Newly-minted teacher Karla stands before her first class of students filled with vigour, idealism and, yes, the requisite measure of naiveté. She doesn’t want to teach a curriculum, she wants to teach the skill of learning; to train her students to be honest, thoughtful, critical people. She soon notices how warped and opportunistic her secondary pupils are. Karla rouses them, challenges them, pulls them out of their shell. And she does it successfully. Although the teachers’ collective regards her with suspicion, she enjoys the support of school director Ali Hirte. Her new beau, Kaspar, has been burned once and is sceptical of her zeal. It looks like he might turn out to be right; over time, Karla becomes domesticated. But she is not the sort to be written off quite so easily …
In 1963, the Politburo released a communiqué liberalising youth policies and "Karla" takes that seriously. But by the time shooting of the film had wrapped, things had already shifted. Even before the 11th plenum of the Central Committee, the director of DEFA studios suggested delaying the looping work. A long period of edits and truncations to the work ensued before the film was finally banned in 1966.
About the censored version:
In early December 1965, even before the Central Committee’s 11th plenum, there were signs of problems with "Karla". Planned looping sessions were delayed and, as soon as the plenum ended, plans were laid to change the film. The character of the young teacher Karla, who demanded unswerving honesty both from herself and from others, had to be tamed; she had to recognise her mistakes and toe the line. There were discussions about edits, re-shoots and changes to the dialogue. Some of the suggested changes survive in a censored version. It started with the loss of Karla’s dynamic first appearance, an improvised speech about how she views the teaching profession. School director Ali Hirte, a fatherly friend who is more sympathetic to Karla’s escapades than befits his office, becomes an aloof authority figure. Karla’s love of Kaspar, a person whose attitude towards society is unclear, was not to be allowed to end well …
The censored version is fragmentary, with breaks and a lack of context in the plot. The film was never completed at the time. It was not until 1990 that it could be reconstructed in its original version and screened.
Source: 66. Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin (Catalogue)