. Scen.: Wolfgang Staudte. F.: Georg Krause. M.: Lilian Seng. Scgf.: Ellen Schmidt, Olaf Ivens. Mus.: Werner Pohl. Int.: Götz George (Robert Mertens), Juliette Mayniel (Annette), Hans Mahnke (Paul Mertens), Wolfgang Reichmann (Georg Hölchert), Manja Behrens (Martha Mertens), Fritz Schmiedel (il pastore), Erika Schramm (Eva Schumann), Irmgard Kleber (Else Mertens). Prod.: Harald Braun, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Staudte per Freie Film Produktion GmbH & Co. █ 35mm
Towards the end of the 1950s, not only the junior auteurs (who would pronounce ‘old film dead’ in 1962), but also the movie establishment worried about the future of FRG cinema. So, three of its figureheads: Staudte, Helmut Käutner and Harald Braun – a cautious socialist, a curious bourgeois liberal and a concerned Christian conservative – founded the Freie Film Produktion GmbH & Co. to give it the new ideas they considered lacking. The Freie Film Produktion folded after only four films, two for cinema (Käutner’s The Rest Is Silence, 1959, and Staudte’s Kirmes), and two for television (Käutner’s Annoncentheater. Ein Abendprogramm des Deutschen Fernsehens im Jahre 1776, and Staudte’s Die Rebellion, both 1962). They were masterpieces, but that didn’t translate into the necessary audience numbers. Der Rest ist Schweigen did ok, but Kirmes was a disaster, largely due to a smear campaign by the rightwing press that vilified the film and painted Staudte as an Enemy of the People.
Well, he certainly was not a close friend of the Germans that he shows in Kirmes: the inhabitants of an Eifel village during the winter of 1944-45. A young man comes home secretly, as he’s a deserter looking for shelter, and while his parents try to help, others sense that something is not quite as it should be… Staudte shows how the Nazi rule relied on cowardice – when each person compromises merely as much as is needed to take a moment’s pressure away, it ends in a total moral breakdown. Most people in this village, no doubt, are decent and upstanding folks, but not always when it’s needed the most – such as the priest who refuses the young man sanctuary and collapses under a Nazi henchmen’s torture. This more than anything else made sectors of the rightwing press go ballistic, for this was not the image of a humbly resisting, quietly helpful, even subversive Christianity under the yoke of fascism that they were tirelessly promoting. In these few scenes, an ideological pillar of the FRG 50s is pulverized.