[Due mondi] Scen: Heinrich Braune. F.: Gustav Berger. Prod.: Werner Hochbaum Filmproduktion GmbH. 35mm. D.: 16’
Brüder is Werner Hochbaum’s feature debut, as well as the film that ushered in his rediscovery when it was saved from obscurity by East German film historians in 1973. Commissioned by the dockworkers’ union and financed via the local Social Democratic party, it retells Hamburg’s historic dockers’ strike of 1896-97 as a family drama: one brother is a dockworker, the other a policeman. When push comes to shove, class solidarity trumps familial loyalty. Shots of harsh conditions in the workers’ quarters, filmed on location, attest to the necessity of continued struggle. Starting with a mission statement (“to create a German proletarian film with simple means”) and featuring mostly non-professional actors, Brüder is both modest and bold in its aspirations. Director-writer-producer Hochbaum eschews individualized storytelling in favor of patiently surveying a milieu and stringing together significant details. The prologue strolls through wintry Hamburg as if in a city symphony, then jumps from a policeman pushing a drunk to an Eisenstein-inspired montage of Germanic symbols of state authority. After measuring the police station against the worker protagonist’s cramped apartment, Brüder settles into an observant social-realist mode shot through with striking symbolism. Brüder 287 This mode is continued in the short subject Zwei Welten, a local campaign film for the Social Democratic party. Hochbaum fits some recycled material from Brüder into a montage of class contrast. While the jobless are marching, idle feet are playing golf and tennis. As the drained worker gets out of his coat, the industrialist is trying on a swastika armband for laughs. “All of you decide: dictatorship or democracy…”.