Anke Wilkening (Murnau Stiftung)
Restored in 2018 by Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung with the support of Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien / Förderverein Freunde und Förderer des deutschen Filmerbes e.V. at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. The reconstruction is based on a colourized release print with German intertitles that is in a state of extreme chemical degradation, and a black-and-white duplicate of an export copy. They were combined to create a largely complete version. Original material from Michael Seeber, Klaus Pertl, Klagenfurter Kinomuseum, Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv.
Today forgotten, Christian Wahnschaffe was produced in 1920-21 by Terra Film AG and directed by Urban Gad as a monumental art film in two parts, based on the novel by Jakob Wassermann. Written during the last years of World War I and published in 1919, the novel unfolds in two parts: the entanglements of the spoiled industrialist’s son Christian Wahnschaffe, mixed with the 1905 Russian Revolution.
The two-part structure of the novel is marked by two female heroines, Eva (part 1) and Ruth (part 2). The film adaptation altered the structure and created with Weltbrand and Die Flucht aus dem goldenen Kerker two independent interpretations of the book by different scriptwriters and cinematographers. They can, as well, be considered and viewed as two different films.
In Weltbrand Christian Wahnschaffe meets Iwan Becker, a leader in the Russian Nihilist movement, through his lover, the Paris dancer Eva Sorel. Impressed by Becker’s concern for society’s weak and poor, Christian develops sympathies for the movement’s ideals. When Eva begins a relationship with a powerful Russian prince, she poses a danger to Becker, who has entrusted her with his secret plans for a revolution for safekeeping.
In Die Flucht aus dem goldenen Kerker, Christian Wahnschaffe rescues a prostitute from the brutality of her pimp brother while roaming around a poor neighbourhood. At the home of the siblings, he meets Ruth, a caretaker for the poor. Wahnschaffe takes Ruth’s charitable deeds as a model for himself. He burns his money and moves in among the poor.
While the first part shows a wide-ranging panorama of society, unfolding along several parallel plot lines against a backdrop of luxury and misery, the second explores the gap between goodness and greed and Wahnschaffe’s quest for salvation.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo Christian Wahnschaffe di Jakob Wassermann. Scen.: Bobby E. Lüthge, Hans Behrendt, Paul Georg, Robert Michel. F.: Max Lutze. Scgf.: Robert A. Dietrich. Int.: Conrad Veidt (Christian Wahnschaffe), Lillebil Christensen (Eva Sorel), Theodor Loos (Amadeus Voß), Fritz Kortner (Iwan Becker), Hermann Vallentin (Cardillac), Helga Molander (Laetitia). Prod.: Terra Film AG. DCP. D.: 79’.
If you like this, we suggest:
Volker Schlöndorff and Frédéric Bonnaud
Martin Scorsese, Olivia Harrison and Margaret Bodde (The Film Foundation)