Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World?

(Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehört die Welt?)

Germany, 1932, 74 min, b&w
In German; English subtitles
Credits:
Director
Script
Editor
Camera
Music (Score)
Music (Performance)
Cast

Synopsis

A working-class family in Berlin in 1931 where survival is difficult, with massive unemployment in the wake of the Great Depression. After Anni's brother commits suicide in despair, her family finds itself forced to move to Kuhle Wampe, a lakeside camp on the outskirts of Berlin, now home to increasing numbers of unemployed. When Anni's relationship with Franz ends, she moves back to Berlin and gets involved in the workers' youth movement.

 

The DVD release is the 2008 digitally-restored transfer of the original Weimar period masterpiece (69 minutes). The DEFA Film Library collaborated on the restoration with absolut MEDIEN and OMNIMAGO using a 35mm duplicate negative and positive produced from a 35mm print that was given to the East German State Film Archive by the Cinémathèque Française in 1956 or 1957.

 

The Kanopy release presents the 2020 HD version. It is most complete version of the film (74 minutes) with vastly improved sound and image quality. The films was digitized and restored in 2K resolution at ARRI Media on behalf of the Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin. A 35mm nitrate print of the original German version from the British Film Institute served as a template. Additions were made from materials held by Praesens-Film AG at the Cinémathèque Suisse, a fragment of a 35mm nitrate print of the French version and a duplicate negative of the German version. However, the censored passages couldn’t be reconstructed.

Commentary

Director Slatan Dudow brought together an exceptionally renowned set of left-wing artists for this production – including co-author Bertolt Brecht, cameraman Günther Krampf (Nosferatu), composer Hanns Eisler (Council of the Gods), and noted workers’ movement balladeer Ernst Busch and the actress Hertha Thiele (Girls in Uniform).

 

Already censored in March 1932 for raising controversial issues, such as abortion, and portraying left-wing youth culture, the film was then banned by the Nazis in 1933 for having “communist tendencies.”

Awards

2022 To Save and Project, MoMA, New York, USA
2021 Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, Italy
2020 Film:ReStored, Berlin Film Heritage Festival, Germany
2012 Berlin Int. Film Festival, Germany
2000 Film in the Third Reich: The Power of Images and Illusions, Harvard Film Archive, USA
1987 The Forgotten, San Sebastian Int. Film Festival, Spain
1983 Berlin Int. Film Festival, Germany
1933 Cameo Theater, New York, USA

Press comments

“One of the best films of the century.”   —Village Voice, Film Critics Poll, 1999

 

“The politically most radical and formally most innovative film of the period.”   —Sabine Hake, German National Cinema

 

“Notable for its experimental filmic techniques as well as the intensity of its acting and the stirring songs of Hanns Eisler.”   —Tate Modern, London

 

“A landmark of committed cinema.”   —Guardian Unlimited

 

“The one clearly Communist film made during the Weimar Republic.”   —Reclam Film Guide

 

“Nowhere in the cinema has Brecht’s aesthetic and political theory been so well dramatized and illuminated.”   —Harvard Film Archive

 

"The romance between Annie and Fritz is told in a prosaic fashion, as is also the affection linking Gerda and Karl; leaders in the labor movement who befriend Annie. Hertha Thiele's acting is excellent, but she has nothing, like the opportunity to display her ability as she had in "Maedchen in Uniform." The performances of the other players are highly satisfactory and the chanting of fighting slogans by the young workers is effective. Kuhle Wampe is prefaced by screen talks from Amos Pinchot, Norman Thomas, Hendrik Wiltem Van Loon, Mrs. Lincoln Steffens and others denouncing Hitlerism and the persecution of the Jews."   —The New York Times, 1933

Availability

Special features:
  • Improved English subtitles, supervised by Brecht scholar Marc Silbermann
  • How the Berlin Worker Lives (1930, dir. Slatan Dudow)
  • Slatan Dudow: A Film Essay about a Marxist Artist (1974, dir. Volker Koepp)
  • Original Prolog to Kuhle Wampe, with Herbert Jhering, 1958
  • Before & After: Restoring Kuhle Wampe (2008, dir. Marta Carlson)
  • “At the Hairdresser’s with Brecht and Dudow,” from a 1981 interview by film historian Ralf Schenk
  • “On Kuhle Wampe,” an essay by film scholar Marc Silberman
  • "The Second Life of Kuhle Wampe," by Wolfgang Klaue
  • Biographies & Filmographies

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