Arlecchino Cinema > 14:00
Original version with subtitles
In order to make what would remain his only film as director, Peter Lorre returned to Germany 20 years after M. Set amid the postwar ruins of Hamburg, Der Verlorene has been aptly described as a rare and fascinating blend of German expressionism, American noir and Italian neorealism. The opening title, “This film is not freely invented. It is informed by factual reports from recent years,” establishes its slightly unsettling, no-nonsense atmosphere.
The bulk of the story is told via flashbacks. Dr Rothe (Lorre), a physician in a refugee camp, encounters his former colleague Hösch (Karl John) upon the arrival of a new transport of displaced persons. During a nocturnal drinking session, Rothe remembers past events. He used to work as a research biologist in Germany during the war. When he realised that his fiancée had betrayed him and handed the results of their secret vaccine research over to London, he strangled her. With the help of Hösch – a counter-intelligence agent working undercover at the lab – the murder was passed off as a suicide. But it unleashed a strange compulsion in Dr Rothe to kill women. In a pivotal, eerie scene he is unmasked as a Totmacher (death-maker) by a terrified prostitute.
Lorre’s figure, wandering around the camp and the bleak open landscapes, dominates the film from beginning to end. His face – often in closeup, perfectly lit and framed by Václav Vích – displays rage, regret, longing, anguish, isolation, resignation, disgust, apathy, in short “the lostness of a human being in time” (“Münchner Merkur”).
Unfortunately, almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong with the film. The shoot was overshadowed by the sudden death of its producer, Arnold Pressburger, and during post-production a fire destroyed the original cut. Der Verlorene premiered at the Venice Film Festival and while German audiences avoided it, German critics voted it the most artistic film of 1951 and awarded it a Bambi prize.
More than 30 years later, critic-turned-filmmaker Harun Farocki arrived at the conclusion that “there is hardly another film that has foreshadowed fascism as exactly as M, and hardly another that has traced the remnants of fascism as exactly as Der Verlorene”.
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Peter Lorre, Benno Vigny, Axel Eggebrecht, Helmut Käutner. F.: Václav Vích. M.: Carl Otto Bartning. Scgf.: Franz Schroedter, Karl Weber. Mus.: Willy Schmidt-Gentner. Int.: Peter Lorre (dottor Karl Rothe), Karl John (Hösch/Nowack), Helmut Rudolph (colonnello Winkler), Renate Mannhardt (Inge Hermann), Johanna Hofer (signora Hermann), Eva-Ingeborg Scholz (Ursula Weber), Lotte Rausch (Helene) Gisela Trowe (la prostituta). Prod.: Arnold Pressburger-Filmproduktion. DCP. D.: 98
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