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239 19 Perseverance The Ministry of Propaganda bestowed more Prädikate (ratings) on Kolberg than on any other German film made during the Nazi era. It was declared “Film der Nation” (Film of the Nation), “staatspolitisch und künstlerisch besonders wertvoll” (of particular state-political and artistic value), “kulturell wertvoll” (of cultural value), “volkstümlich wertvoll” (of folkloristic value), “anerkennenswert” (commendable), “volksbildend” (of educational value for the people), and “jugendwert” (of value for youth). To celebrate the twelfth anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power, the premiere was scheduled for January 30, 1945. Because paper had to be rationed, the illustrated program brochure looked more modest than usual, and press reactions were almostnonexistent,withreviewsappearingonlyinthenewspapersDeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and Völkischer Beobachter. Not that anyone cared. Costar Heinz Lausch remembered having been at one of the two Berlin premieres , either at the Tauentzien Palace or the UFA Theatre Alexanderplatz, but could not remember any further details.1 Kristina Söderbaum, by her own account, was forced to attend.2 And so far no witness has revealed any details about the more eccentric premiere that is supposed to have taken place in the French city La Rochelle, an enclosed fortress on the Atlantic. One copy of the film was dropped there by parachute. It was hardly worth the effort, although the project seemed destined for success. Kolberg was conceived and executed by two megalomaniacs: Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister, and Veit Harlan, his favorite director, surrounded by top talent. To say that the Kolberg team worked under ideal conditions is an understatement. With its alleged 8.8 million RM budget (in fact, only 7.6 million RM were spent, as Ulrich Gehrke found out,3 still a hefty sum), even bigger than the budgets for Ohm Krüger and Münchhausen, the result could have been a great, mad Wagnerian Götterdämmerung. veit harlan 240 It is anything but that. The film lacks energy; it is not even hysterical or offensive. It looks rather like The Making of Kolberg or an overlong trailer. Half of the material filmed seems to have been left on the cuttingroom floor. The battle scenes are curiously short. The need to produce an epic despite war-related shortages also existed in Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. At the same time that Kolberg was being made, thousands of extras were recruited for Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (1946), Marcel Carné’s Les enfants du paradis (Children of paradise, 1946), and Sergei M. Eisenstein’s Ivan grosny (Ivan the Terrible, 1944). One does not have to be a moralist to find these three films superior in almost every way; only Bruno Mondi’s cinematography and Norbert Schultze’s score do not suffer by comparison. Mondi’s images are unusually natural and modern, not trying to be painterly; this is one quality Kolberg shares with Henry V. However, Olivier made brilliant use of montage in his battle sequences, whereas Harlan’s film seems to have been chopped rather than edited. Furthermore, Olivier had dialogue by William Shakespeare, and Carné worked from a script by Jacques Prévert, whereas Harlan had to incorporate dialogue by Joseph Goebbels. Ivan grosny may be full of cardboard characters and hammy acting, but at least it is enjoyable. It may be unfair to judge Harlan by the standards of three internationally celebrated filmmakers, but Kolberg is not even good by his own standards. As an auteur, he is largely absent. No animal instincts here. It is all about duty. The plot, for all its simplicity , is difficult to follow. Characters and locations are not properly introduced , and if one is not familiar with the actors, keeping track of the characters’ activities is impossible. The framework plot takes place at Breslau in 1813. Gneisenau (Horst Caspar) visits the king (Claus Clausen) and urges him, in the name of the Prussian generals, to proclaim a call to arms for all people. The king is FriedrichWilhelmIII,butheremainsunnamedinthefilm.War,Gneisenau argues, should no longer be a privilege of the army: “The people will be the army,” the young man yells rather disrespectfully at the older man, whose noontime nap he has just interrupted. To convince him, he tells him the story of Kolberg, the Baltic town whose commandant Gneisenau had been. His lack of respect becomes more evident when he says, “A king must lead his people. That’s a basic and God-given task. And when he can’t do this, he has to resign. Like...


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