Scen.: Robert A. Stemmle, Helmut Käutner. F.: Werner Krien. M.: Johanna Meisel. Scgf.: Emil Hasler. Mus.: Bernhard Eichhorn. Int.: Horst Caspar (Peter Zabel), O.E. Hasse (il direttore Mannheim), Hans Leibelt (il direttore editoriale Kurt E. Beckmann), Irene von Meyendorff (Conchita), Hilde Hildebrand (signora Eleanor Hoopman), Jeanette Schultze (Lore Bruckmann), Fritz Kortner (signor P.L. Hoopman), Peter van Eyck (Steward Stefan Lund). Prod.: Artur Brauner per Central Cinema Company Film. 35mm. D.: 75’. Bn.
Unter den Brücken was among the last so-called Überläufer (films in various stages of post-production or censorship limbo which got released only after the end of the war) to premiere internationally (1949) and then open at home (1950). By that time, a nation called the Federal Republic of Germany had been born. The same year that Unter den Brücken was released locally, Käutner made another film set primarily on a naval vessel, a yacht built for a Nazi top-dog that some strange characters in post-war Germany rent for their shady-nasty doings which include, among other things, arms deals, espionage and terrorism: Epilog – Das Geheimnis der Orplid. Although it’s due to mere chance, the two works look and feel as if they belonged to each other. If Unter den Brücken is a film about continuities in defiance of socio-political circumstances, with the barge becoming a swimming utopia, then Epilog – Das Geheimnis der Orplid is a tract about historical ruptures in the guise of a political thriller, with the yacht as a huis clos which only the worst, the most devious and the purest somehow manage to escape. Formally, it’s among Käutner’s craziest works – and that means something. The key narrative about the sinking of the Orplid (a reference to the neverland of Eduard Mörike’s Gesang Weylas) is told several times in different modes: first through title cards, then by an unseen journalist whose research one follows (a tour de force of subjective perspective filmmaking), and then as a reconstruction based on an investigative report by said journalist as read by a publisher (an essay in real-time cinema a tad manqué). Epilog is indeed a postscript: we get an idea of what happened to the collaboration-happy industrialists and their lobbyists; of how the occupation forces turned Nazis around for their needs and goods; and from where the new old fascists now organize their underground operations. The Orplid is a can of worms ripped open by Käutner – see them squirm, and die of their own malice.