Monday, October 1, 2012

# 354 - Strange Movie Experience

I'm one of those odd people who love foreign films. Since I was able to read, I've enjoyed watching them, especially because I'm forced to pay close attention to the screen so I can know what is happening.

A downside to this past-time is that foreign films come with a bit of frustration stemming from the viewer's inability to focus on the actual film itself because they are too busy reading the words, unless the language is not actually foreign to the one watching. Still, it's a great challenge, and I love it.

I guess foreign film watching brings on a case of "crazy eyes" that are darting furiously from words to scenes being displayed. It's an eyeball work-out I tell you!

Anyway, the foreign film of my choice this week happened to have been aired by Turner Classic Movies, as usual, although Netflix is building quite a nice selection of foreign films for streaming straight to your television.

Yes, it's odd that we're able to watch classics that are sometimes around 70 years old, such as the one I watched today, and to view them with the aid of high-technology.

Interestingly, today I noticed a particular TCM movie from 1943 saved on my DVR, so I took the time to watch it. I felt yucky, so it was a good day for me to sit with crazy eyes all over the screen and with my handy remote that allows for pausing and rewinding.

The film? Well, this is the interesting part. The TCM gentleman who comes out to give us our history lesson before the movie airs was thorough in discussing details of the time-period for the release of this film. His synopsis gave some great insight into this film I was about to spend 1 hour and 33 minutes of my life watching. I am passing on what he says in his opening of this German movie titled, "Titanic."

No, this is not the "Titanic" that we know of today, nor is the old-fashioned film versions filmed in English. The "Titanic" I watched today was a version produced during World War II by Germans demonstrating their "warped perspective" of events surrounding the Titanic disaster. At this time, in Germany, all films were under the control and compulsion of The Nazi Party, Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda.

Hmmm...that sure sounds for fascinating movie-making boundaries.

The German control of this film has English passengers clearly behaving as spoiled rich brats while the few Germans aboard are "poor and hard-working" and ethically bound people. The Germans contend in this movie, that the Germans could have averted this massive maritime disaster, if only the greedy English had been wise enough to listen.

Yes, everyone knows that greed starts on English soil and ends on German soil.

Wow! If only the rich English would have listened to German reasoning! It's great that the Nazi Party never got the chance to attempt to spread their mangled message that the luxury liner Titanic went down because power had been in the wrong hands, not German hands.

They didn't get the chance because the film would never be shown to the public of that time. More on that later.

The shipliner president is telling the captain that he'll get a personal
bonus of $1,000 per hour for every hour prior to the hour of
expected arrival. We know the Titanic's demise is hugely due
to their desire to win a record-setting travel acknowledgement,
 but the kicker is that this movie has Germans
as the only people on board who were not shallow and greedy.

It's interesting that the Nazi party ordered the German's in the movie to be "extremely noble." Even more comical, the only German crew member on board the Titanic in this production is seen as the only crew member on board is the "righteous hero."

Here is the the only German crew member on board the Titanic who was
willing to do everything possible, with a grave sense of duty, in an attempt
to avoid an ice-berg disaster. In the end, he is noble and refuses to
get onto a lifeboat since they were supposed to be only for
women and children; however, he just happens to find an abandoned
child in a cabin...he uses heroic strength to climb over the sinking ship
with the child in his arms, then he swims in freezing waters with
this little girl to a life-boat and both are miraculously
rescued. Of course, he's the star witness at the trial. If we were
to believe the Nazi Party, we would think this one German man
desperately did everything he could to get the captain to avoid the
ice-berg disaster; this German man dared to not mingle pleasure
with duty because of his staunch focus upon his station and obligation
as a crew member; he rescues a child which is his ticket to get on
a life-boat as others in the water try to get into the life-boat,
but are pushed back into their icy grave; and this one German
crew member  even does his part at trial to take down
corporate greed by testifying in court.

I find all of this whacky...the Nazi Party with Hitler's fanciful ideals of popularity and adoration is evident in his using his demented power to create such twisted accounts. Where was that heroic behavior as the Jewish people were being extinguished?

I suppose Hitler never realized that he had become Germany's ice-berg of disgusting proportions, causing millions to suffer and either die or be scarred for life, with following generations to still feel the ache from his disgusting existence.

Just watching this movie made me think of how many of us have family members who had been World War II veterans. How many of us have family that had been directly impacted because of Hitler. My husband's grandfather was killed because of WWII, in a ship, on the way home from the hit a mine. My grandfather came back battle wounded in mind and body, his three Purple Hearts of no consolation as he slowly lost his senses due to his brother being killed by the war and due to the alcohol addiction that began in earnest to numb his physical and emotional pain.

So, I hope you can understand my passion about these things. You might share them as well, for your own reasons.

As for this movie that was created for Nazi propaganda, even more fascinating is that the original director of this film made some unwise comments about the German Navy to the screenwriter of this piece. Not so smart. The screenwriter happened to be a Nazi Party Loyalist. You know meant for that producer? Yes, he was soon arrested by the Gestapo, then suddenly ended up dead in his cell from reportedly committing suicide ---- which most people of the time knew that such an ending was not likely when he was in the middle of producing film. Who could dispute the death? At that time, speaking out was a deadly serious affair.

The next producer finished the film and was able to keep himself alive, but I imagine the position held a significant amount of pressure.

A young German couple meeting and falling in love on the Titanic.
Of course, they are good-hearted and are both workers on the ship, not
English aristocracy or of a spoiled nature. Certainly, it's difficult to
imagine these actors having a personal life that included being
in agreement that certain people should be killed because
of one crazy man's narrow-minded thinking. Indeed, I
believe they had to be Nazi Party Loyalists in order to be
involved with this film. Can you imagine being recruited to
act in this film while being fearful of the Nazi Party?

It seems to be poetic justice that the film itself was not to be any part of the Nazi's self-awarded glory because the regime's Minister of Propaganda decided not to release the film, likely due to the chaos and panic of the country in real life from Allied Forces air-raids. Because the Nazi party had wasted their time with frivolous activities, such as with this movie production during a time when their own country was being bombed and greatly suffering, the film was locked away and all prints were lost, for years.

After the movie, the narrator for TCM closes by saying that this perspective of the Titanic disaster is "unique but flawed" and so I felt it important to watch the movie.

Another suffering and poor German couple aboard the Titanic.
They don't even fight to get on a life-boat, but their goodness is
rewarded by seemingly Divine Intervention. Sweet little Nazi's.

Of course, a few actors in the film came mightily close to having the Hitler mustache and famous Hitler rigid stance that appears to be nothing more than a mouth in motion, but these Hilter-ish features were obviously tamed because the actors were pretending to be "English."

On a positive note, there did seem to be some good acting and as any film from the 1940's would display, the clothes were dressed impeccably and women's hair styles were elaborate. Plus, everyone smoked.

There was even a rather seductive dancing scene performed in the poor-man's portion of the ship below and the dancer had everyone in the audience, both men and women, eventually clapping for her tantalizing movements. While dancing, she artfully removes her jacket and continues her jiggles and wiggles while wearing a thin white blouse. Actually, I was a bit shocked. I can only imagine how long the Nazi Party needed to dedicate to that particular scene. I can hear the desperate, entitled men in Hitler's circle yelling, "One more time!" I would bet that many of the men in that scene were party loyalists being rewarded for some kind of dictatorship brown-nosing.

Sorry, I don't have pictures of that part of the movie! But, I will say that the dancer was talented and I'm not being sarcastic. She did move gracefully and could pull in an audience, a lighter side to this movie.

Sybille Schmitz played an aristocrat and wealthy Baltic woman called "Sigrid." The next three photos are of her and come from shots I took from the movie itself so you can see a bit of what I'm talking about in this post.

She was a famous German star in the 1930's, but after the war, her well-known ties to powerful Nazi's proved to be her undoing and caused a dramatic fall from fame, from which she did not bounce back.

She ended up committing suicide in 1955, at the age of 45, after living a life marked by alcohol and drug abuse. Of course, as I sit here at 44 years of age in the year 2012, I realize that to be a 45 year old woman in 1955 meant your life as an actress was essentially over...many felt that normal life had little left in front of it at that time. I don't believe the life-span was much more than around the 60's during this time. So young, yet so used up.

Sybille Schmitz in one of the film's best scenes, as she's being lowered into
a life-boat while watching the sight of her beloved German crew
member disappear. Of course, he would be the hero swimming out to
join her after he rescued a little girl from going down with the ship.
But, this scene was touching. It's difficult to imagine this
talented woman, like so many others, being sucked into Nazi Party's
bloated schemes. I don't think she met Hitler's physical ideal, yet she
was one of the movie stars of their time.

Worse yet, the TCM narrator follows the move with more doom and gloom associated with war-time events surrounding this film. The luxury liner used to film this German produced movie came to its own "tragic end," representing the horrors of war. This ship, in 1945, was "appropriated" to deliver rescued prisoners of war and to take them to freedom. However, Allied Forces mistakenly bombed the ship in a historical case of "Friendly Fire", causing the ship to sink. Consequently, many of the rescued prisoners of war were killed in the bombing and sinking of the ship. Most of the survivors who fought to make it from the bombed ship to the beach were then killed by Nazi soldiers who were fighting until the last minute of the war.

Talk about heart sunk at hearing this bit of history, and I can't help but wonder what happened to the pilot and upper rank that had been responsible for accidentally bombing this luxury liner that had been re-purposed for a rescue mission? Yes, there's always more to the story.

I feel as if this movie is, in part, a testament to the ship that tried to carry so many prisoners of war to freedom, but like the Titanic, they were doomed. For some reason, their passage to freedom was short-lived and cruelly cut short by the horrors of war.

I found the story around the making of this film to be more interesting than anything else. From the producer who was killed in a way that would be socially acceptable in the guise of suicide following him ticking off a Nazi Party Loyalist; to the famous actress who made her way to stardom with the aid of the Nazi party which would also lead to her miserable failings, and her death; and then to the luxury liner used by the Nazi's as a film set in the movie to the ship being transformed into an integral part of the opponent's failed effort to rescue POW's...all of it is sad, yet important to know.

More than anything, I feel such sadness for the people who thought that ship would be their voyage to freedom. I feel sad for the people who thought they were traveling to America aboard the real Titanic and I feel such tragic remorse for the people who believed the ship used as Titanic's set felt they were being given another chance to be free, yet nothing went right in the the end for either ship.

I cannot say whether this version of Titanic is good or bad because it is so far-fetched from reality, aside from the few facts about the ship hitting an ice-berg. I cannot say that all rich people on board were greedy, heartless bastards, neither can I say that all passengers below were hard-working decent people who never did wrong. But, one thing I can say with certainty is that the movie being locked away for a long time was probably a good idea. Perhaps it is only the start of my generation that can even stomach watching a movie created by German propaganda.
But, I hope the movie brings glory to those poor souls who nearly obtained their freedom while floating aboard this ship that had been used for warped purposes...the twisted triumph had to have been sweet while it lasted.
Most of all, I hope those final passengers finally saw their eternal freedom lifting them to the Heavens, even as the bombed ship sank into dark depths.

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