A group of German infantrymen of the First World War live out their lives in the trenches of France. They find brief entertainment and relief in a village behind the lines, but primarily ... See full summary »
Georg Wilhelm Pabst
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An old German mine was split in two after the end of WWI because of where the new border was located. In the French part a fire breaks out; the German miners send a rescue group in, helping their French comrades. Three old German miners, who were not treated friendly at a French inn the night before, start their own private rescue through an old tunnel that separated the two mines. Will the official rescue party realize there are others left behind in time to save them? Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>; A.Nonymous
German film merged with the style of Italian Neo-Realism
This film, along with WESTFRONT 1918, are my favorite Pabst-directed films and I enjoyed them more than his much more famous films which starred Louise Brooks (such as PANDORA'S BOX). It's probably because both are very similar to the Neo-Realist films that the Italians perfected in the 1940s and 50s. This style film called for using non-actors (just typical folks) in everyday settings in order to create intensely involving and realistic films.
In this case, the film is about French and German coal miners, so appropriately, the people in the roles seem like miners--not actors. The central conflict as the film begins is that there is a huge mine located on the Franco-German border. Instead of one big mine, it is divided at the border and German workers are not welcome in the French mine, despite there being greater unemployment in Germany. This, language differences (illustrated wonderfully in a dance hall scene) and WWI conspire to create a huge rift between the factions--resulting in a WE vs. THEY mentality. Later, an explosion causes a huge collapse in the French and the Germans refuse to sit back and do nothing. Risking their own lives, they prove that there is true comradeship between miners and men in general.
The film is a strong criticism of xenophobia and tried, in vain, to get the German audiences to see the futility of war and hatred. It was a gorgeously moving film with some of the scariest and claustrophobic images I have ever seen. Considering history, though, the film's impact was minimal at best. It's a real shame, as like this one, WESTFRONT 1918, JÁACCUSE (Gance) and ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (Milestone) had great messages of peace and harmony but ultimately were failures in positively swaying public opinion. So, from a historical point of view, it's an amazing and sad relic that is well worth seeing.
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