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Based on a true event Robert Siodmak made a very good, tragi-comic (and underrated) satire on how during the 50's West Germany dealt with its Nazi-past. A postman shows civil courage in 1944 but still has to pay for the consequences after WW2. The postman wrote Goering to stop the war after which he was officially declared of unsound mind; it takes him 15 years to get rehabilitation.
This mix of comedy, satire and tragedy could have easily lead to an uneasy film. But Siodmak has a very tight directorial control thereby getting the right balance between the elements; there are some typical Siodmak trade marks too as the emphasis on the staircase.
Siodmak is supported by a very good and intelligent script in which the elements of Germany's Nazi-past, civil courage and cowardice (of most former Nazis) combined with the welfare of the West German Economic Miracle and simple bureaucracy are brought together in perfect unity, not forgetting to give the characters a good psychological foundation. Another good aspect of the script (one of the best Simmel ever was involved in) is that the life of the postman (and he is of course symbol for the "ordinary" people) is frequently interrupted by events he has no influence on, though the Rühmann character does say that his own cowardice made him (and with him all his colleagues) becoming a member of the NSDAP.
On face value funny, but really very sad is the scene in which Rühmann (he wants to talk to an ex-Nazi) has to enter a costumed party wearing a false nose: he must play the fool to fight for his rights, which in the end he indeed has to do. What the makers want to tell is clear: look how crazy our West German society is. That ex-Nazis kept their mouth shut is wonderfully symbolized by the medicinal band around the jaws of Robert Graf.
Another fine moment is the conversation between the jailed nazi-doctor (Hans Leibelt) and Rühmann: not the doctor is shown behind bars - he has fled into inner exile - but the Rühmann character. The film also tells something about the judicial system in West Germany of the 50's. In a first appeal the judge bases his decision on a document signed in 1944 by the nazi-doctor who at the time of the decision is already sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
Heinz Rühmann is extraordinary as the postman, a part that is reminiscent of the captain in "Der Hauptmann von Köpenick". But where Rühmann as the captain overdid things, in this film he is kept perfectly under control by Siodmak and/or himself, which makes the building up to the final scene very convincing. Other very good parts are those of Hans Leibelt and Ernst Schröder.
There are some inside jokes too. The dialogue of the scene in which the Rühmann character has to proof that he is of unsound mind contains a quote from a poem by Bertold Brecht "Vom armen B.B." of 1921: Von dieser Städten wird bleiben: der durch sie hindurch ging: die Wind! (all that will remain of the cities is what once went through them: the wind). The other is the casting of Alexander Golling as Ortsgruppenleiter Krögelmeister; Golling was known to have been a devoted Nazi. In an interview Siodmak said that he never could find out why Golling accepted the part, but that he was good in it. Golling in his bombastic style of acting surely is.
Fine cinematography with beautiful lightning by Helmut Ashley. I consider this one of the best films by Siodmak and one of the best of the West German cinema of the late 50's and it deserves more than 1 viewing.
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