Carbide and Sorrel is a winning German comedy made in 1963 right before the East German Communist party clamped down on the film industry.
The film - set in 1945 - was one of the few that didn't get censored and it is probably because of the humor in the film which keeps everything light. But despite this there is an undeniably sober undertone as well as an individualistic, anti-authoritarian quality to the film.
The situation is humorous from the start. A bunch of out-of-work men want to rebuild a cigarette factory but the place is completely wrecked. They need carbide in order to use their welding equipment. All of them being smokers they decide to ask Kalle (Erwin Geschonneck) an optimistically naive fellow worker - who is in good shape [and a vegetarian] - if he could go to Wittenberge and bring back carbide.
Kalle doesn't have access to a vehicle so he walks to Wittenberge, which is a few hundred miles away. Once there he manages to get seven barrels of carbide but he has to find a way to get them all back to Dresden without being detected by Soviet authorities. Thus his journey begins.
Along the way he meets a cast of colorful characters including a young farm woman he falls in love with, an older farm woman who tries to seduce him, a teenager and an opera singer who try to trick him, soldiers who confiscate a couple barrels and a number of others who try to steal the carbide. He also spends many nights in barns and forests; and a couple in jail.
The film was directed by Frank Beyer a seasoned director for the DEFA studios and he has a deft hand at comedy and slapstick scenarios. But Beyer does not hide the fact that the film is set in a depressed post war Germany. Most of the people are poor and trying to deal with the hard hit economy. And the Soviets who rule part of the Eastern part of the country have a tight control that keeps everyone on their toes.
The film's humor is a bit dated not only because of the subject matter but it does not advance humor much beyond the silent era. Still it does have some good moments. Especially as Kalle's barrel totals dwindle the closer he gets to home.
The comedy was no doubt too close to the Communist world to take too big a commentary on the state of affairs. But Meyer keeps a steady political hand; just as he lampoons one Soviet character he introduces a gullible American. Perhaps that kept the East German censors from outright banning the film.