Friday, October 08, 2010

Die Waffen der Jugend / [The Weapons of Youth]

Die Waffen der Jugend (1912). Photo: DIF / Filmportal

Die Waffen der Jugend. Die Abenteuer eines kleinen Mädchens in Berlin. Ein heiteres Drama. Deutscher Künstlerfilm. (Komet-Film, DE 1912) D+SC: Robert Wiene; DP: Charles Paulus;
    Cast: Gertrud Gräbner (May), Curt Maler (Cornelius), Hans Staufen (Peter), Conrad Wiene (Hans);
    Filmed: 12.1912; released: 10.1.1913; 35 mm, 615 m, 28 min (19 fps), col. (tinted); source: EYE Film Institute Netherlands, Amsterdam. Deutsche Zwischentitel.
    Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in English and Italian and Mauro Colombis at the grand piano, 8 Oct 2010

DAVID ROBINSON in the GCM Catalogue: "This long-lost film was the debut in cinema of Robert Wiene (1873- 1938), seven years before his mythical Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari. For a first film it is admirably assured, with lively narrative and characters, inventive mise-en-scène, and a few, but evocative Berlin locations. The heroine, May, is tearfully sent off to boarding school, where she soon becomes a spirited and disruptive presence. Disciplined, she runs away, and is rescued from the streets by Hans and Peter, two disreputable mendicants. Taking her into their home, they treat her with exemplary respect; in turn she reforms them, getting them to shave, mend their clothes, and sweep the floor of their hovel. The happy ending is equivocal: the carefree reprobates look at risk of falling victim to respectability, and going to work.

The son of the stage actor Carl Wiene, Robert Wiene studied law in Berlin before drifting to the stage in his mid-30s, finally encountering film with this charming comedy. Between this and Caligari he made a score of successful commercial pictures, now mostly lost. Caligari gave him international status and his career prospered – with lingering loyalty to Expressionism in Genuine, Raskolnikow, and Orlacs Hände.

With the rise of Nazism the Jewish Wiene left Germany, and never retrieved his career. In Budapest he made Eine Nacht in Venedig (1934); in London he was uncredited producer on The Robber Symphony, directed by Friedrich Feher, who had played Francis in Caligari. In Paris, a plan to collaborate with Cocteau on a sound version of Caligari came to nothing, but in 1938 Wiene embarked on a spy film, Ultimatum. He died from cancer ten days before the end of the production: the film was finished by Robert Siodmak. Wiene’s younger brother Conrad (or Konrad), born in 1878, who plays Hans in the film, appears to have begun his career as an actor, though this is his only recorded performance. From 1916 to 1932 he enjoyed a successful career as a director. With the rise of Fascism he chose to emigrate to Austria, after which all trace of him seems lost.

The unique known copy of Die Waffen der Jugend was found in 2009 during the restoration of an old house in Rotterdam, which in the early 20th century was occupied by a family with a photographic equipment business; the film was in a container with other comedies and news films of 1913-1915. Despite its perilous condition – the adhering film had to be painstakingly separated before work on it could begin – it has been successfully and completely restored, with the original tinting. – DAVID ROBINSON."

AA: An ok print from a heavily tinted source.

The story of the wild girl May who is too much at the girls' boarding school. May escapes and gets shelter from two crooks, "Vertrauen inspirierende Gestalten". "Unschuld und Jugend sind die besten Waffen". "Deine Jacke ist zerrissen". "Dein Bart is hässlich". May learns how to use feminine weapons and the three have a civilizing influence on each other. Yet, "May wird in feinen Kreisen eingeführt" and after a fight she falls into the hands of the police. The desperate father comes to fetch his daughter, but May has already found her way to deal with the policemen.

A funny and original comedy.

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