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A old German mine was split in two after the end of WWI because of the new border. In the Frenchpart a fire breaks out. The German minwers send a rescue group in, helping their French comrades. A group of three old German miners, who where not treaten friendly at a French inn the night before, start their private rescue through an old way, where since 1919 the border is. After all survivors are rescued, there's a big party with speeches about friendship between Frensh and Germans, while border police closes the old way in the mine. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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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