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German Humour in the 50s and 60s? Oh, yeah, let's have a laugh about it! Sadly, it's true, during the 50s and 60s one could only seek andnot find humour and art in German films. At least those who werestriving for it didn't really stand a chance, as the so-called"Heimatfilm" was Box-Offing everyone else. Still there were exceptions. Like director Helmut Käutner who, from "Große Freiheit Nr.7"which was banned by the Nazis despite starring the times biggeststar Hans Albers, to "Die letzte Brücke", which turned MariaSchell into an international celebrity, had shown his individualism and never gave in to the comfy no-style of theAdenauer-aera. "Das Glas Wasser" turns out, in retrospect, to be one of hisbest, if most neglected, pictures. It was not a success at thetime of its release precisely of its qualities. At that timeeverybody in Germany wanted to be told how great it is to livein this country, after all, those who had survived had managedthe "Wirtschaftswunder", and that corruption may have played apart in it was something nobody wanted to hear and that a"royal" (like Adenauer) could fail was out of the question. But "Das Glas Wasser" is neither comforting nor wholesome, infact it it is cynic, or if one prefers, realistic, depictingQueen Anne as a naive and indecisive non-entity while theCountess of Marlborough and the Viscount of Bolingbroke fight itout among themselves. Definitely not a message the Germanswanted at that time. Nevertheless a film only proves its quality by the test oftime, and "Das Glas Wasser" holds up very well indeed. Thecredit goes, not in the least, to the actors. Gustaf Gründgens and Hilde Krahl, the german/austrian equivalents of Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn turn eachline into a battlefield of wit, and to watch them is not only ajoy but also a lesson in comic timing that Jim Carrey shouldcherish. And Liselotte Pulver, a German Mega-Star at that time(until then not known for subtle characterizations) turns in asurprisingly subtle, witty and emotional performance as haplessQueen Anne. Finally surprise, surprise even Horst Janson(Masham) and Saabine Sinjen (Abigail), as the lovers, stick tomemory not a bad feat in this kind of film, that grants thebest lines to the leading actors. Still it's Helmut Käutner's direction which provides the perfectsurroundings. He obviously knew from the beginning thatrealistic art design would destroy the lofty architecture ofEugène Scribe's play. So he decided on a completely artificiallook (no exteriors, flashbacks in black/white). The Queen'schambers are always shown in blinding white, as is the Queen,while the Countess of Marlborough is usually dressed in theopposing colours black and dark red, and the innocent Abigail isdressed in green, the colour of hope (and innocence). Bolingbrokes (as the communicator) clothes always fit into thepicture and therefore he never seems to stand out. Mashams reduniform obviously turns on all the ladies and makes proceedingsso difficult. Besides the artistry so obviously inherent in the picture,people turned their backs to the movie. Seeing it today onecannot help but thinking that, whether knowingly or unwittingly,Käutner had dissected his country at the time (therebyfulfilling Scribe's intentions of exposing human corruption andhypocrisy through satire) and thus alienated it. But whatever the intention, he managed to produce the onlyreally funny German mov
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