A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kameradschaft (G.W. Pabst, 1931)

A Swedish poster for Kameradschaft
A film made in 1931 about a rapprochement between the French and the Germans seems naïve perhaps only with the benefit (if you can call it that) of hindsight. Pabst's Kameradschaft was also released with the French title La Tragédie de la mine, and the dialogue oscillates between German and French. It's less a plea for political unity than for a comradeship of workers, united against the forces that exploit them. A fire and explosion on the French side of a coal mine that extends beneath the border between France and Germany traps a number of French miners. Hearing of this, a German miner named Wittkopp (Ernst Busch), urges his fellow miners and his bosses to put together a rescue team to help the trapped Frenchmen. They wind up being hailed as heroes by the French, though the speeches at the end of the film are a bit heavy-handed. Like most successful mine-rescue movies, this one depends on well-drawn characters, exciting action and convincing sets. The characters were created by Ladislaus Vajda and Peter Martin Lampel from a story by Karl Otten, based on an actual disaster along the Franco-German border in 1906. Pabst's direction, aided by skillful editing by Jean Oser and Marc Sorkin, keeps things suspenseful and coherent. But perhaps the greatest contribution comes from production designers Ernö Metzner and Karl Vollbrecht, whose sets, constructed in the studio, have a claustrophobic reality. The cinematography of Fritz Arno Wagner and Robert Baberske adds to the illusion.