DIE VIER GESELLEN
Sog.: dal dramma omonimo di Jochen Huth. Scen.: Jochen Huth. F.: Reimar Kuntze. M.: Gustav Lohse. Scgf.: Walter Haag, Franz Schroedter. Mus.: Hanson Milde-Meissner. Int.: Ingrid Bergman (Mariann Kruge), Sabine Peters (Käthe Winter), Carsta Löck (Lotte Waag), Ursula Herking (Franziska), Hans Söhnker (Stefan Kohlund), Leo Slezak (Lange, il professore), Erich Ponto (Alfred Hintze, il consigliere). Prod.: Tonfilmstudio Carl Froelich · 35mm. L.: 2544 m. Bn.
Even before her Hollywood career, Ingrid Bergman was known outside Sweden, particularly in Germany as is proven by the fact that she is billed as the top star in this surprising, almost Weimarian, comedy about four female students graduating from design school in Berlin. After struggling to find work, they decide to start their own business, and move in together to live in a kind of female commune. Assignments are hard to come by, and the film contains some fascinating, bleak on-location footage from the streets of Berlin when the characters in vain seek employment, but in the end comedy always prevail over realism and even without work the four of them the sport impeccable dresses and their shared apartment is unrealistically spacious.
The plot is not unlike the one of the Swedish silent film Norrtullsligan (Per Lindberg, 1923), screened in last year’s edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato, but without the Swedish film’s feminism and social pathos. The most interesting character of the four women is perhaps Ursula Herking’s Franziska, whose artistic ambitions is given as the reason for her continued independence, but covertly there are hints of the character’s homosexuality (indeed, in the film she is often called Franz for short).
Ingrid Bergman’s mother was German, and she spent periods of her childhood and youth in Hamburg. The language was therefore not an obstacle for her, which is the reason she herself gave as to why she chose Germany in the late 1930’s as the place to launch her international career. She did however turn down offers of a more permanent engagement from UFA. One of the characters in Die vier Gesellen goes with her boyfriend to the movies to see the Detlef Sierck [Douglas Sirk] film Zu neuen Ufern (Life Begins Anew, 1937), and on the soundtrack we hear the song Tiefe Sehnsucht performed by Swedish actress Zarah Leander, who unlike her compatriot decided to have a career in Germany and stayed to become one of the most celebrated actresses and singers of the nazi era, and didn’t return to Sweden until 1943, when she was heavily criticized of naivety and collaboration.