Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
The scene: Berlin, 1948. In the midst of the ruined city, a movie about the revolutions of 1848 is being produced. Several university students are employed as extras, among them the medical student Heinz Althaus (Ernst Wilhelm Borchert) and Else Weber (Inge von Wangenheim), who is studying German history. At first they interact with reserve, though Heinz's attraction to the intelligent, beautiful Else is clear from the start; her passion and interest in the ideals of the '48ers intrigues him, forcing him to confront his own stance regarding one's relationship to history.
UND WIEDER 48! is an erudite film, made at a time when many Germans would have rather brushed aside their history, even as they were removing the rubble of their destroyed cities. Gustav von Wangenheim (here as director, earlier star of the Weimar cinema) draws extensive parallels between the Germany of 1948 and the as-yet non-existent Germany of 1848. Scenes alternate between "today" and "then", either as represented in the fictitious film under production, or as imagined by the characters involved in the project.
UND WIEDER 48! is also a film about Berlin; several scenes were shot on location. Here one can see the Berliner Dom, the Humboldt University, and even the ruins of the Stadtschloss, all as they looked in 1948. The film's final scene takes place at the Wartburg fortress in Thüringen.
Inge von Wangenheim (the director's wife) is unquestionably the star of this film. Her performance is so natural, her bearing so graceful, it is unfortunate that she did not continue a career in film acting. Ernst Wilhelm Borchert also delivers a fine performance. It is a fascinating film from many perspectives; one that deserves to be better known.
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