Sog.: from the homonym novel of Eva Leidmann. Scen.: Werner Hochbaum, Eva Leidmann. F.: Werner Krien. M.: Else Baum. Scgf.: Willy Schiller, Carl Haacker. Mus.: Theo Mackeben. Int.: Elisabeth Flickenschildt (Erna Quandt), Alfred Maack (Schiffer Quandt), Günter Lüders (Krischan), Carl Kuhlmann (Jonny Hasenbein), Walter Petersen (Otto), Hans Mahler (Hein Groterjahn), Heidi Kabel (Inge), Friedrich Schmidt (capitano Lüders), Claire Reigbert (zia Mariechen), Herbert A. E. Böhme (Friedrich Semmler). Prod.: Universum-Film AG (Ufa). 35mm. L.: 2470 m. D.: 91’
Werner Hochbaum was born the son of a naval officer in Kiel, one of Germany’s maritime centers. Yet, his predilection for stories located near or on water is less a matter of birthright than of poetic conviction: in the port, the laws of the land reach their limit and the ebb and flow of the sea touch on settled lives. With Ein Mädchen geht an Land, Hochbaum returns once more to Hamburg, where he had shot Brüder and Razzia in St. Pauli, and planned his unrealized debut feature in 1928: a city symphony about the port metropolis. The ideological turning of the tide since those days can be witnessed in the melodrama’s basic construction: This time around, the ocean is not a space of desire, but of discipline and devotion. When, after seven years at sea, the upright Erna Quandt goes ashore, the troubles in her life start. As a housemaid, she sets an estranged bourgeois couple back on the right course, but falls for marriage impostor Jonny Hasenbein. In the end, of course, she doesn’t end up in the seedy quayside bar where Jonny dwells but in the sunny home of a widowed shipbuilder and father of three. Despite some ostentatious folksiness (there’s a credit for calendar mottos), Hochbaum fashions Eva Leidmann’s source novel into something nuanced and occasionally complicated. The imposing Elisabeth Flickenschildt as Erna and pudgy Carl Kuhlmann as the rueful crook Jonny make a deeply touching screen pair, and by re-inventing the unhappy rich housewife as an ostracized Viennese, Hochbaum moves the film’s proud Hamburg traditionalism into twilight. While the plot draws lines between land and sea, the camera work, art direction and sound design stress fluid transitions and gray areas. A signature Hochbaum moment: when Erna walks onto a swaying gangplank, looking into the river Elbe and contemplating suicide, the placid emotional surface of the narration is stirred up into an evocative play of light, fog and shadows.