A friend recommended this silent German film to me without telling me the plot, so I too will recommend you see it before reading more about it.
SPOILERS: But if you must know the plot I will tell you if that will get you so seek out this stunning film. It begins with a young man, Hans paying a street musician to play a popular song recommending we drink, forget our troubles and be happy. A young woman, Else living above opens her windows to hear the music and sees handsome Hans. Because her father is raising her alone he is very protective and does not allow her to go out. Else only sees that her father wants her to only clean and cook for him.
Against her father's will, young Else goes out dancing with her friend Hans. When the despot realizes this, he locks his daughter out of the apartment. Else is forced to move in with Hans, who sells cigarettes out of a street cart, and his friend Max, who sells trinkets on the street. When the trio put on a vaudeville act as a horse and its pretty handler, they become an instant success. That leads Hans to talk about marriage. But Else is still a minor. When the cops show up at his apartment, sent there by her father to drag her home, Else takes flight. Out of desperation, she accepts an invitation from her sleazy cabaret manager for dinner only at his place if he will notify Hans and Max where she is. The manager has no plans to notify anyone and charmingly gets her to drink glass after glass of champagne.
When Hans finds out about it, and breaks in on them just as the manager is forcing himself on Else, Hans comes to the wrong conclusion and blames her. Forced into the street again she has to hide from her father's detective searching for her and yet get a job supporting herself. She ends up working in a dance hall as a hostess, but that does not last as she won't take being pawed by strange men. Thrown into the street again she is taken in by a prostitute who kindly offers her shelter. But when the prostitutes man comes home and assaults this new younger girl the prostitute blames Else and tosses her out again.
Try as she must to survive and since everyone is accusing her of being a fallen woman she finally gives in to a pimp who gets her a room. Meanwhile Hans and Max are feeling guilty for not looking after her and for being the reason she disobeyed her father they finally seek her out. Now bitter and hopeless it takes much effort to talk the ill Else into taking money from the now married Hans to go to the country for her health. While she is packing the pimp comes in finding her money and steals it. Realizing what he has done and that this is her last hope she fights him with all her strength. He nearly beats her to death.
Hans goes back to his wife and child oblivious to Else's condition, Max who also had loved her once gives up on her. Now a bedridden cripple Else only wants to feel the sun on her face one more time and neighbors carry her bed to the sidewalk where acquaintances are shocked at her condition. Slowly as her life fades away a small crowd gathers and wonders why she had not taken better care of herself. And why she had no friends or family who could have lent a helping hand. The film ends as a street musician playing the song about drinking and forgetting your troubles, just be happy.
A tale of the classic descent into prostitution. Set in the Berlin of the 'small people,' the film focuses a not unattractive light on the entertainment district of dimly-lit beer halls and nightclubs, with its cheap sparkle and flickering neon. After recovering from its spell I gave this tragedy four stars out of four. Thanks for reading my description.
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