German film in which a sensitive girl is sent to an all-girls boarding school and develops a romantic attachment to one of her teachers. One of the earliest narrative films to explicitly ... See full summary »
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Johnny Mack Brown
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German film in which a sensitive girl is sent to an all-girls boarding school and develops a romantic attachment to one of her teachers. One of the earliest narrative films to explicitly portray homosexuality. Written by
Black Francis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The movie was banned when first released in Germany and the United States. It wasn't until First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw the importance of the movie that the ban was lifted. See more »
You're responsible for this uproar, I won't allow revolutionary ideas. As long as I am in charge, it won't happen here.
Fraulein von Bernburg:
I won't cling to my post. I know I can't stay here. I can't stand by and watch children made into scared, helpless creatures.
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The original play "Gestern und Morgen" had its premiere in 1930 and was an immediate success. This prompted Carl Froelich to adapt the play for film. Both leading actress of the play Hertha Thiele (her first film) and the original director of the play Leontine Sagan (also her first film) were invited to join. The direction was split into direction of the cast and mise-en-scene by Leontine Sagan and overall direction by Carl Froelich; this means that Froelich was responsible for the overall quality of the film (in German: Künstleriche Oberleitung).
The play as well as the later novel emphasizes the sexual/lesbian love theme, but the film adaptation was toned down; the original sad end was replaced by a happy end. Though the film goes as far as it can in its theme of (awakening) lesbian feelings and sexual feelings of young girls in general, shifting emphasis automatically meant concentrating on the theme of the cold and inhumane authoritarian (Prussian) way of life and upbringing, a way of thinking still present in the Weimar republic and in 1931 already considered a danger to the young republic. Then audiences were more interested in this aspect than in the sexual one. Despite this it still remains a remarkable film of the Weimar period in depicting the more loosening attitude towards sexuality in general as well as the dismissal of the old authoritarian life style, though, and this is the weak point of the premise, it never succeeds- in relating the two. A political stand this film certainly takes not, but, as the original title "Yesterday and Tomorrow" says, this film makes a plea for a more liberal and humane society. Of course the film was banned after the Nazi take-over (though for some obscure reason Goebbels liked the film "as film").
The old way of thinking is shown in some remarkable images. The opening of the film, after some shots of Potsdam, shows first the marching of soldiers than cuts to a walk of the girls; the girls do not walk, but march as the soldiers do. The Prussian authority is represented by the Frau Oberin whose presence in the film is that like an average hard boiled Prussian king (and not unlike Frederick the Great, the king who was depicted in nationalist films in the 20' and 30's a number of times)); her hairdo is not simply a way to wear one's hair, it fits like a crown on her head. When she presides a meeting with the other teachers, she presides as a queen, sitting slightly above the level of the teachers. Fear for authority is conveyed through the Von Kenten character whose physical attitude constantly is that of a writhed of fear, human being.
Note the military trumpet in the final scene (one of the examples of the excellent use of sound) as Frau Oberin walks resigned through the corridor: there may have been a small relapse in the system within the institution, the trumpet tells us that outside things are still unchanged.
The direction of Sagan/Froelich and the cinematography are outstanding, but it could never have become the classic it is if both Hertha Thiele and Dorothea Wieck had not been in the lead. Photogenic Thiele plays Manuela as a sensitive, but still proud girl; Wieck gives the Von Bernburg character all the subtleties and uncertainties it needs. But let's not forget the completely forgotten actress Ellen von Schwannecke as a wonderful Ilse. Thiele and Wieck would repeat their co-operation in an amazing film by Frank Wysbar (one of the producers of "Mädchen"): Anna und Elisabeth (1933), also a film with a lesbian theme.
A very odd aspect is also noteworthy. The 4 main people involved can be divided in 2 sub groups: Hertha Thiele and Leontine Sagan went into exile in 1933 and were not to have a career after 1945 in West-Germany, while Dorothea Wieck and Carl Froelich (he became member of the NSDAP) continued their careers in Nazi Germany and after 1945. Convinced of it that involvement in this film also meant according its basic ideas (remember that it was not an established production company that made the film, but a collective), this split-up of minds can almost be seen as symbol for the schism in Germany.
For a complete understanding of this film and the play I recommend to read the novel as well.
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