Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hitlerjunge Quex

DE 1933. PC: Ufa. P: Karl Ritter. D: Hans Steinhoff. SC: K. A. Schenzinger; Bobby E. Lüthge – based on the novel by Schenzinger. DP: Konstantin Irmen-Tschet. AD: Artur Günther. M: Hans-Otto Borgmann. Theme song written for this film "Unsere Fahne", lyrics : Baldur von Schirach (it became the official HJ song). S: Walter Tjaden. ED: Milo Harbich. LOC: Berlin-Müggelsee, Seddinsee bei Berlin, Anhalter Bahnhof.
    C: Heinrich George (Father Völker), Berta Drews (Mother Völker), Jürgen Ohlsen (Heini Völker), Claus Clausen (Bannführer Kass), Ramspott (Kameradschaftsführer Fritz Doerries), Helga Bodemer (Ulla Doerries), Hermann Speelmans (Communist Agitator Stoppel), Rotraut Richter (Gerda), Karl Meixner (Fanatical Communist Wilde), Hans Richter (Franz), Ernst Behmer (Kowalski), Hans-Joachim Büttner (Doctor), Franziska Kinz (Nurse). 92 min.
    This film has been banned in Germany since 1945. It was never released in Finland and has been screened in our country only at the film archive screening 13 Feb 1976 at Cinema Bristol (thank you, Leena Suvanto, for this info).
    A Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung print by special permission of Auswärtiges Amt with e-subtitles in Finnish by AA and and introduction by Pasi Nyyssönen in Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 9 Dec 2008.

A beautiful print.

The Hitler-Jugend film supervised (n.c.) by Baldur von Schirach.

There were three Nazi propaganda feature films produced in the "Kampfzeit", the period of the struggle. This, the third, portrays Nazis as the ideal for the young. They defend themselves against Communist violence with self-discipline and in a spirit of sacrifice. There is no racism in this picture.

Although this was the only of the three that was unreservedly approved by the Nazi leaders, it was reportedly in active circulation only for one year. Already by the end 1934 its line was old-fashioned.

Steinhoff (1882–1945), a talented and experienced director, advanced to the top of the industry on the basis of this film. Let's first state that this is a film to legitimize the brutal, anti-democratic, militaristic, and racist coup of the Nazi movement.

For an explicit propaganda film, the film has interesting features.

1) Visually it is strongly linked to the great tradition of the Weimar cinema, although Nazis fought Weimar culture as decadent.

2) One of the main locations is the Rummelplatz, the pleasure garden, so important in German since Caligari and before. It is portrayed in an inventive and original way.

3) The role of the Moritatensänger is interesting as a social commentator and the popular poet of dark deeds.

4) The lucrative Swiss army knife has an interesting symbolic role. It is a recurrent motif, always with a different meaning.

5) Heinrich George is at his best as the Communist father, a complex and powerful role. He's seen as a figure of elemental power, with a capacity to tenderness and empathy but also to brutality, misled by the Communists. The classic scene is when he hears his son sing the HJ song and teaches him the Internationale manually, slapping his face to the rhythm of the song! There is a direct link to his Franz Biberkopf in Piel Jutzi's version of Berlin-Alexanderplatz.

6) Berta Drews is very moving as the mother. The double suicide sequence is the film's most forceful, three minutes without dialogue, with powerful music theme by Hans-Otto Borgmann in the otherwise non-stop talking movie. It brings to mind Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück, also by Piel Jutzi.

7) Stoppel (Hermann Speelmans) the Communist agitator is an interesting fellow, with lucrative and humoristic characteristics.

8) Rotraut Richter is attractive and believable as the Communist seductress Gerda.

9) And Jürgen Ohlsen (1917–1994) as Quex, a difficult role, is perfect. This was his first film in a film career of only two feature films.

10) All other Nazis are bland.

11) The "Unsere Fahne" theme song sounds more engaging here than in Triumph des Willens.

A remarkable work in the history of German cinema justifiedly banned as the legitimation of a murderous movement.

No comments: