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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Menschen am Sonntag (1930)

It all started in a Berliner café where a bunch of young wannabe filmmakers were regularly meeting to chat about how movies were looking like and how they should look. It was 1929 and their feeling was that German expressionism had already given all that it could give. The young guys were thinking at something new, to move the cinematic art on. The idea came to make a new kind of a movie: an unpretentious story about youngsters like them, filmed on the streets of Berlin within everyday life; a story embedded in reality, a fiction embedded in a documentary. As money were missing, they decided to make the movie with amateurs: a taxi driver, a wine seller, a musical records seller, an unemployed model, an extra in (other) movies, all of them playing as themselves.

This was Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday), released in 1930. It was their first film: the young wannabee moviemakers were Curt Siodmak, Robert Siodmak, Edgar Ulmer, and Fred Zinemmann. All of them would leave Germany after 1933 to become big names at Hollywood. Together with them was a veteran, Rochus Gliese (the only one who was uncredited). The cameraman, Eugen Schüfftan, was also at his first movie. In a few years he would be the cinematographer for Le Quai des Brumes.

Menschen am Sonntag: Trailer
(video by LAMESLamaTV)

It was an indie movie long before the term would be defined. It has the freshness and the craziness indie movies have. Is it a story embedded in a documentary or a documentary embedded in a story? You can take it either way, because the two dimensions of this movie dissolve in each other and convey the same total empathy for simple people (the term would be now low middle class, or white collars; so it goes, we keep on inventing periphrases). The details in the images call in mind Vertov and other Soviet masters, only here in Menschen am Sonntag politics is totally left aside. It is a movie that loves reality and celebrates it as it is. In a couple of years this carefree joy will disappear for ever. What happened with the people from Menschen am Sonntag in the thirties, and then during the war? The same question should be for the people from Man with a Camera. We know the answer, for both.

Erwin Splettstößer
taxi driver, as himself

Annie Schreyer
unemployed model, as herself

Well, as I can put here only small fragments, let me give you the storyline, found on imdb: Erwin, a taxi driver, lives with Annie, a neurasthenic model. They plan to spend Sunday at the Nikolassee beach with Wolfgang, an officer, gentleman, antiquarian, gigolo, at the moment a wine salesman. After an argument, Annie stays at home while Erwin joins Wolf. Wolf has brought along a new girlfriend, Christl. Brigitte, Christl's best friend, joins the group. Brigitte is the manager of a record shop. At the beach Wolf tries to kiss Christl but she rejects him and he turns his attentions toward Brigitte, who is more receptive. Wolf and Brigitte go off together and he seduces her. Back on the beach, Wolf and Erwin, now tired of their dates, flirt with two other women as Brigitte and Christl look on, appalled. They have small satisfaction when the men have to borrow money from them to pay for the paddle-boat they were renting. As they part at the end of the day, Brigitte hopes Wolf will see her next Sunday...

Menschen am Sonntag: Scene from the movie
(video by mmacluhan)

Wolfgang von Waltershausen
officer, gentleman, gigolo, and wine seller, as himself

Menschen am Sonntag: Scene from the movie
(video by sergejtb)

Brigitte Borchert (record seller, as herself), Christl Ehlers (an extra in films, as herself)
together with Erwin and Wolfgang

Menschen am Sonntag: Trailer - fantasy
(video by mtjimi, Music: Strange Condition, by Pete Yorn)

(Filmele Avangardei)


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