Thursday, October 10, 2013

Menschen untereinander / [People among Each Other] (2013 restoration in 2K DCP)

MENSCHEN UNTEREINANDER. Acht Akte aus einem nicht uninteressanten Miethaus / Mielenkiintoinen talo / [Esseri umani uno sotto l’altro / People among Each Other] (Gerhard Lamprecht-Produktion der National-Film AG, Berlin, DE 1926) D: Gerhard Lamprecht; SC: Luise Heilborn-Körbitz, Gerhard Lamprecht, Eduard Rothauser; DP: Karl Hasselmann; AD: Otto Moldenhauer; C: Alfred Abel (Helmut Köhler), Aud Egede-Nissen (Gertrud Köhler, sua moglie/his wife), Eduard Rothauser (Rudloff, il gioielliere/jeweller), Renate Brausewetter (sua figlia/Rudloff’s daughter), Berthold Reissig (Lippert, il venditore di palloncini/balloon- seller), Paul Bildt (Ritter), Elsa Wagner (Frau Ritter), Max Maximilian (Kaminski, il portiere/porter), Margarete Kupfer (Ria Ricarda Roda), Olga Limburg (Helene Ipanova); 2K DCP, 119' (transferred at 18 fps); print source: Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin. Deutsche Zwischentitel. The DCP (2K) being shown is a digitally restored version based on a 16 mm print from the Deutsche Kinemathek that was made in 1935 from the original nitrate negative. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano: Donald Sosin, 10 Oct 2013

Wolfgang Jacobsen: "The story of Menschen untereinander (People among Each Other) is engendered by a structure, a Berlin apartment building whose inhabitants are introduced by the house directory, listing the tenants’ names. A dissolve leads to two women who comment on the listing. The exposition is based on gossip: one tells the other what she knows about each tenant. Zu ebener Erde und erster Stock (To the Ground Floor and the First Floor) is the title of an 1835 comedy by the popular Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy (1801-1862). In its dramaturgical concept one can readily draw definite parallels with Lamprecht’s film. Constructed episodically and thematically, it seeks, as was the case with Nestroy, a contemporaneous contrast between spheres of social life at opposite extremes. While a festive meal takes place on one floor, there is starvation on another."

"That is how it is portrayed by Nestroy, and that is also how Lamprecht’s film organizes it, only the stratification is reversed. For Lamprecht and his screenwriter Luise Heilborn-Körbitz, the poorest dwell not in the cellar, but in the attic. As the piano teacher pays his hard-earned rent and the landlady spreads butter thickly on her bread, she answers his lingering by pointing out the proverb on the wall: Save now, that you may have in time of need. The piano teacher has lost his fortune in the rampant inflation that engulfed German society in the 1920s. Nestroy brought such a situation to the stage in reverse, in the form of a social utopia, as the poorest of the poor in the cellar dream that if the rich didn’t always invite rich people over, “but poor people, then everyone would have enough to eat”."

"This rigid dichotomy becomes unhinged through feelings, love and happiness and their disappointments. Happiness is unpredictable. Almost a century lies between the works of Nestroy and Lamprecht, but the years had not altered this recognition. Lamprecht’s critics charged him with pettiness, along with sentimentality. But one distinction could be demonstrated. In his 1925 film Die Verrufenen (The Outcasts), Lamprecht and his screenwriter were still confined to one milieu, and wrote a meditation on the lives of the “fifth estate”. This bond no longer holds people together. Freedom results, but so does disjointedness – through an accumulation of circumstances and simultaneities a conglomerate of human life arises. Four steps at the front of the house, four steps at the rear.

"The critic Hans Feld remarked: “Finally a hand is summoned to strip the pages from the Biblia pauperum: life.” One episode presents the fate of a woman who has a child while in prison. A standard theme in Lamprecht’s films is mothers, and also fathers, who cannot be with their children. In Die Unehelichen (Illegitimate Children, 1926) he deals with a further aspect of this social affliction. Menschen untereinander, “People among each other” – these are names, destinies, mannerisms, types, attitudes. Here is an incisive milieu. The film shows these individuals and their mannerisms quite tangibly and very graphically. That the child may not remain with the woman, but is taken away from her, almost drives her insane... "

"Everything takes place against the backdrop of the post-World War I inflation period. For example, the owner of the building, a young widow, learns at the bank that her fiancé has withdrawn her assets. She has been taken in by a swindler. So she rushes to the bank at which, so she believes, he has an account. Each chases the other’s money. The camera films only her feet, storming forward in a fast run; rows of houses, cut into the run, race past her, out of focus and blurred by the movement. A rousing staging, in which the lust for money is paired with the fear of its loss through a “visual logic”. A diabolical loop, captured in just a few shots."

"Another episode is devoted to the life of a madam who runs a casual salon in the house, where men and women can unceremoniously meet. Naturally, money changes hands. One prospective client, prurient and inhibited, delineates his dream woman with small gestures. It’s just an acting vignette, but Lamprecht observes it very precisely. Thus emerges a picture of the big city, all under one roof. Lamprecht succeeds in transmitting the synchronicity of every event. The editing is simple but effective. A parallelism of coexistence results – and with it an interlocking complex of emotional states: goodness and wickedness, tenderness and malice." – Wolfgang Jacobsen, from his book Zeit und Welt – Gerhard Lamprecht und seine Filme (Munich: edition text + kritik, 2013)

AA: Ein Querschnittfilm. A multi-character study set in an apartment house owned by a harsh landlady. There is a matrimonial agency kept by Margarete Kupfer, familiar from the comedies by Ernst Lubitsch. "Even desperate cases" are handled, and "informal social evenings" are arranged. There is a piano teacher who is not paid well and who is falling behind in rents. There is a ballet school where the teacher now lands a job. There is a jeweller whose shop is downstairs. There are the remains of a noble family (mother and son), now without means. Alfred Abel is a civil servant whose career (Laufbahn) has been ruined since his wife has become guilty of a fatal car accident and landed in jail. The stern landlady likes to sermonize about saving. The piano teacher: "I saved all my life. I lost all in the inflation."

Memorable scenes: - The old piano teacher and the little ballerinas. - The baby born in prison. The baptism which is like a funeral. - The noblewoman's worthless jewels offered to the jeweller. - "The informal soirée". - The clever swindler "from Australia" having his way with the wealthy and love-hungry landlady.

Due to the swindler the landlady loses her fortune and the jeweller buys the house.

There is again a documentary passion in Gerhard Lamprecht's film which is a cross-section of class society. There is also satire, tenderness, and a sense of humour. Occasionally there are affinities with Rear Window in the cross-section approach.

The musical interpretation by Donald Sosin was inspired, with dance music, ballet drill music, and even an old phonograph, perfectly timed.

According to the restoration credit title no 35 mm sources survive, and the restoration has been conducted based on 16 mm sources, from a 2K ARRI scan, and 6 minutes are still missing. From these sources the restoration has been conducted very well.

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