A biographical film of Otto von Bismarck, the Prime Minister of Prussia, and how he and his policies - including aggressive war - helped to unite Germany.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Hartmann ...
Friedrich Kayßler ...
King Wilhelm I.
...
Queen Eugénie
Käthe Haack ...
Maria Koppenhöfer ...
Königin Augusta
Walter Franck ...
Ruth Hellberg ...
Crown Princess Victoria
Werner Hinz ...
Kronprinz Friedrich
Margret Militzer ...
Komtess Marie von Bismarck
Karl Schönböck ...
Günther Hadank ...
Minister Moltke
Hellmuth Bergmann ...
Minister von Roon
Karl Haubenreißer ...
...
König von Sachsen
Jaspar von Oertzen ...
Prinz Friedrich Karl
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Storyline

A biographical film of Otto von Bismarck, the Prime Minister of Prussia, and how he and his policies - including aggressive war - helped to unite Germany.

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Genres:

Biography | Drama

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Release Date:

6 December 1940 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Bismarck - Das politische Schicksal des Eisernen Kanzlers  »

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1.37 : 1
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Connections

Edited into Germany Awake! (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Sink this 'Bismarck'!
8 March 2003 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

The 1940 film 'Bismarck' was one of the Staatsauftragsfilme: the 'state-produced films' of the Third Reich which were clearly meant as Nazi propaganda. Rather than blatantly extolling Hitler, these films typically chose a powerful figure from German history and depicted him favourably, careful to stress similarities (real or invented) between this protagonist and Adolf Hitler, the founder of the Third Reich. In this particular film, the similarities are more obvious than elsewhere ... as the protagonist of 'Bismarck' is the diplomat who founded the Second Reich.

'Bismarck' is a selective recounting of the life story of Otto von Bismarck, the prime minister of Prussia who achieved military victory over Austria, humiliated the French government, and proclaimed Kaiser Wilhelm the First as the Emperor of Germany. Early on in this long movie, we get a feeling of what we're in for as Bismarck addresses the Landtag. Speaking directly into the camera, actor Paul Hartmann (as Bismarck) tells us: "The great questions of the present will not be solved by speeches and parliaments, but by iron and blood." He doesn't say "Sieg heil!", but you get the message, ja?

This film carefully sets up parallels between Bismarck and Hitler. As soon as Bismarck becomes prime minister, the next scene shows him building up the army that will create a German empire. (Hitler did much the same as soon as he became chancellor.) Figures in Bismarck's life are presented as equivalents of figures in Hitler's career. Although Bismarck installed Wilhelm as emperor, this movie shows Bismarck challenging the Kaiser's authority and urging him to form a military non-aggression pact with Russia to strengthen Prussia's eastern flank. Wilhelm is depicted as a man who has outlived his usefulness, who should step aside for a stronger and greater leader: in other words, he's the equivalent of Paul von Hindenburg, the president of the Weimar Republic who was displaced by the ambitious Hitler.

The period detail in 'Bismarck' is excellent, and the production values are impressive ... but then, Germany's UFA film studio was able to use cheap labour in wartime. In the central role, Paul Hartmann gives a lacklustre performance. Not much better is Friedrich Kayssler as Kaiser Wilhelm. (Kayßler was murdered for political reasons less than a week before Hitler committed suicide.) In the role of the Empress, Lil Dagover is darkly beautiful ... still looking remarkably like the pale heroine she depicted in 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari' and 'Destiny'.

Many of Nazi Germany's propaganda films had some genuine artistic merit and interesting scripts, notwithstanding their political agenda. But 'Bismarck' is long on Nazi agitprop and short on redeeming features. The most interesting thing about this movie is its sequel: 'Bismarck' was a huge hit at the Third Reich's box office, reaping a profit of nearly two million reichsmarks. The propaganda office straight away commissioned a sequel: 'Die Entlassung'. This is a much better film than 'Bismarck', with the same director but with a much better actor taking over the role of Otto von Bismarck: the great Emil Jannings. I'll rate 'Bismarck' 2 points out of 10.


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