Magic on a shoe-string budget and a point that is still valid today
During the cold war times, Eastern Europe, particularly Czechoslovakia and East-Germany, produced some very good TV-movies and series based on fairy-tales and legends, making them favourites among both East- and West-German kids. Yet, despite being geared at adolescents, those films usually carried subliminal political messages and "Zauber um Zinnober" ("Enchantment around Zinnober") is one of those films: Zaches Zinnober (in the novel he's a changeling) is the thorn in his mother's side: he's a dwarf who's laziness and stupidity is only surpassed by his mischievousness. When the magician Dr. Prosper dismissed from the services of a Duke due to dabbling in black magic offers to buy Zaches, his mother readily agrees. Prosper seeks revenge on the Duke and casts a spell on Zaches, which gives the dwarf the gift to take credit for everything somebody else has achieved. This ability soon catapults Zaches into the highest political position. Realising that Zaches is out of control, Prosper seeks to stop him with the help of the student Balthasar (who's fiancé Candida (sic) has fallen under the influence of Zaches) and his friends Fabian and Vincent.
The story is very loosely based on a story of romantic author ETA Hoffmann (best known for his novella "The Sandman"), but has turned the rather complex and satirical novel into a morality play about the abuse of (unwarranted) power, nepotism and the pettiness of the ruling class. As we can imagine as said, this being East-Germany in the 1980s it was probably a thinly veiled sting at West-Germany but, in retrospect, reflected more upon the political state of the one-party system.
We have to admit that the film itself hasn't aged very well. The acting with the exception of Arno Wyzniewski as the mysterious Dr. Prosper and the over-the-top performance of Walter Hermann as Zaches is never beyond children's puppet theatre, and the special effects are more or less laughable. Yet, the story, and especially the message, is as valid today, as it was back then. Just look at the state of the entertainment industry in Hollywood and you might agree.
There had already been an adaptation of the story in 1982, produced in West-Germany more faithful to the original story, yet lacking the charm of this little, almost forgotten gem.
I'd give it 6 from 10 points for pure nostalgic reasons and a message that is still valid today.
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