Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World?

(Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehört die Welt?)

Germany, 1932, 69 min, B&W
In German; English subtitles
Credits:
Director
Script
Editor
Camera
Music (Score)
Music (Performance)
Cast

Synopsis

A new digitally-restored transfer of the original Weimar period masterpiece, in which an avant-garde, fragmented narrative is used to tell the story of a working-class family in Berlin in 1931.

 

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.

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.”

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

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 Prologue, 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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