Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2017: Große Freiheit Nr. 7, Helmut Käutner, 1944

A man's passion done in by automaton love. But he himself is part of the automaton world, he just doesn't want to admit it (to himself, first and foremost). Hans Albers as Hannes Kröger still thinks of himself as king of the high seas, although he's been stranded in St. Pauli's red-light version of the cultural industry for quite a while. Right at the beginning the mighty four-master is exchanged with a ship in a bottle. When in the end he reenters the world of seafaring, this doesn't feel like liberation, but rather like his giving in to an imaginary solution.

The melodrama in between never settles down on a constant tone; for all its musical and cinematographical brillancy (lightning and make-up turning Albers' face into a mask, transforming him into the most uncanny of the film's many automatons) it's first and foremost driven by gestures. Hilde Hildebrand leaning over the counter with the beer tap pressing into her chest; the automaton lover Hans Söhnker absentmindedly stroking the handrail while waiting for Ilse Werner, his automaton girlfriend; Werner squeezing the automaton egg between her hands, while holding it up over her head, creating a personal world of her own in just one single, simple shot.

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