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The best directors sometimes make the most boring films once in a while and Helmut Käutner contributed to this statement with this film. The film looks very well taken care of and pictorial, but these are the main attractions. The story telling is no more than dutiful and drags itself from one scene to the next with no tension or excitement, though some individual scenes are very good. The passing of time is sometimes depicted rather poorly; when Maria Schell says to Curd Jürgens that "three years have passed" (somewhere in the middle of the film), the viewer looses his orientation as this passing of thime is not made clear within the story.
Talking of Schell and Jürgens: the couple is a total mismatch and not one spark of passion that is supposed to exist, is felt. Both are miscast as well. Schell is too much the neighbour-next-door type to be believable as a free living woman; she is simply too nice. And based on a vague idea Käutner decided on Jürgens for the part of Schinderhannes; the vague idea was that he wanted an older Schinderhannes (the real one and the one in Zuckmayers's play was about 25) to concentrate on the wrong choices a man can make apart from other problems connected with being young; he did not want to tackle the problems of the 50's Halbstarken (teddy boys) as well. Of course by this choice he more or less undermined the crux of the play and in this film we see Jürgens (with silly hair cut, by the way) as an older gang leader of whom we wonder why he acts the way he does. Käutner did not, at any rate not sufficiently, adapt the play to conform to his idea. In short: Käutner's intention does not work.
It is reported in a biography that Käutner more or less fell in love with the landscape in which filming took place. Was that may be the reason that the film gives the impression that Käutner was not really concerned with the film? 4000 extras were involved in the mass and war scenes, but it never shows. We see battalions far away in the landscape, but it is a lifeless view.
Of the first production of Schinderhannes (1927) I only saw a photo with in it Hans Stüwe as Schinderhannes. This photo alone is more exciting and spirited than this film.
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