One of the first aspects Gollbach mentions in his classification is the way the war at the front is represented. In anti-war prose, war is presented as ugly and horrific. As we have seen, the same is true for the film, but the question remains how the front and the fighting itself were represented. Apart from the mise en scène and camera technique, editing and sound were the main filmic means that Pabst used to give expression to the front experience. The question is whether his use of these means is essentially different from the war documentaries discussed earlier, in which the experience of the front was conveyed through constructed scenes.

The first scene that actually shows us an image of the front is in the penultimate sequence, lasting eleven minutes in total. Earlier enemy attacks took place at night, this one during the day. Karl and the Bavarian join two other soldiers on patrol. The camera is positioned over the meandering trench which has partly been covered with barbed wire, and in a long take (36 seconds) follows the soldiers to their next shelter, a crater. The camera increases pace with the soldiers and in the end, its position gets lower and lower. Thin clouds of smoke seep across the edge of the crater and the muffled sound of explosions can be heard in the distance. The four soldiers see a hand sticking out of the mud and the Bavarian vents his familiar remark about heroism. One minute later, a machine gun is put into position, and helmets can be seen rising above the crater. Next, we see the vast and empty landscape, and despite the fact that the horizon is very low, it is filmed only indirectly from the point of view of the soldiers. The camera is actually at a vantage point above the crater. Then the first explosions occur. In Der Weltkrieg, showing explosions usually meant stepping up the editing pace, in which every shot showed columns of smoke and mud being lifted into the air. However, in Westfront 1918 we see at least ten explosions in only one shot, with the camera moving about in small jerks. The view is completeley obscured. Next, we briefly see another sharp movement (a reframing) of Karl and the Bavarian. Karl shouts: 'Sie kommen.' In an extreme long shot from the front, from the indirect high point of view of the German soldiers, we see the French attack. We see them negotiating the obstacles in their way, we see explosions, craters which serve as shelters, we see the barbed wire and how many soldiers are shot. This is all shown in a long take of about twenty seconds. We see the Bavarian firing his rifle while Karl lobs a handgrenade at the enemy. What follows is the longest take of this sequence (some 90 seconds), in which we see no man's land from a side view. The French run past the camera in profile. Both foreground and background are clearly vivible. After some time, tanks emerge from the trails of smoke.

Again we see images of German soldiers firing a machine gun, followed by footage of a landscape in which the camera appears to have been closer to the action and in which the horizon appears to be higher. In the foreground, we see a fallen soldier lying on his belly, only his legs are visible. Next, we see a tank traversing the picture frontally at an angle, with French soldiers hiding behind it (long shot). The shot that follows is identical to an earlier one (the Bavarian firing his rifle and Karl throwing a hand grenade). Next, there are a number of 'shot-reverse-shots' between the Bavarian and Karl on the one hand and the advancing French soldiers on the other. The French are now also shown in close-up. The Bavarian prepares to attack, clasping a knife between his teeth, but is then hit, after which he moans and falls back into the crater. The French and Germans are now throwing hand grenades at each other. The other German soldiers are hit also. The tanks move up further until one of them passes the camera at no more than an arm's length. An infernal noise erupts and the horizon is darkened by a wall of explosions. In the end, there is also man-toman fighting in a German trench bulging with dead bodies. Next, we see a thick cloud of smoke spreading through the trenches, and we hear a French soldier warn against poison gas. Germans wearing gas masks come running into shot. It is in this mass of dead bodies that we see the Lieutenant (filmed from below, with the corpses visible in the foreground) get up and scream out his madness, after which he is taken away.

An answer to the question asked earlier, whether Pabst's representation of the battlefield is essentially different from the representations in films discussed earlier, must be both affirmative and negative. Films such as Douaumont, Somme, Tannenberg and Der Weltkrieg contain scenes with long takes and inconspicuous editing. Pabst also pays much attention to the landscape in no man's land by frequently using extreme long shots, as had been done before in many 'documentary' films. In one of the longest takes of this sequence, the camera actually leaves the characters to become a 'neutral' observer.

Pabst deviates in at least two respects. In the first place, he keeps his camera close to his characters. Although there is no direct point of view in the combat scenes, the camera's view is related to their view on no man's land. Such camera positions are less frequent in other films, where there are mostly anonymous protagonists, with the exception of some scenes in Somme. Staying close to the characters enhances the identification and emotional involvement on the part of the viewer. Secondly, for the representation of the horrors of modern war Pabst has chosen a different form in stead of quick-paced editing and other cinematographical interventions (such as the rotating letters in the Somme scene in Der Weltkrieg). Long takes and deep focus belong to cinematographical conventions that indicate a realistic approach. Not intervening through the editing is supposed to enhance the illusion of reality. Weighing one thing against the other, we must come to the conclusion that Pabst's approach bears close resemblance to the documentary style of filming. This has been confirmed by recent analyses.49

Die andere Seite

Nearly eighteen months after the premiere of Westfront 1918, on 29 October 1931, Die andere Seite opened. Die andere Seite was an adaptation, like Westfront 1918. The play Journey's End (1928), on which the film was based, marked British bank employee Robert C. Sheriff's debut. This author reaped much international fame in a short period of time, not least in German theatres, where Journey's End premiered in August 1929.50 In England, the play was filmed by James Whale, and in Germany, it was adapted for the screen by Heinz Paul. On the whole, this director followed the gist of the original play, abridging the dialogue without damaging its essence.

As was indicated in the previous chapter, Paul served as an officer in the

German army during the war. Besides the three 'documentaries' discussed earlier, he also made feature films that dealt with the war. In addition to Die andere Seite, he also directed the films U 9 Weddigen (1927) and Drei Tage auf Leben und Tod (1929). The style of filming shows that creating the strongest possible illusion of objectivity was very important to Paul. At the same time, his films betray a preference for some of the more heroic episodes from Germany's then recent war past. This aspect, combined with his attempt at (audio-)visual historiography ensured that his realistic style did not have the same ideological implications as that of Pabst, even though in the reception, some of his films were labelled as anti-war films. As will be shown in our discussion of the reviews, Die andere Seite was a borderline case in this respect. Reactions to the film and the promotion campaign that preceded the premiere show the degree to which the success of the film was determined by the presence and acting performance of Conrad Veidt, an actor who enjoyed great popularity. On the posters announcing the film, his head was shown in a life-size representation. Like Westfront 1918, Die andere Seite was inadmissible for young people.

Westfront 1918 and Die andere Seite are both set on the western front. Since the protagonists of Die andere Seite belong to the British army, the front in this film must have been north of the Somme (from 1917 between Nieuport and Amiens). The film is more accurate with respect to dates. The opening text indicates that the film covers the period from 18 to 21 March 1918, the three days before the German spring offensive of 21 March. In a series of thrusts, the German army managed to seize large parts of France, pushing on to the Marne river for the second time since 1915, where the allies halted the German advance in mid-July. It was the last great convulsion of the war. In early August, the Germans were pushed back to their original positions.

There are more similarities between the two films. Besides the fact that they are set in the same region and in the same year, Die andere Seite also concentrates on a small group of soldiers at the front. And, as was the case in Westfront 1918, the war makes victims among the protagonists, while the lives of the leaders (Stanhope and the Lieutenant) are 'spared'. In both films, the central concern is direct human experience, which is even explicitly mentioned in the opening text of Die andere Seite. In this film, the psychology of individual personalities is featured more prominently than in Westfront 1918, which also makes the film less exemplary.

Not surprisingly, the distinguishing feature of Die andere Seite is its international perspective. As the title suggests, the film is set in a British camp, and nowhere does the film try to conceal this fact. National identity shines through everything. The names and uniforms are British, in the German dialogue the protagonists address each other with 'sir', British authors are regularly cited or referred to (including Lewis Carroll), and the Germans are called 'Huns'. Heinz Paul has not changed anything in this perspective. He has also adopted British humour, which in this film is mainly related to food and sexuality. The former is guaranteed by the funny cook (Willy Trenk-Trebitsch) who attracts attention with his lap dog Kitty which he continuously addresses and spoils. The latter aspect is expressed in the erotic prints hanging everywhere in the trench shelter. One of the prints shows the body of a uniformed soldier being mounted and tugged by naked women. A comic effect is achieved when Raleigh repeatedly and without noticing himself is shown in one frame with the prints. The association between him and the prints underlines his (sexual) inexperience and innocence. Besides that, they are a clear reference to the male community which has a central position in this film. Indeed, it has no female characters at all. Incidentally, Die andere Seite is the only German war film that contains references to eroticism. This must clearly be attributed to the British origin of the drama.

The only thing that really changed was the English title of the play, whose German version, Die andere Seite, clearly indicates a German perspective. It is another title rather than a translation of the English title, Journey's End. Apparently, no one should get the idea that the psychological effects of the war also pertained to German officers. This begs the question whether, bearing in mind the so-called Dolchstosslegende, such a film, from a German military perspective, could ever have been made in Germany. The officers' debacle at the end of the film would certainly have suggested that the German army was actually defeated in the field. This would have given the film a critical political tendency that would have been quite unthinkable in view of Heinz Paul's other work. Paul's other war films showed him to be an exponent of a more nationalistic approach to the war that was also endorsed officially.

The same is true for his view on heroism, even though, as Pabst had done, he chose two-dimensional heroes. By adding a prologue text to the film (lacking in the play), indicating that the film is about people 'die sich trotz Wirrnis und Qual in Pflichterfüllung aufrechterhalten wollen', he makes clear that the characters' actions are mainly motivated by a sense of duty. It goes without saying that they did their duty serving the fatherland and national honour, in spite of the fact that there is not much emphasis on this in the film narrative itself. Another and much stronger dimension of the film is the other side of traditional heroism. In contrast to Westfront 1918, there is a strong emphasis on the psychological effects of the war. Not only because of this psychological approach, but also because of the emphasis on the dialogue, more attention is drawn to anti-heroism, which is thus more subtly rendered than it was in Westfront 1918. On the one hand, the film (and Sheriff's play) corresponds to

Gollbach's typology of this particular anti-war aspect, but on the other hand, these tendencies are slightly weakened by Paul's added prologue text.

One could also say that the psychological 'weaknesses' displayed by the characters in Die andere Seite are more sophisticated than those in Westfront 1918, which is dominated by physical danger and discomforts such as makeshift shelters and lice. Also, there is a clear distinction between the two films in terms of class. The officers in Die andere Seite are representatives of higher social strata, and as such, they suffer less deprivations at the front than the foot soldiers. Their shelters are more spacious and more comfortable, they have a cook at their disposal and their menu is considerably more varied (chicken besides the alleged rat's meat) and more luxurious, including considerable amounts of spirits. On the other hand, however, under certain circumstances, the psychological pressure on the officers is greater than on the ordinary soldiers, for example when they have to lead their soldiers into battle. The Lieutenant in Westfront 1918 also collapses under the responsibilities of his role, the more so since he does not have the luxury goods to ease the pressure. In Die andere Seite, fear and the weight of responsibility are washed away with whiskey. Stanhope can only survive when he numbs himself with great amounts of alcohol. Hibbert complains of serious headaches (neuralgy) caused mainly by fear. No wonder one of the fiercest confrontations of the film takes place between these two men. Hibbert releases what Stanhope tries to repress. Hibbert is perhaps the only character in the film one could call a coward. The others may be weighed down by the situation, but in the end they all perform their duty as officers.

Finally, yet another difference between the films is the way the enemy has been portrayed. While the enemy is at least given a face in Westfront 1918, he remains physically absent in Die andere Seite. Perhaps this also played a part in the rather sympathetic reception the film was given in Germany.

The protagonists in Die andere Seite are a group of five officers who balance each other in terms of character traits and who perform various functions in the narrative. However, they are not unequivocal characters. The most striking of them, captain Stanhope (Conrad Veidt) and Lieutenant Raleigh (Wolfgang Liebeneiner) are each other's opposites, but in due course, they also develop noble feelings for each other. Stanhope, the authoritarian leader who has become brutalized by alcohol and his long stay at the front, is contrasted with the young, well-mannered and naive Raleigh. In the end, the former also turns out to have a sensitive side, and the latter a brave one. In principle, each man has a distorted view of the other, which causes the necessary irritations. Stanhope sees Raleigh as a child who, in his letters home to his sister, tattles on the true nature of his future brother-in-law. He turns out to be wrong. In his turn, Raleigh sees Stanhope as the hero that he himself is not. The other three characters, Osborne, Hibbert and Trotter, can be summarized as the cautious father figure, the neurotic and the grouser with a sense of humour.

The image that the protagonists have of each other is an essential fact in the film because it relates to the representation of the war in general and the antagonism between the home front and the battle front. While with Pabst, this aspect is not resolved until the very last moment of the film, the change to mutual acceptance between Raleigh and Stanhope in Die andere Seite is much more gradual.

The development of the narrative takes place along two lines. The first one concerns the changes in the relationship between Stanhope and Raleigh. The second narrative line is related to the increase in tension about the upcoming attack. Both these developments interlock, and in successive scenes, there is a continuous interaction between 'inside' and 'outside', both literally and in a figurative sense, between the battle field and the shelter on the one hand, and behaviour and feelings on the other hand. While the relationship between Stanhope and Raleigh improves and moves from conflict to reconciliation, the battle field changes from a state of peace and quiet (which repeatedly surprises Raleigh) into a state of severe violence. At the end of the film, the relatively safe shelter receives a direct hit and collapses. This removes the distinction between interior and exterior. In the last scene, the war has not only conquered the psychological but also the physical.

In contrast to Niemandsland and, to a lesser degree, Westfront 1918, there is no striking camera and editing technique. Heinz Paul made them both subservient to narrative continuity. The many medium shots alternating with several close-ups enhance the intimate character of the film and correspond with the narrative's emphasis on psychological stress and emotional relationships between the characters. Camera movement is tuned largely to the limited space of the trench shelter. The same is true for the lighting. The dark shelters are lit in such a way that a chiaroscuro effect is created. Candlelight appears to be the main source of light. However, contrast has in most cases been determined by strong artificial lighting of faces, while lighting of the direct surroundings is much weaker.

When the camera is outside the officers' shelter, the field of vision is kept very limited. Long shots of the battle field, which we saw frequently in Westfront 1918, are hardly to be found in Die andere Seite. Although the horizon is very low due to the trench perspective, the field of vision is often obstructed by earth spurting through the air because of the explosions. Only once is there an attack in the film that is launched by the British, and the Germans attack only in the last scene, when Raleigh is killed. The sequence of the British attack is composed of 47 shots lasting nearly three and a half minutes. The pace is considerably lower than in the Langemark combat scene in Der Weltkrieg, which compressed 59 shots into ninety seconds.51 The emphasis in this sequence is on individual actions. We also recognize the characters on the battle field, even when they are shown only as a silhouet. This is also the case with Westfront 1918, but not or hardly at all in the war 'documentaries'. Also, the camera positions themselves are less independent from the characters. For example, the point of view during the attack scene is regularly determined by Stanhope's look. In one of the last shots of this sequence (which was not described here), we see the body of his best friend Osborne through his eyes. Heinz Paul has not aspired to Pabst's realism through long takes and extreme long shots. As a director, he serves the characters, which is in keeping with the rest of the film.


Only two months after the premiere of Die andere Seite, on 10 December 1931, Niemandsland appeared in the cinemas. The film opened in Berlin's Mozartsaal. Niemandsland was the first film by director Victor Trivas, who had begun his career as an architect. He wrote the script together with Leonhard Frank, the author of a popular war drama, Karl und Anna (1929), which served as the basis for the film Heimkehr, which will be discussed in Chapter 6. Victor Trivas gained experience as an assistant to the director Pabst while he was shooting Westfront 1918 and Kameradschaft (1931). Niemandsland was a very special debut film, and one that conveyed a message of pacifism, which is shown by the fact that it was awarded a prize by the League of Nations' Peace League. Although the film deviated from other (war) films in terms of aesthetics, it did not receive the designation 'künstlerisch'.52 Niemandsland is the most extreme of the four films discussed here, not only in a cinematographical sense, but also as far as its political ideology is concerned. The film is very explicit in its rejection of war and heroism. Its pacifist stance is also illustrated by the international perspective, with four protagonists from four different countries. One might also call the film socialist in its outlook, since the four protagonists together more or less represent the lower classes. The opening text already points in that direction: 'Völkerstreit, Brüderstreit'. After all, it was the socialists who though they could prevent the war, in 1914 and earlier as well, by appealing to the international solidarity between the members of the working classes. It is not strange, therefore, that Niemandsland is usually associated with socialism or a pacifist persuasion, even though - as came up in the discussion of Namenlose Helden - these two movements are incompatible. Die Rote Fahne called the film pacifist, without rejecting it for that reason.53

It is nevertheless true that as far as its political tendency is concerned, Niemandsland (after Namenlose Helden) is one of the most outspoken anti-war films of the Weimar period. The representation of the war is very different from that in Westfront 1918. While the latter emphasises the horrific aspects of the war, Niemandsland shows a process of realisation in which there is room for optimism and international fraternization. Combat scenes like we saw in the other films are not present in Niemandsland. Victor Trivas formulated his intention as follows: 'In Niemandsland ging es mir nicht darum, die Greuel des Krieges, sondern seine grausame Sinnlosigkeit bloss-zustellen.'54

Niemandsland is a film with a well-organised structure. The first part of the film shows the various (national) living conditions of the four protagonists on the eve of the First World War, the second part is mainly set at the front. In a rhythmical and parallel way, the first eleven scenes introduce the protagonists. Stereotypes play an important part. It is worth mentioning that in most cases, the nationality of the characters is the same as that of the actors. The Englishman (Hugh Stephens Douglas) is introduced via an image of the Thames, the Frenchman (George Peclet) via the Eiffel tower, and images of factory machines serve to introduce the German (Ernst Busch). The national origin of the other two characters is less relevant. One of them is introduced as someone from 'irgendwo in der Welt' (Wladimir Sokolow), but he is clearly meant as a personification of Jewry (in the Dutch version of the film he is called a Pole)55, while the other is a black actor (Lewis Douglas) of French-African extraction. We see them all in their everyday environment, plying their trade (Frenchman, African and German) or during an important private occasion (a son is born to the Englishman, the Jew marries).

The Frenchman and the Jew are portrayed in the most stereotypical fashion. The carefree Frenchman sports a thin moustache, wears a beret and flirts with an unknown girl. The Jew is shown at his wedding, which is celebrated in the traditional way. Also, there are numerous references to his profession (the sewing machine), so that we know that he practises the traditional (and again, stereotypically Jewish) trade of tailor.

In contrast to these outspoken characterisations, there is the relatively colourless figure of the Englishman. The German, a carpenter, is associated with the war industry when the image of a wooden toy gun he has made for his son rhymes with, and then changes into, the image of a real gun in an arms factory. Although the scene is a critical reference to Germany, this is redressed in a later scene when the German says that he wants his son to take violin les sons in the future rather than play with the instruments of war. What all the characters have in common (except for the African) is that they are the head of a family and that they belong to the lower social classes (the Englishman may be an exception). The African is without ties and works in a French cabaret theatre. As an international artist, he belongs to a class of people usually referred to as 'freischwebend'.

After the introduction, whose images already refer to the threat of war, the various national war proclamations are dealt with in a symbolical way. Introduced by images of various national symbols, pamphlets appear in which we see, successively, the Russian czar, the German kaiser, the French president and the Austrian emperor call their peoples to war. The German part is considerably longer than the other three scenes, which take only seconds. Besides the text of the German proclamation, the scene also shows us loaves of bread, pies and food vouchers, by which it anticipates on the coming famine. In the next sequence, which shows the protagonists making preparations to leave for the front, the German part is again longer than the others. After a transitional scene showing the general euphoria about the war, this time with images of Great Britain, America and Japan, we see the protagonists saying goodbye to their loved ones. The German character is used to convey the way in which the soldiers are stirred up to show more fighting spirit. While the German initially shows a lack of enthusiasm when he joins his future comrades, his zest grows as he hears the marching music. The same is true for his wife, whose face first betrays sadness but later changes to an expression of pride. The initial walking pace also changes into a marching tempo. The images of a festive farewell ritual are not confined to Germany alone. Only the scene in which the Jewish man says goodbye has no cheerfulness at all.

After most of the characters have been given a festive send-off, the front appears. The film is far less fragmentary after that. While in the first part, the relatively short scenes followed each other at a high pace, focusing mainly on the various nationalities, in this part there is an interaction between longer scenes set at the front and short scenes that show the home front. The other scenes have an indicative or commentary function. The scenes at the home front show, in a much more general way than was the case in Westfront 1918, that life at the home front was also dominated by the war. The ordinary civilian has also been subjected to military rule. A combination of endless lists of war victims, propaganda posters for war bonds and people queuing in front of a shop is used to convey the sacrifices that have to be made for the war. The next scene, showing a blind war veteran who has lost one leg, a bearer of the Iron Cross who sits begging underneath one of these propaganda posters, can only be understood as a cynical comment on the war. The other home front images mainly concern the fate suffered by the protagonists' wives: a life of sorrow, loneliness and hiding in a shelter. Although there is not much dialogue in the film anyway, it is striking that the women in the film should say nothing at all.

By accident, the five protagonists end up in the cellar of a deserted ruin which is right in the middle of no man's land and therefore belongs to none of the warring parties. While at first, they treat each other with suspicion, the African, who speaks more than one language, is the one to reconcile the others with each other. The Jew, however, has become deaf and dumb because of the violence and is unable to say where he is from. In addition, he has lost his uniform during the fighting, which makes him a figure without identity. According to the African, this is why the others all consider him their friend. For instance, no one accuses him when a quarrel breaks out about the causes of the war. During this discussion, the African breaks into laughter and takes off his uniform, which means he also distances himself from his national identity. The others follow his example. Like the Jew, the African's link with national identity is not as strong as that of the others. After all, he comes from a French colony. The next scene refers to this when a voice-over asks to whom Berlin, Paris and the colonies belong: 'Wem gehört die Welt?'

In the following front scenes, we see how the group adapts to the circumstances. Each member fulfils characteristic tasks: the Frenchman is cooking, the African is playing the mouth organ, the Jew is mending clothes, the German is building things and the Englishman, who has been injured, is being looked after by all of them. Gradually, however, the outside world begins to disturb the relative peace in the ruin. After all, no man's land is closely watched by the warring parties. First, there is a gas attack, next they are spotted by soldiers in nearby trenches who have seen the smoke rising from their cooking place. When they come under attack, the African bursts into a lament of madness. He challenges the war, saying that he wants to fight it and throws a hand grenade outside. In the final scene, all of them walk across no man's land, armed and in uniform, except for the Jew. They want to end the war and remove all obstacles that are blocking peace. In the end, they use their rifles to chop their way through the barbed wire and face their fate in the name of peace.

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