This is one of the strangest films I ever saw: Horst Buchholz as a young man from Argentine finds first love in the Bavarian forests! But is his loved one either crazy or a ghost, or is she neither? The aim of the film is to give a very poetic and dreamlike rendering of how the Argentinian (as he is called by his friends) goes through this stage. The strangeness of the film is caused by Duvivier trying hard to achieve this, but most of the times he missing the right tone; he can not sweep the viewer off his feet to accept all he is seeing. There are scenes though that are successful and the best scene (and a very compelling one indeed) is the first encounter between the Argentinian and the girl.
Unavoidably the film heavily relies on poetic symbolism. When the Argentinian first realizes that he is in love, he rushes into the castle accompanied by a storm and heavy rain that shakes the castle. This is still acceptable (but also one of the scenes that should have deserved a better treatment in the direction), but why his love for nature, his natural innocence have to be illustrated by countless deer, is beyond me; this is getting almost satirical. Another aspect of the story that is not elaborated too well, is the presence of the other young girl Liselotte. Okay it is clear that she wants him, but she is never established as a real character, she pops in and out.
Two of the main features of the film and without which the film would probably not have survived are the cinematography and set design that give the most strength to the film. Just look at that openings shot or that extremely well done shot with the Argentinian and the girl in close up and the painting of the girl on the left behind her. Just see how the set designer in his design of the girl's house knew how to convey the dark and tense atmosphere. Music is good too.
The cast has a couple of names who need mentioning. First of course Horst Buchholz in his 2nd feature film; he is good but in his scenes with Marianne Hold (the girl from the castle) he does not stand a change! Until now I knew Marianne Hold only as the eternal virgin in Heimatfilms, but in this film she shows that she was a great actress: whenever she is on screen the complete film is raised a couple of levels in quality and atmosphere. Other noteworthy names (not always for their acting) are: Michael Verhoeven - the later director; Adi Berber - a heavy weight wrestler from Austria here playing a servant who would be very much at home with the Addams Family!; Peter Vogel in one of his first parts.
This is the German language version of a French film with the same name. According to some sources the French language version is better than this one, but alas I can not check. All in all: strange, not always successful, but certainly worth a look. (7/10)
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