also Braunschweig in Lower Saxony: at the end of March 2011, the Burgplatz in the center of the city will be cordoned off. In the midst of a medieval backdrop, huge pyre burns for a witch burning at night. The Grimm oven has definitely had its day in the 21st century.
Movie: "Hansel and Gretel: Witches Hunters" / "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" (2013, D: Tommy Wirkola, USA / D). Has been released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Filming locations: i.a.
- Burgplatz, 38100 Braunschweig
- Film studios Babelsberg, 14482 Potsdam-Babelsberg
- Brothers Grimm: Hansel and Gretel, in: Children's and Household Tales. Last-hand edition with the original notes by the Brothers Grimm. With an appendix of all fairy tales and certificates of origin not published in all editions. by Heinz Rölleke. Stuttgart, 2007, Vol. 1, pp. 100-108.
- Fritz Genschow-Filmproduktion: Leaflet A color film in Agfacolor. Hansel and Gretel based on Gebrüder Grimm with a modern frame story in black and white. In: CROCO Filmverleih & Vertrieb GmbH (accessed: April 28, 2018)
- Henseleit, Felix: The second episode. Wonderful fairy tale world. In: Film-Kurier 22 (1940), No. 240, October 12, 1940, p. 4.
- Kaiser, Almut: Hansel and Gretel (Walter Janssen, 1954). In: KinderundJugendmedien.de - Scientific portal for children's and youth media (accessed: April 28, 2018)
- T. W. M .: Critics between 5 and 10 years. In: Deutsche Filmzeitung 19 (1940), No. 42, October 20, 1940, p. 1f.
- Bechstein, Ludwig: Complete fairy tales. Complete edition of Bechstein's fairy tales after the last edition, taking into account the first prints. With 187 illustrations by Ludwig Richter. Mannheim, 2011, pp. 59-66.
- Scherf, Walter: Hansel and Gretel. In: Encyclopedia of Fairy Tales. Concise dictionary for historical and comparative narrative research. Founded by Kurt Ranke. Edited by Rolf Wilhelm Brednich together with Hermann Bausinger, Wolfgang Brückner, Helge Gerndt, Lutz Röhrich and Klaus Roth. Vol. 6, Berlin / New York, 1990, Col. 498-509.
Header photo: Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner in "Hansel and Gretel: Witches Hunters" (2013, D: Tommy Wirkola, BRD / USA) / Photo: David Appleby, © 2013 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved
This post was updated on June 27, 2019.
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