Cinema Lumiere - Sala Scorsese > 14:15


Helmut Käutner
Introduced by

Adriano Aprà


Thursday 29/06/2017


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Käutner’s mid-50s (inter)national critical successes all belong to the dreaded category of Big Subject Pictures: Die letzte Brücke (The Last Bridge, 1954), Des Teufels General (1955), Der Hauptmann von Köpenick (The Captain from Köpenick, 1956), and Ein Mädchen aus Flandern (The Girl from Flanders, 1956) all castigate war and militarism and celebrate individual acts of resistance against these evils while stressing their futility in the greater scheme of things. Only in Der Hauptmann von Köpenick, the lone comedy of this bunch, do things end well for the protagonist – albeit not the nation that less than a decade after the events narrated here would be lost to WWI. In these works, Käutner comes ideologically uncomfortably close to the official cinema of the period which was so invested in the few good Germans and the lessons one could draw from their seemingly exemplary lives. Befitting their fundamentally conservative attitude, the films are also among his least interesting formally – yes, they’re elegantly and intelligently directed, but for all their beauty also a bit bland, sans aura or secrets… In between these, Käutner made one of his most outstanding works, Himmel ohne Sterne – another film with a political subject, but a contemporary and extremely painful one: relations between the two post-war-born German states as experienced by a border guard from the FRG and a seamstress from the GDR. Käutner spiritually invested a lot in this project – which turned into a work many felt uneasy about: the East castigated it on the pages of its main daily, “Neues Deutschland”, while the West lauded its noble intentions but refused to truly embrace it. To make matters worse, it fell victim to a diplomatic skirmish resulting in its cancellation from the 1956 Cannes competition. And yet, good things did happen at the Croisette, albeit two years later when Käutner shared jury duties there with Sergej Jutkevič who then invited him to the USSR, where he showed among others Himmel ohne Sterne to great acclaim, he remembered.

Olaf Möller

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Helmut Käutner. F.: Kurt Hasse. M.: Anneliese Schönnenbeck. Scgf.: Hans Berthel, Robert Stratil. Mus.: Bernhard Eichhorn. Int.: Erik Schumann (Carl Altmann), Eva Kotthaus (Anna Kaminski), Georg Thomalla (Willi Becker)
Horst Buchholz (Mischa Bjelkin), Gustav Knuth (Otto Friese), Camilla Spira (Elsbeth Friese), Erich Ponto (Vater Kaminski), Lucie Höflich (la madre di Anna). Prod.: Harald Braun per Neue Deutsche Filmgesellschaft. 35mm. D.: 108’. Bn.