Hanns Kobe

Sog.: dalla pièce omonima (1911) di Gerhart Hauptmann. Scen.: Julius Sternheim. F.: Karl Freund. Scgf.: Robert Neppach. Int.: Emil Jannings (Bruno Mechelke), Blandine Ebinger (Sidonie Knobbe), Eugen Klöpfer (il signor John), Lucie Höflich (la signora John), Hermann Vallentin (Harro Hassenreuter), Marija Leiko (Pauline Piperkarcka), Claire Selo (Walburga Hassenreuter), Gertrud Hoffman (Alice Rütterbusch). Prod.: Grete Ly-Film. 35mm. L.: 1170 m (incompleto). D.: 59’ a 18 f/s. Bn

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

Poverty, hope and the desire for a better life. Die Ratten is a social drama that plays in a shabby dwelling house in Berlin. In this sense it reminds us of Die Hintertreppe, the more famous German movie from 1921. But the two social dramas, which deal both with the struggle and sorrow of women from the lower class, could not be staged more differently. Die Ratten looks like an early example (maybe a precursor) of the New Objectivity and Die Hintertreppe is a prototypical example of an expressionistic film.
Die Ratten was produced by actress and singer Grete Ly. Her company, Grete Ly-Film, made five films between 1919 and 1921. Die Ratten, which is based on the play of the same name by Gerhart Hauptmann, was the last one. Hauptmann, one of the most important promoters of literary naturalism, had received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912.
The screen adaptation of his play is beautifully photographed in a realistic style by Karl Freund, one of best German cameraman of that time who also worked with directors such as Lang, Murnau, Dreyer, Dupont and Ruttmann. Moreover, the cast of Die Ratten also acts in a very naturalistic way, far from the affected expressionistic style. Die Ratten was made on a modest budget, but the collaboration of an excellent team produced a film that was ahead of its time.
Epilogue: Talking about Grete Ly and Gerhard Hauptmann, there is a story to tell of what the future held in store for them. It is well-documented that Gerhart Hauptmann was deeply fascinated by National Socialism after 1933. In his diary he wrote, for instance: “I finally have to dismiss this sentimental ‘Jewish question’ for myself completely: There are more important, higher German interests at stake.” In 1942 Hauptmann celebrated his 80th birthday with great pomp together with leading representatives of the Nazi regime. In the same year, Grete Ly, a German of Jewish origins, who had lived in difficult circumstances after the rise of Nazism, committed suicide.

Karl Wratschko

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