In a small village on the Faroe Islands, the people's only source of income is trapping a local breed of wild birds. The corrupt capitalist Mr. Brause exploits the locals, forcing them to work for a low wage while selling the birds with a high profit. A disease strikes the village, and many inhabitants become ill. A local physician, Dr. Stefan Horn, discovers that the source of the sickness is the birds. He sends a telegram to a medical research institute in Copenhagen. The scientists in the capital corroborate his suspicions. Brause destroys their letter and tells the villagers that they can continue with their trade. Eventually, Stefan and his cousin, Arne, manage to expose the truth before the people. Brause flees the islands.
Erwin Geschonneck as Dr. Sten Horn
Fritz Diez as Arne Horn
Willy A. Kleinau as Bassen Brause
Kriemhild Falke as Mette Horn
Siegfried Weber as Thorsten Horn
Lutz Götz as Dr. Jakobson
Georg Kröning as Dr. Mattisson
Hans Jungbauer as Mikkelson
Ernst Kahler as Kanvala
Walter B. Schulz as secretary Falberg
Rudolf Wessely as secretary Palle
Kurt Mühlhardt as police chief Almquist
Herbert Richter as Magnus
Gert Schäfer, as Per
Hans Wehrl as Mac Tunck
At 1952, the East German film industry sank to the lowest point in its history. Due to increasing supervision by the Socialist Unity Party, manifested in the new DEFA Commission of the SED's Politburo that oversaw the eponymous film studio, many productions were canceled or thoroughly censured to insure compliance with the state's ideological line. DEFA produced only six films during 1952. Under the influence of the nascent Cold War, five of them contrasted the life in the Socialist Eastern Block with those in the West. Among those, four dealt with the subject directly, while Shadow Over The Islands was an allegory, using the setting of a Faroese village for presenting the same theme.
Miera and Antonin Liehm cited Shadow over the Islands as an example to the East German films in which a positive hero - always with working-class background - was confronted by a negative one, which was mostly a former Nazi or a representative of the West, and often both. They concluded that at the time, "directors did not even try for anything than the simplest stories, filmed in the most straightforward ways. For instance... Shadow Over The Islands... Shows how capitalist merchants threaten the health of the people." Sylvia Klötzer shared this view, writing that the film was a typical example of the DEFA pictures produced during the early 1950s, with a schematic plot centered on an archetypical character with little depth. Author Udo Benzenhöfer, on the contrary, commented that the picture was a "realistic one, with many references to the broader issues of society."