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16 user 11 critic

La Habanera (1937)

Trapped in Puerto Rico, a beautiful young Swede is torn between her passionate, but mildly abusive South American oligarch husband and her longing for her European homeland.

Director:

Douglas Sirk (as Detlef Sierck)

Writer:

Gerhard Menzel
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Cast

Credited cast:
Zarah Leander ... Astree Sternhjelm
Ferdinand Marian ... Don Pedro de Avila
Karl Martell Karl Martell ... Dr. Sven Nagel
Julia Serda Julia Serda ... Tante Ana Sternhjelm
Boris Alekin Boris Alekin ... Dr. Luis Gomez
Paul Bildt Paul Bildt ... Dr. Pardway
Edwin Jürgensen Edwin Jürgensen ... Shumann
Carl Kuhlmann Carl Kuhlmann ... Prefect
Michael Schulz-Dornburg Michael Schulz-Dornburg ... Little Juan de Avila
Rosita Alcaraz Rosita Alcaraz ... Spanish dancer
Lisa Helwig Lisa Helwig ... Rosita - Don Pedro's old servant
Géza Földessy Géza Földessy ... Chauffeur (as Geza von Foeldessy)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Franz Arzdorf Franz Arzdorf ... Doctor #1 in Puerto Rico
Roma Bahn Roma Bahn ... Ebba
Günther Ballier Günther Ballier ... Steward
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Storyline

Astrée Sternhjelm is visiting Puerto Rico with her aunt Ana, and is enchanted by the island. The day before leaving she meets the wealthy Don Pedro at a bullfight arena, and is infatuated by him. Just before the ship takes off, she hears the song "La Habanera" sung by some natives at the quay. The song strikes a chord in her heart, and without hesitating she leaves the boat to find Don Pedro. After some weeks they get married. Ten years later her paradise has turned into hell. She is locked up with her son Juan in the big estate by her jealous and controlling husband. In Stockholm her aunt Ana is financing a foundation, which is sending two doctors to Puerto Rico to research a tropical fever. One of them, Dr. Sven Nagel, was once in love with Astrée, and the aunt asks him to find out what has happened to her niece. When the two doctors arrive to the island, they are met with hostility from the authorities and the local doctors, who are afraid that news about the tropical fever in the ... Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Germany

Language:

German

Release Date:

30 December 1937 (Slovenia) See more »

Also Known As:

Habanera See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universum Film (UFA) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Tobis-Klangfilm)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

German censorship visa # B.47111 delivered on 17-12-1937. See more »

Quotes

Astree Sternhjelm: You know, I turned back at the last moment ten years ago as the steamer was casting off. The island seemed to me like a paradise back then. Later, it came to seem like hell.
Dr. Sven Nagel: And now?
Astree Sternhjelm: Now? I have no regrets.
Dr. Sven Nagel: Regret is always foolish.
Astree Sternhjelm: La Habanera...
See more »

Connections

Featured in Heimat - Eine deutsche Chronik (1984) See more »

Soundtracks

A-B-C ... Kinderlied
Music by Ralph Benatzky
Lyrics by Ralph Benatzky
Performed by Zarah Leander and Michael Schulz-Dornburg
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Essential Early Sirk
8 June 2006 | by antcol8See all my reviews

I love this film. I love it for itself, and I love it for the light it sheds on Sirk's later Universal pictures of the '50's. The DVD from Kino comes with a brilliant little essay by Jan-Christopher Horak where, among other things, he asks the question "But was it (this film) really transgressive?" This same question has been asked about Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life and all the others. And all of us who love Sirk's films need to ask ourselves this question from time to time. I can say that what I find transgressive in Sirk's work is the multiplicity of angles and approaches that the films reveal. They dare to find the beauty and truth in melodrama. They dare to be ironic without snickering. For all the acclaim that Far From Heaven received, no one, as far as I know, commented on the fact that, compared to Sirk, Haynes stacks the deck. None of his minor characters have the emotional or psychological complexity that Sirk's do. They are stick figures for us to laugh knowingly at. They are "camp". But Sirk plunges into his work with such camp icons as Leander (here) and Rock Hudson (elsewhere) and comes up with a text that continues to resonate long after the images have flickered away.

Horak goes on to say that in this film, Puerto Rico is exciting, exotic and dangerous, a typography of the Other, while Sweden represents "all that is Heimat". A vision of Aryan homeland, and thus a site for subliminal Nazi ideology. Did Sirk do no more than artistically mirror the status quo? I think not.Sirk was a successful director of "women's pictures" in the early days of the Third Reich, just as he was in the America of the '50's. What is oppositional in his work is not any kind of obvious political subtext, but an attitude towards image and material where the despotic Don Pedro is counterpoised with the smothering, nearly incestuous Astree. And both of them are covered in shadows, slats, mirrors, flowers - all of the accoutrements of the Sirkian hothouse atmosphere. Some sickly-sweet, unhealthy thing is always insinuating itself into the mise - en - scene. Sirk is like what Walter Benjamin called Baudelaire: a secret agent of his class and society. His missives send images of that society to its members that correspond to the vision they have of themselves. And underneath that there is another level of text. Nothing so obvious as "critique". But portraiture - "la verite en peinture" - sometimes as devastating as Goya's.


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