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A Cashier in a bank in a small German town is alerted to the power of money by the visit of a rich Italian lady. He embezzles 60, 000 Marks and leaves for the capital city, where he attempts to find satisfaction in politics, sport, love and religion. Written by
I can understand why the producers on this film decided not to release it. It is the most expressionistic film I have ever seen except for Wiene's CALIGARI and that almost didn't make it into the theaters.
This attempt to produce an appropriately radical movie version of a radical stage show from just before the war digs deeply into radical stage technique of the period -- just a year after the Spartacist uprising had seemingly put post-war Germany at risk. Would a large enough audience be found to make this a commercial success, or even to recover some of the negative costs? Obviously someone found it doubtful or let his political leanings make the decision for him. If the latter, decry the politics -- but can art ever be separated from politics?
The big question is how did a copy of this escape into Japan where it sat for almost forty years? I have no idea. Maybe they just wanted to get the darned thing out of Germany without being denounced for destroying it.
Having looked at the recent DVD release, I offer the thought that this is an experimental film, and not all experiments work out as planned. That's why one experiments. I find the techniques interesting, but utterly distracting from anything the original playwright intended to convey by words or actions. While the use of expressionistic techniques was exciting, a cannier technique might have made the work more accessible. Contrast this with that equally radical pre-war drama, HINDLE WAKES, which Maurice Elvey directed the year earlier. That version is unavailable, but the version he remade in 1927 is available and makes its points without driving the viewer into a nervous breakdown.
The expressionistic techniques employed here and in in CALIGARI survived, of course and in diluted form were and still are a major influence on camera technique. So I am glad to see this work available, and take a great deal of pleasure in it: not for this movie itself, but for what it wrought, most notably in the film noir movement. This is unlikely to be a popular position among film buffs, but movies are a matter of commercial art, made for large audiences. This fails on that count.
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