I saw "Hilde" while I was visiting Cologne and I was very impressed by the film. "Hilde" portrays Hildegard Knef's career from her beginnings as a starlet at the UFA film studios in Berlin during World War II to 1965, the start of her career as a singer of chansons. Heike Makatsch received glowing reviews for her performance as Hildegard Knef, and the reviews are very well deserved. Her acting is admirable and her renditions of Knef's songs are remarkable, full of the flavor of Knef's voice and personality.
"Hilde" is a long film but it is engrossing and rich in detail. While revealing how Knef became one of Germany's greatest stars, it also reveals a great deal about what it was like to live in her native country in the last days of the War, the post-War years and the Cold War, showing the defense of Berlin against the invading Russians, life in the city while it was under the control of the American and Allied armed forces, and how citizens of West Berlin were affected by the building of the Wall in 1961. The production shows unrestrainedly how the city changes from barricades to bombed ruins to a Modern architectured metropolis divided by the Wall. The depictions of England and Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s are also vivid, despite being shot elsewhere (in South Africa, I believe).
Other members of the cast are also outstanding. Dan Stevens is moving as Hildegard Knef's second husband, British actor David Cameron, and he spends most of the film speaking German confidently. When he first appeared and started speaking in English I was knocked out by his plummy RADA accent. I don't know if the real David Cameron spoke that way but it's appropriate for the period. (By the way, the current leader of the Conservative Party here in the UK is named David Cameron). Trystan Wyn Puetter is affecting as Knef's first husband, Kurt Hirsch, a Jewish Czech who became an American army officer after emigrating to the States. Roger Cicero is excellent in his acting debut. His performance is as natural as his singing and piano playing.
However, the film is weakened by the scenes that take place in Hollywood. The sequences showing Knef's struggles with the American studios are unconvincing and thin. The portrayal of David O. Selznick is too much a stereotype of the old type Hollywood producer, complete with constantly ringing phones, a roving eye and a slight Lower East Side accent. "Hilde" takes a bold approach by concentrating on the development of Knef as a actress and the birth of her career as a singer. Yet the film skips over Knef's Broadway triumph in 1955 as the leading lady in the Cole Porter musical "Silk Stockings": it is only alluded to in a newspaper headline. The film dramatises Knef's stress about appearing in the West Berlin concert halls as a singer by several scenes of her lying prone on a table, trying to deal with her nerves- I would have liked to see how Knef felt about singing in English live to American audiences. I would have liked to know more about her first marriage to Hirsch, who had lost half of his relatives during the Holocaust. I would also liked to know more about Knef's first lover, Reich film official Ewald von Demandowsky. The movie indicates that the Russians execute him after he is taken prisoner, but it isn't clear why or when this takes place. I had to ask some of my friends about what happened to him. Apparently, there is a large controversy about whether Knef saw von Demandowsky after the German surrender.
Overall, the film has a great deal to offer fans of Knef and people who are curious to know more about her and what made her so popular in Germany and around the world. I wish more time was spent on her American career, and the Hollywood scenes were better scripted.
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