Sog.: Israel Beker. Scen.: Karl Georg Külb, Israel Beker. F.: Franz Koch. M.: Herbert B. Fredersdorf. Scgf.: Carl Ludwig Kirmse. Mus.: Lothar Brühne. Int.: Israel Beker (David Jelin), Bettina Moissi (Dora Berkowicz), Berta Litwina (Hanne Jelin), Jakob Fischer (Jakob Jelin), Otto Wernicke (il primario), Paul Dahlke (il medico), Aleksander Bardini (il contadino), David Hart (signor Liebermann), Max Nathan (il partigiano), Heinz Leo Fischer (Chodezki). Prod.: Abraham Weinstein per Internationale Filmorganisation GmbH (IFO). 35mm. D.: 73’. Bn
Lang is der Veg is a film more read about than seen despite its historical importance: as one of the first German-produced fiction-feature attempts at narrating the Holocaust, and definitely the first co-directed by a survivor (Marek Goldstein). So why is it not as well known as Eugen York’s Morituri, the other 1948 release on the subject? One simple reason might be that Morituri was produced by Artur Brauner, who keeps reminding the FRG of the film’s existence, and good for him. Another, more complicated one has to do with Lang is der Veg’s languages and the form. Goldstein and Fredersdorf shot the film mainly in Yiddish and Polish, which alienated German audiences, but they did provide subtitles, in contrast to Joseph von Báky who left that long central lecture in Der Ruf (1949) English-only, which still seems to anger viewers. Also, Goldstein and Fredersdorf mixed their fiction scenes with lots of documentary footage, imbuing the whole with an urgency and immediacy totally different from the clearly composed, almost glacial aesthetic of Morituri. Yes, Lang is der Veg is also a tad ragged-looking because of that, more fragmentary than complete; but there’s a particular dignity to that feeling of things refusing to add up – of incompleteness, being in transit, nowhere clear and safe, of transience. If Morituri is a marble cenotaph, then Lang is der Veg resembles a tattered flag lost in the age’s wind. A sky-blue and white flag, for Zionists hopes are driving the film’s survivor-refugees on: they want to leave the displaced persons camp the narrative is anchored in, and embark on a journey towards a Jewish state that didn’t yet exist when the production commenced, but was founded by the time the film opened.