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A play about film censorship

7/10
Author: Emil Bakkum from Netherlands, Utrecht
17 December 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Feigenblatt fuer Kuhle Wampe" is actually a funny play, and definitely not left-wing propaganda. I really wonder why I am the first to review it, for it deals with film censorship. The scrutinized object is the German film "Kuhle Wampe" (1932). We are present during the deliberations of the board of film censors. The illustrious Geschonneck plays the advocate of the film producers. The arguments of the board are copied from the real proceedings, and nevertheless now make a funny impression. A long scene of nude swimming creates outrage (anyway, this feeling has lasted until the roaring sixties). The criticism of the low welfare payments is seen as a subversive act against the state. The suggestion of abortion is deemed immoral. Most of all, the "tendency" of the film creates deep perturbation and alarm among the board members. Within a single year the film was banned, then admitted with corrections, and again banned by the fascists. It is nice to have a peek behind the scenes, inside the boardroom. However, it is hard to share the anger of the play makers. The film censorship was a commonly accepted state institution until the seventies (when in the Netherlands it was abolished). In fact Kuhle Wampe is much more rebellious than the film Salth of the Earth, which was banned from the USA in the fifties (where its actors were even disciplined). Still more hypocritical is the anger of the GDR regime (former East-Germany), considering that here a highly narrow-minded film censorship was maintained right until the end when the state collapsed. This narrow-minded censorship may actually be the hidden target of the play. I also review Kuhle Wampe itself, which is on the same Suhrkamp Verlag DVD.

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