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Hans Pfeiffer and some of his friends are drinking "Feuerzangenbowle". Talking about their school-time they discover that Hans never was at a regular school and so, as they think, missed an important part of his youth. They decide to send him back to school to do all the things he never could do before. Written by
Wolfgang Klimt <email@example.com>
Die Feuerzangenbowle is based on the familiar and often-filmed story idea of pupils playing various tricks and jokes on their teachers. An easy excuse for an avalanche of slapstick one might think and indeed we get our fair share.
The twist in the story is the leader of the pack, the major cause of the teachers' headaches: Johannes Pfeiffer. He is not a real pupil at all, instead a successful playwright with a PhD. One evening at the pub his friends discover that he never went to a school but was educated privately. Their stories of their boyhood years (and a bit too much alcohol) persuade him to see for himself and 'be a boy again'.
Die Feuerzangenbowle is the second film version of Heinrich Spoerl's novel. Heinz Rühmann played the lead in both films, which is somewhat surprising as they have been made ten years apart. Therefore he is a bit too old for his role now but still manages to pull it off quite convincingly.
The film was made in 1944, so it is a bit astonishing that the Nazi censors were prepared to pass a film with such an anti-authoritarian message. To keep them happy, Spoerl created one character, the teacher Brett, who displays authority and firmness and whom the pupils blindingly obey -- the sort of person you can easily imagine being in charge of an SS regiment. Still, Spoerl uses this very character to deliver a political message: when the teachers discuss how to get hold of the culprit of the most recent outrageous trick, one suggests that "there is always a 'friend' willing to talk", a clear reference to the wide-spread culture of denunciation in Nazi Germany. Brett replies "I hope we don't have any friends like this in our school."
Die Feuerzangenbowle is very well made and today enjoys a cult status in Germany (the 1944 version that is). However, most of the humour would not travel well at all, especially the clever use of accents and dialects is virtually untranslatable; a non-native speaker -- even somebody with a fair knowledge of German -- would miss most of it when watching the original.
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