Helmut Käutner

Sog.: dalla pièce Le Verre d’eau di Eugène Scribe. Scen.: Katja Fleischer, Helmut Käutner. F.: Günther Anders. M.: Klaus Dudenhöfer. Scgf.: Herbert Kirchhoff, Albrecht Becker. Mus.: Bernhard Eichhorn, Roland Sonder-Mahnken. Int.: Gustaf Gründgens (Sir Henry St. John), Liselotte Pulver (regina Anna), Hilde Krahl (duchessa di Marlborough), Sabine Sinjen (Abigail), Horst Janson (Arthur Masham), Rudolf Forster (marchese di Torcy), Hans Leibelt (il maggiordomo Thompson). Prod.: Georg Richter per Deutsche Film Hansa GmbH & Co. 35mm. D.: 84’. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The world-wide success of Des Teufels General got Käutner a contract with Universal resulting in two Ross Hunter productions: The Restless Years (1958) and Stranger In My Arms (1959), both quite excellent and decidedly more personal than critics back then claimed. And yet, he was not happy in Hollywood. Legend has it that Käutner cancelled his contract when Hunter asked him to direct a western, which he considered a demotion. But what was the first project he tackled once back home? A Hunsrück Horse Operetta called Der Schinderhannes (Duel in the Forest, 1958). All in all, Käutner spent only a year abroad – but that, in hindsight, was probably the most important year in post-war FRG film history. A changing of the guard took place in 1957-58, a young generation of critics as well as filmmakers with a different idea about what cinema should look, sound and feel like made their presence finally felt for real, not to mention that television by then had started to take away cinema’s erstwhile core audience. A lustrum on, the film culture Käutner knew would be gone. During those twilight years, he made some of his greatest works, of which Das Glas Wasser is formally the most dazzling, perplexing, eye-popping – let’s go out on a limb here and say that its radical sense of stylization combined with a bold use of colour make it look as if Minnelli and Suzuki had joined forces to do a ’90s Resnais film. In that it’s interesting to consider Das Glas Wasser in tandem with another 1960 FRG production, Peter Gorski’s Faust, not only because both feature Gustaf Gründgens in his only post-war screen appearances but also because they fuse film and theatre in a remarkably similar way – at a point in time when Tv was defined by a sparse, almost Spartan aesthetic close to the modern stage. Das Glas Wasser and Faust, with their stunning colour concepts and modernist set designs, seem to say that cinema can do this kind of stuff as well, but in a far more challenging, seductive fashion.

Olaf Möller

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