Sunday, January 17, 2010
Wolfgang Staudte's next film was Rotation. It was extremely popular in Germany- many filmgoers felt that it mirrored their experiences under the Nazi regime. It, too, has expressionistic design elements. Staudte uses two flashbacks to show the action (it's not confusing, amazingly). It's the story of a family, the Behnkes, living through the inflation and unemployment of the 1920s, the rise of Nazism and World War II in Berlin. Like Rossellini, Staudte's theme is fathers and sons, though Staudte's take is much more hopeful. And his attention to detail is remarkable. In one scene in a streetcar tunnel, not only are there average Joes hiding from the bombing, but a mini-infirmary with patients, two women with their dogs (a poodle and a Great Dane) and a woman with a baby. When the tunnel starts to flood (the army has insisted on blowing up the bridge overhead), you know that those that the camera has dwelled on, aren't going to make it out. The Behnkes' son Helmut, thoroughly indoctrinated in Hitler Youth by his father, turns in both his mother's brother and his father in to the Gestapo. The uncle is murdered in Oranienburg; the father languishes in Moabit prison, and is released in the nick of time by Soviet soldiers. After the surrender, Helmut visits his father (his mother has died in the bombing) and receives his forgiveness. The end of the film is exactly like the beginning of the flashback, but it's Helmut and his girlfriend Inge meeting at the railway siding, just as his parents did 20 years earlier.
I particularly liked Staudte's music choices. The courting couple listens to "Valencia" on their Victrola, and at the wedding reception, the bride's Communist brother serenades the couple with both "What Keeps a Man Alive?" and "Who Knows How to Make Love Stay" from the then-new "Threepenny Opera."