The Airship

(Das Luftschiff)

GDR, 1982, 105 min, Color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Themes & Genres:


Franz Xavier Stannebein, a young boy at the turn of the 20th century, wants to do nothing more than fly. He carries this dream through his years at an orphanage and into adulthood as a merchant in Spain. He eventually invests everything he has into building his own version of an airship.


He later meets some industrialists in Germany who want to support his idea, and they ask him to build an airfield in Spain. When he sees the Nazis use the field during the Spanish Civil War, however, he feels betrayed and goes to Germany to protest. There he is thrown into an insane asylum in Leipzig. After WWII, his grandson and other survivors of the family searches for him, only to find the asylum empty ...


This experimental film is based on the novel Das Luft-Schiff. Biografische Nachlässe zu den Fantasien meines Großvaters (1974) by Fritz Rudolf Fries. Director Rainer Simon collaborated with internationally known animator Lutz Dammbeck, who was responsible for creating the non-camera animation.


2016 Film:ReStored_01, First Film Heritage Festival of the Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin
2008 Artist-In-Residence Program, Amherst
1984 Best Camera, National Film Festival, Karl Marx Stadt


Press comments

"…the topic of flying is nothing but a metaphor for freedom and self-determination."   —F. B. Habel, Das große Lexikon der DEFA-Spielfilme


 “The film catches the turn-of-the century atmosphere.” —Variety


“In the prominent role it gave to modernist music, The Airship remains […] an unusual experiment.”  —Larson Powell, Re-Imagining DEFA: East German Cinema in Its National and Transnational Context


“The first full-length experimental film made by DEFA.”  "—Heinz Kersten, Der Freitag


“An ambitious work with respect to narrative as well as the visual.”  —arsenal Cinema, Berlin


“I rarely saw a DEFA feature film so rich in inventive images and unusual visual compositions. The film dives into visual experimentation.”  —Matthias Struch, Die Zeit, die Welt und das Ich


The Airship ventures into surrealistic domains. It flies past the theater of the absurd; embarks fascinatingly into the non-camera animation of Leipzig graphic designer and filmmaker Lutz Dammbeck; and plentifully sends visual signals (from popular erotic symbols to subtle encrypted allegories).”  —Fred Gehler, Sonntag


“Rainer Simon’s production opposed conventional viewing habits. He also invited other nonconformist artists to collaborate with him, such as film and performance artist Lutz Dammbeck, who scraped animation directly into film negative, and avant-gardist Friedrich Goldmann, who wrote the score.”  —Potsdam Film Museum

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