T. it.: Viva la vita. T. int.: Ray of Sunshine. Scen.: Pál Fejös, Adolf Lantz. F.: Adolf Schlasy, Adolf Weith. Mo.: Lothar Wolff. Scgf.: Heinz Fenchel, Emil Stepanek. Mu.: Sándor Szlatinay, Levine, Ferenc Farkas. Su.: Alfred Norkus. Int.: Annabella (Anna), Gustav Fröhlich (Hans), Paul Otto (il commissario di polizia), Hans Marr (il prete), Walter Brandt (l’esattore), Karl Forest (il capoufficio), Jaro Fürth (il proprietario del negozio), Norbert Rohringer (un giovane), Annie Rosar (affittacamere), Franz Schafheitlin (un medico del pronto soccorso). Prod.: Serge Otzoup-Filmproduktion der Tobis-Sascha. Pri. pro.: 25 agosto 1933 35mm. D.: 87’. Bn.
Sonnenstrahl is the European answer (or dialogue companion, given that the films were contemporary, so there can’t be any imitation) for Frank Borzage’s Depression-era films: romantic and unyielding. It starts with a trivial news item from the USA and England, as if boasting about ‘human interest’ (where there is none in reality) and then descends to the streets of Vienna and the unemployed. A poignant sequence – one of the many at that time about young people considering suicide – introduces the hero, Gustav Fröhlich (remembered as the lead of Metropolis), and then another poor soul, Annabella (the French actress who played the lead in Tavaszi zápor / Marie, a Hungarian Legend). The feeling that ‘life is beautiful’ is established by the confidence (and attachment to each other) of two people; sunshine becomes the literal ray of hope, despite the merciless dominance of the social machine, with empty illusions and circumstances that never seem to provide a way out but only lead to another trap. Pál Fejös (1897-1963) was a truly international character: he made some 40 films – in his native Hungary, in France, Austria, the United States, Denmark, Sweden, Siam, Peru and Madagascar, from Hollywood super-productions (1927 to 1930) to anthropological documentaries. In his middle period and in the early 30s Fejös directed a set of films in Middle European countries: Tavaszi zápor and Ítél a Balaton (Judgment of Lake Balaton) in Hungary, Sonnenstrahl – known as Gardez le sourire – in Austria. These ballads are the tender center of Fejös’ oeuvre, and have established him among film historians – still only perhaps ‘a happy few’ – as one of cinema’s great poets, along with Murnau and Borzage.