Wenn der junge Wein blüht is a film as over the top as it is solemn
Another one at the cinema, in a wonderfully crisp 35mm print. The sound wasn't excellent throughout, but the film was. This is part of a small Otto Gebühr retrospective, and I hope to catch more films starring Gebühr, as he is equally excellent in this pic as in Der große König (1942), which I saw a couple of days ago. Here he plays the father of three daughters in a family comedy of manners and he is very restrained throughout, giving the estranged old but wise man who knows more than anybody else, but doesn't want to force anything from anybody, underplaying in every scene and almost upstaging all other actors. Almost, as director Kirchhoff has been wise enough to pair him with other greats, like Henny Porten as his wife, a grand dame of German cinema, who had by 1943 had as much acting experience at the cinema as Gebühr and who seems here, at 52(!) more radiant and beautiful than in earlier roles from the 20s like Ernst Lubitsch's Kohlhiesels Töchter (1920) or Ewald André Dupont's masterpiece Die Geier-Wally (1921). The young cast is also used perfectly, with the most outstanding being the trigger-happy René Deltgen ad the seductive Marina Ried.
Nevertheless most of this and the whole quality of the film is probably due to the directing by Frith Kirchhoff who is the real discovery here. I've never seen any film by Kirchhoff before, nor heard him mentioned anywhere (at least not that I remember), but he is one director to look out for!The fluent, observant, elegant camera-work is a true highlight full of nuances and as perfectly timed as the editing, giving the film at once a stately feel as well as being always to the point. The style of Kirchhoffs fascinating direction seems to be a perfect blend of the highest virtues of the late silent era à la Sweden or France (think for example of Carl Theodor Dreyer's pastoral films from the 20s) with the fast paced early 40s style of American cinema à la Raoul Walsh's They Drive by Night (1940). Wenn der junge Wein blüht is a film as over the top as it is solemn, a combination perfectly exemplified in the opening sequence, when we find the three daughters singing opera-style in their house while doing an early proto-musical number, while the father slowly approaches from the outside listening quietly near the windows. All three windows open, but in the end we remain, with the man outside, in a shot that frames him isolated on the right edge while the rest of the frame on the left is filled by the huge manor. Nevertheless he is still the center of our attention, his determination, energy and wisdom simply cannot be denied. Seemingly through sheer presence he is able to balance and finally overcome the forces that are trying to overpower him. In contrast to the fierce Friedrich that fails in Harlan's Der große König, the inconspicuous character Gebühr plays here is the designated winner from the start.
What can I say. I went into this film expecting a rather bland "Heimat"-film (the title roughly translates to "When the young vine is blossoming again") and was in for a huge surprise. After 2 minutes I already knew this was going to be an excellent piece of filmmaking. Hopefully the direction of some other films by Kirchhoff is equally precise. If so, he belongs to the many shamefully neglected unsung heroes of German film history.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?