Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Die Verrufenen / The Slums of Berlin / [The Outcasts] (2013 restoration, 2K DCP by Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin)

DIE VERRUFENEN (DER FÜNFTE STAND) Nach Erlebnissen von Heinrich Zille / Viides sääty / (The Slums of Berlin) [I malfamati (Il quinto livello) / The Outcasts (The Fifth Estate)] (Gerhard Lamprecht-Produktion der National-Film AG, Berlin, DE 1925) D: Gerhard Lamprecht; SC: Gerhard Lamprecht, Luise Heilborn-Körbitz; DP: Karl Hasselmann; AD: Otto Moldenhauer; C: Bernhard Goetzke (Robert Kramer), Aud Egede Nissen (Emma), Arthur Bergen (Gustav), Mady Christians (Regine Lossen), Eduard Rothauser (Rottmann), Frida Richard (Frau Heinicke), Paul Bildt (padre di/father of Robert), Rudolf Biebrach (mercante di bestiame/ livestock trader), Margarete Kupfer (governante/housekeeper), Robert Garrison (sarto/tailor), Maria Forescu (sua moglie/his wife), Max Maximilian (straccivendolo/rag seller); [2K?] DCP (from 35 mm), 113' (transferred at 18 fps); print source: Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin. Deutsche Zwischentitel. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano, digital piano, accordeon and a phonograph record: Donald Sosin, 9 Oct 2013

Rolf Aurich, Wolfgang Jacobsen: "“The engineer Robert Kramer, released from prison, cannot find his way back to civilian life. His father casts him out, his bride has broken up with him and married another. There is no work. Descending ever deeper, he lands in a shelter for the homeless, and wants to end his life, but is held back by Emma, a streetwalker. He finds refuge with her; here he also works, sewing sacks, as he had learned in prison. Then he helps an old photographer. But Robert and Emma are suddenly torn apart. Emma’s brother, a ne’er-do-well who had been in prison with Robert, has to flee because of a new crime in which he has involved his sister, taking Emma with him. Robert succeeds in working his way up again in a factory, until he has a managerial position outside Berlin. When he returns, he learns that Emma is dying. He hurries to her, to whom he owes so much, he, the only one she ever really loved. She dies in his arms.”"

"This was Gerhard Lamprecht’s summary of his film Die Verrufenen (The Outcasts), made in 1925. The text is on one of hundreds of index cards, with which he both documented and facilitated access to his film collection – which included his own films, as well as those he had collected. All important information, including the film’s producer, length of reels, censorship dates, laboratory, or foreign title, was entered by Lamprecht in impressively legible handwriting, almost completely free from error. In a 1965 interview conducted by the Deutsche Kinemathek’s former curator, Gero Gandert, Lamprecht explained that the plot of the film had been inspired by the characters and stories of the artist Heinrich Zille (1858-1929) – especially the character of a certain “Paule”, who, after he had seen the film, complained to Zille that “his life had been so precisely recounted” that “the whole world knew” now “who was meant, and it would damage him greatly”."

"The production of the film, initiated and promoted by Adolf Heilborn, a doctor, popular science author, and personal friend of Zille, as well as the brother of Lamprecht’s screenwriting collaborator Luise Heilborn-Körbitz, was difficult to get started. Both Erich Pommer of Decla and the producers at Gloria had already rejected the material as unpopular. Eventually an ally was found in Franz Vogel, with whom Lamprecht had been acquainted at Eiko-Film, and who in 1925 was a producer for National-Film. The authors’ intention was to depict life realistically within a feature-film plot. Lamprecht and his production manager Ernst Körner looked for extras in the area of Schlesischer Bahnhof (since 1998 once more known as Ostbahnhof). The “physical examinations” of those who were candidates for small parts took place, according to Lamprecht, in a pub run by a film fan. Asked by Gandert whether Die Verrufenen was a film of social criticism, the director resisted, noting that this expression was not current back then: “For those days, the film was so daring that nobody believed it would get past the censor.” Nor did Lamprecht accept the claim that a happy ending had blunted the sharpness of the film’s criticism, saying instead that the film had “an almost documentary truth to it”."

"The international success of the film, which was shown in the United States as The Slums of Berlin and in France under the title Les Deshérités de la vie, rested upon its “humanity”. Contemporary reviews were largely enthusiastic. Though Otto Steinicke in the Communist paper Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag) complained as expected about the “messed-up Milljöh” (milieu), Werner Bonwitt in the widely-read B.Z. Am Mittag praised the direction for avoiding everything “inauthentic”, and in the liberal Berliner Tageblatt Erich Burger wrote that Lamprecht had “a sure eye for the contrasting shadings of the different types”, but questioned the broad playing of some scenes, which disturbed “the unity of the pictorial composition”. In the Berliner Volks-Zeitung, the critic Fränze Dyck-Schnitzer ennobled Lamprecht’s work as the “second social film”, after Murnau’s Der letzte Mann; in a reference to Murnau’s title, she saw in Lamprecht’s film “a visual work that, without prettifying, but also without disgusting, tells the story of the little people, the ‘last people’, so to speak. Told with love and understanding, with tenderness and a forgiving look also at the ridiculousness of this condition. This work contains great human compassion.”" – Rolf Aurich, Wolfgang Jacobsen

AA: This movie is literally signed by Heinrich Zille whom we see drawing in the beginning, and the drawing comes alive as the movie we see.

Like Berlin Alexanderplatz this is a story about a man who is released from prison and who finds it almost overwhelming to return to normal life again. All doors are closed, everybody is against him.

Like in Jenseits der Strasse the outsider's only true friend is a streetwalker, here called Emma, a truly good human being (Aud Egede Nissen). The scenes we witness with her are unusual. For example she visits a single father, a widower with three little kids ("dad, remember, what you promised to mom"), and turns away.

This is a story of being left outside, finding no place to go in society. Robert's dad is only interested in stamp collecting, not at all in helping his son. We never learn what happened, but Robert has been convicted for perjury (Meineid). "One can commit perjury to keep one's integrity".

But Robert gets an opportunity to show his skill as an engineer, fixing a printing machine before an urgent deadline.

Meanwhile, Emma has been used as a decoy in a robbery which turns violent. Emma is convicted, and after her prison term she falls fatally ill. "I had many men. Robert I loved." "She was the only one who saved me from ruin".

The miserable games of poor children are a refrain in this movie. "Armut, Elend, Laster, und Alkohol" (poverty, squalor, vice, and alcohol) bring these human beings outside society.

Robert has now a secure path, but he has not forgotten. He is deeply restless and concerned about the world separate from others which we do not try to fix.

The earliest film in Lamprecht's naturalistic Berlin cycle has a Zolaesque passion for observations of reality and comes close to a documentary. The performances are realistic and subdued.

The bitter observations about outcasts are still relevant. "If one really wants to work one finds work" is still being claimed.

Expert restoration from a 35 mm source from Moscow and from a 16 mm source from Germany, HD ARRI 2013. There were slight DCP hickups in the presentation.

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