8 August 2017

WESTFRONT 1918 and KAMERADSCHAFT: 2 FILMS BY G.W. PABST REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.



WESTFRONT 1918 AND KAMERADSCHAFT: TWO ANTI-WAR FILMS FROM MASTER DIRECTOR GEORG WILHELM PABST AT THE HEIGHT OF HIS POWERS.

WESTFRONT 1918. (1930) DIRECTED BY G.W. PABST. BASED ON THE NOVEL 'VIER VON DER INFANTERIE' BY ERNST JOHANNSEN. STARRING GUSTAV DIESSL, FRITZ KAMPERS, CLAUS CLAUSEN AND HANS-JOACHIM MOEBIS.

KAMERADSCHAFT. (1931) DIRECTED BY G.W. PABST. STARRING ALEXANDER GRANACH, FRITZ KAMPERS AND ERNST BUSCH.

These are two fantastic black-and-white movies from the infancy of the 'talkies,' each directed by the man responsible for discovering such actresses as Greta 'I vant to be alone' Garbo, Asta Nielsen, Louise Brooks and Leni Riefenstahl. This last one is particularly interesting because I didn't even know that Leni Riefenstahl had been an actress.

I only ever knew her as the lady film-maker who made 'TRIUMPH OF THE WILL' in the 'Thirties, the Nazi propaganda film that showed Hitler descending in his aeroplane from the skies to a crowd of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, as if he were an actual deity of some kind. It was a really well-made film for its day, as it happens, but the subject matter prevents me from referring to it as a masterpiece of filming (unless it's propaganda-filming!) or even a great film, haha. I'm sure you guys understand...!

Anyway, WESTFRONT 1918 was Pabst's first talkie, and it would definitely put you in mind of that other anti-war masterpiece, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, filmed the same year and based on the magnificent novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. This was incidentally the first non-textbook book I ever bought from my old college bookshop, so I always remember it fondly. And yes, I did actually read it as well, before you ask...!

WESTFRONT 1918 is the story of four young men in the trenches near the end of World War One, that massive big shindig that kicked off when a Yugoslav nationalist by the name of Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in June of 1914. Within weeks, World War One was underway and, no, it bloody well was not all over by Christmas, as you may have heard.

The trenches and dugouts in WESTFRONT 1918 are so realistic, it's actually incredible to see the story unfolding in front of us on the screen. Everything is completely realistic in the film, in fact, from the crappy food they served the soldiers in the waterlogged trenches (standing in them for too long gave you a condition known as 'trench foot' or, basically, foot-rot) to the 'runners' who risked life and limb to deliver messages from trench to trench.

Military messages now, mind you, not just general stuff like: 'What do you want for your tea, Dave? We have black bread or slightly less black bread and that's it!' or: 'My sister Hannah is still single at forty, any of youse lads like the look of her snapshot? She's a bit on the heavy side so don't worry if you've had a leg or a foot amputated or anything like that, she knows she's no prize pig herself so she's willing to settle for less,' not stuff like that.

Hitler himself was just such a runner in World War One. Even won a medal for his bravery, if you can imagine that. Of course, he played a much bigger part in World War Two and acquitted himself most admirably there, as ye may have heard, but it's important not to overlook his- ahem- contribution in the first world-wide shindig as well, haha.

Pabst's attention to detail is spot-on anyway, both in his depiction of the miseries of trench warfare and the not inconsiderable privations suffered by the soldiers and also in his portrayal of the vast number of casualties incurred from 1914-1918.

The scene with the military hospital at the end of the film is like the one in GONE WITH THE WIND where Scarlett tries to take the beleaguered Doctor Meade away from the wounded soldiers to come back with her to Aunt Pittypat's house to help to deliver Miss Melly's baby. 

But of course Doctor Meade is up to his tonsils in body parts and he merely laughs at Scarlett's ridiculous request. Abandon his wounded soldiers to help a woman to do something that women have been doing for themselves for hundreds of years? Fuhgeddaboutit...! Good job that Scarlett has Prissy, who certainly doesn't 'know nuthin' 'bout birthin' no babies...!'

Actually, as bad as the trench warfare is portrayed in the film, the character I feel worst for is poor old Karl, who goes home for a couple of days' leave only to find a proper how'd-ye-do waiting at his gaff for him.

Not only is his dear old mother unable to leave her place in the lengthy food queue (queuing for hours for food, a scarce enough commodity, was a commonplace activity in wartime Germany) to go home and greet her beloved son returning from the Front, but his wife's been riding the butcher six ways from Sunday for a few choice cuts of meat into the bargain.

The Teutonic hussy! Karl actually catches them in flagrante delicto, if you wouldn't mind, his missus and Mister Meat-Man. His reaction is a little odd. Catch it for yourself in this marvellous anti-war film, which incidentally aroused the ire of one Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, for being too wimpily pacifist and not warmongery or war-incitery enough for the militant Nazis. Well, shut my mouth and raise my rent...!

WESTFRONT 1918 is out now on special release courtesy of THE MASTERS OF CINEMA SERIES and EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT, along with another magnificent example of Pabst's works, KAMERADSCHAFT, meaning comradeship or camaraderie.

Based on a real-life tragedy, it's the story of a terrible mining disaster in which German miners at the turn of the nineteenth century heroically come to the aid of French miners trapped in an horrific mining conflagration.

The German rescuers don't see themselves as being heroes, however. They just see themselves as doing what anyone else would do under the circumstances and, after all, isn't that the best that anyone can ever do for his fellow man...?

Special Features are confirmed as:
·         Limited Edition O-card [First 2000 copies]
·         Both films presented on Blu-ray in stunning 1080p
·         Uncompressed PCM soundtrack for both titles (on the Blu-ray)
·         Optional English subtitles for both titles
·         Alternate subtitle options of Kameradschaft authentic to the film’s original presentation in both France and Germany
·         Westfront 1918, an introduction by film scholar and author Jan-Christopher Horak
·         Kameradschaft, an introduction by film scholar and author Jan-Christopher Horak
·         PLUS: A 44 booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, alongside rare archival imagery

ABOUT EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT


Eureka Entertainment is the leading independent distributor of classic silent/early films in the UK, its existing catalogue also contains World Cinema, Action, Horror, Sci-Fi, Indie Dramas, Hollywood Classics, Comedy and Thriller films as well as a wide selection of TV titles, providing the diversity and selection necessary to continue to satisfy today’s market demands and to power the digital video revolution for years to come.

MASTERS OF CINEMA


In 2004, Eureka! established the Masters of Cinema Series, a specially curated Blu-ray and DVD collection of classic and world cinema using the finest available materials for home viewing.  Films are presented in their original aspect ratio, in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.  The feature presentations are frequently supplemented by short films, documentaries, commentary tracks, deleted scenes, trailers, plus new and vintage footage. Each release also includes an accompanying booklet featuring rare imagery, newly commissioned essays and / or classic writings that take the reader further into the process of the films and the personalities of the filmmakers.  Titles that have been showcased within the series include Metropolis (1927, Lang), Touch of Evil (1958, Welles), Paths of Glory (1957, Kubrick), Kes (1969, Loach), A Touch of Zen (1971, Hu) and Shoah (1985, Lanzmann).

EUREKA CLASSICS

In 2014, Eureka! established Eureka! Classics to highlight a broader selection of cinema, with each release guided by similar principles to its award winning The Masters of Cinema Series. Titles released under Eureka! Classics range from influential cult films such as Blacula(1972Crain), The Skull (1965, Francis) and Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964, Haskin), alongside beloved classics like Born Free (1966, Hill), Cocoon (1985, Howard) and Fright Night (1985, Holland). 

MONTAGE PICTURES

In 2017, Eureka! established Montage Picturesa new world cinema label that celebrates ground-breaking and thought-provoking world cinema from new and upcoming directors. The initial line up will include recent theatrical release Suntan (2016, Argyris PapadimitropoulosGreece), an unpredictable psychological drama, full of suspense and humour, set on a hedonistic Greek Island;Rescue Under Fire [Zona Hostil] (2017, Adolfo Martínez Pérez, Spain), a directorial debut based on events that happened in 2012 in the north of Bala Murghab in Afghanistan.  The film follows the crew of a medical helicopter that suffer an accident when helping a joint force of USA and United Nations troops under Spanish command; Shirley: Visions of Reality (2013, Gustav Deutsch, Austria), a story of a woman, whose thoughts, emotions and contemplations let us observe an era in American history via thirteen of the artist Edward Hopper’s paintings which are brought alive by the film; Kills on Wheels (2016, Attila Till, Hungary) a highly original, darkly comedic and infectious buddy-movie about a wheelchair-bound gang of assassins; and Strangled (2016, Árpád Sopsits, Hungary), a psycho-thriller, based on real-life events, set in the provincial Hungary of the 1960s.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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