Sog., Scen.: Hans Jacoby. F.: Werner Krien. M.: Anneliese Schönnenbeck. Scgf.: Ludwig Reiber, Max Seefelder, Willi Horn. Mus.: Franz Grothe. Int.: Ruth Leuwerik (Nicole), Otto Wilhelm Fischer (Jan Maria Keller), Erich Schellow (Walter), Albrecht Schönhals (l’ambasciatore), Irene von Meyendorff (la moglie dell’ambasciatore), Nikolaj Kolin (Sascha), Paul Hoffmann (Hernaudez). Prod.: Utz Utermann per Sirius-Film. 35mm. D.: 107’. Bn.
The early 1950s were a period of crisis for Käutner, as most of his films failed to connect with audiences and critics alike. In hindsight, a Heimat noir with Kammerspiel-aspects like Weiße Schatten (1951), a musical comedy like Käpt’n Bay-Bay (Captain Bay-Bay,1952) or indeed a refined melodrama like Bildnis einer Unbekannten (Portrait of an Unknown Woman, 1954) might have been formally too complex and too refined in mood cum content to compete with the big hits of the times. Curiously enough, two of these are closely connected with Käutner’s earlier successes: Käpt’n Bay-Bay is a return to the world of Große Freiheit Nr. 7 in a decidedly more self-reflexive key, while Bildnis einer Unbekannten bears some resemblance to the dark poetics of the Maupassant- and Bernstein-inspired Romanze in Moll (Romance in a Minor Key,1943). Let’s stay with the latter pair, for the comparison is quite instructive. Romanze in Moll talks about a woman’s ultimate sacrifice: she takes her life to save her husband’s reputation while her secret lover, a musician, gets hurt so badly in a duel over her honor that he’ll never be able to perform again; here, everybody loses. A decade later, in Bildnis einer Unbekannten, a diplomat willingly faces a scandal so as to retain his professional integrity: a painting of what looks like his wife in the nude is allowed to be auctioned in a charity event hosted by a sinister businessman. To clarify matters, the couple travels to Paris where they meet the artist responsible for the picture. The woman does fall for him but nothing happens even if both would like to consummate their passion; and the husband is ready to ignore his wife’s fancy; but: as the woman knows that life with a diplomat can never be truly free, she leaves him for a potential future with the artist. Common sense prevails in these more liberal days. Ruth Leuwerik as the wife and Otto Wilhelm Fischer as the painter would move on to Ludwig II. – Glanz und Ende eines Königs.