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  • What better way to start another thrilling Fall-Winter silent season at the Schloss theatre than watching one of the weirdest and most unusual German silent oeuvres ever made?..

    "Von Morgens Bis Mitternachts" ( From Morn To Midnight ), a film directed by Herr Karlheinz Martin in the silent year of 1920, was inspired by the eponymous oeuvre by Herr Georg Kaiser. The film depicts the story of a bank cashier who is bewitched by the visit of a rich Italian lady to his counter. He comes to realize how ordinary his life is but his decision to change things brings about his personal downfall.

    "Von Morgens Bis Mitternachts" is quintessential German Expressionism; unfortunately, the film didn't receive the praise and honours that it deserved because it was never shown in German cinemas ( the film had a cinema release only in Japan ). That wrong can now be rectified thanks to the superb restoration work done by the longhaired youngsters at the "Edition Filmmuseum" who cleaned and restored the blurry copy that was all that was available for years, rescuing from oblivion and Expressionist darkness this exceptional film.

    Darkness, a nightmarish mood and even debauchery are key elements in both story and scenery as we watch our hero meet his doom in this strange city full of bizarre people. The art design of the film is absolutely outstanding; its calculated primitivism accentuates powerfully the oneiric theatrical atmosphere. An air of decadence can be seen also in the costumes, strange and otherworldly in unique Expressionist fashion. The acting is in the same vein and Frau Roma Bahn, performs four different roles.

    Technically, "Von Morgens Bis Mitternachts" is outstanding and uses many special effects of that early silent time: double exposures, animated scenes, distorted images. Nonetheless, it is still highly theatrical but the mix of expressionism and avant-garde techniques makes for a near hallucinatory experience.

    "Von Morgens Bis Mitternacht" is an absolute one of a kind work; unconventional, uniquely imaginative and experimental, avant-garde and very modern in conception for its time.

    And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must enjoy the exclusive aristocratic pleasures from midnight to morn.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Georg Kaiser's VON MORGENS BIS MITTERNACHTS (written in 1912, first performed in 1917) is one of the masterworks of German Expressionist drama, an artistic movement of the early 20th century which emphasized the psychological or "spiritual" (in the sense of the German word "seelisch") suffering of the subject. Kaiser's play thus assumes the form of a "Stationendrama" (station play), i.e. a series of episodes (modelled after the Stations of the Cross in the Christian tradition), each of which culminates in a kind of spiritual revelation, propelling the protagonist onward to the next "station". Death is typically the inevitable final destination on the journey.

    Karlheinz Martin's film adaptation remains largely faithful to Kaiser's play (minus the rich dialog of course), and indeed adds some insightful touches, especially in the opening scene in the bank vaults. The set decoration is ultra-Expressionistic, even more so than that found in Robert Wiene's DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI (produced more or less around the same time), perhaps reflecting actual stage sets used for contemporary productions of the play. The omnipresence of Death (and its connection to women) is emphasized through the multiple characters portrayed by one actress (Roma Bahn). Ernst Deutsch, as the Cashier, is particularly effective in conveying the grasping, despairing nature of the character -- a man whose life is controlled by money and a petty bourgeois mentality, and whose attempts to overcome this enslavement prove impossible.

    Astute viewers who are familiar with CALIGARI will spot Hans Heinrich von Twardowski in the role of the Son of the Lady (he played the doomed friend Alan in Wiene's film).

    VON MORGENS BIS MITTERNACHTS has an odd history. Never officially released in Germany at the time of its production, it found contemporary success in Japan, then was believed lost for decades until its rediscovery in the 1960s.
  • boblipton10 August 2010
    I can understand why the producers on this film decided not to release it. It is the most expressionistic film I have ever seen except for Wiene's CALIGARI and that almost didn't make it into the theaters.

    This attempt to produce an appropriately radical movie version of a radical stage show from just before the war digs deeply into radical stage technique of the period -- just a year after the Spartacist uprising had seemingly put post-war Germany at risk. Would a large enough audience be found to make this a commercial success, or even to recover some of the negative costs? Obviously someone found it doubtful or let his political leanings make the decision for him. If the latter, decry the politics -- but can art ever be separated from politics?

    The big question is how did a copy of this escape into Japan where it sat for almost forty years? I have no idea. Maybe they just wanted to get the darned thing out of Germany without being denounced for destroying it.

    Having looked at the recent DVD release, I offer the thought that this is an experimental film, and not all experiments work out as planned. That's why one experiments. I find the techniques interesting, but utterly distracting from anything the original playwright intended to convey by words or actions. While the use of expressionistic techniques was exciting, a cannier technique might have made the work more accessible. Contrast this with that equally radical pre-war drama, HINDLE WAKES, which Maurice Elvey directed the year earlier. That version is unavailable, but the version he remade in 1927 is available and makes its points without driving the viewer into a nervous breakdown.

    The expressionistic techniques employed here and in in CALIGARI survived, of course and in diluted form were and still are a major influence on camera technique. So I am glad to see this work available, and take a great deal of pleasure in it: not for this movie itself, but for what it wrought, most notably in the film noir movement. This is unlikely to be a popular position among film buffs, but movies are a matter of commercial art, made for large audiences. This fails on that count.
  • I am really in love with this gem. Honestly, I thought nothing can top CALIGARI - and yes, while this is true for me, personally - I am really impressed by the pure creativity and concept of this film - or so to say: Expressionism itself.

    While CALIGARI features a rather 'real' setting with exterior shots and a complex story, FROM MORN TIL MIDNIGHT is shot only in studio, featuring the story of a lost cashier, who (fueled by the love for a strange woman) robs the bank and explores (night)life with the new money. I can see why this movie (probably) could not make it into cinemas at the time: the storyline is kind of flat and expectable and the characters are very classic archetypes.

    BUT: This gem sparkles in different ways! I've never seen a technique like that: the costumes, the stage, the probs, everything is painted with heavy white paint; enhancing shapes and creating a more painting-like impression than a 3D-film. The actors wear heavy make-up (almost looking hideous) and the strong contrasting colors (black and white) nearly kill all shadows: the film feels like a painting come to life. With the cheapest tools made possible. This is just AMAZING!

    I was impressed how 'shallow' the world (three-dimensional impression) looks in this film, all background fading into a black backdrop. The furniture, doors, houses, all is crooked and distorted (even stronger than CALIGARI's set), looking rather grotesque and strange. With simple shapes lamps, roads, windows, chairs and other objects come to life... and yet, after 10 minutes in, you forget that all these things are just 'paintjobs' and you get lost in this dream-like, surreal world.

    Sure, this film is not for EVERYbody, it is quite strange, artsy, old and without music even more strange (so better pick a version with soundtrack)... but if you are brave enough to look at it, you'll see a totally different approach to film-making, made nearly 100 years ago. This is creativity at its purest form.

    Grab a bottle of whine, take your friends and laugh with the film together in your home cinema, maybe after you emptied the bottle (or 2). It will enrich you - somehow! Up we go, into the Expressionism dream world!
  • Saw this early Weimar-era curiosity via YouTube 9/30/2018 in a lovingly restored version. OK, so "Caligari" was not alone; it never was. Robert Reinert had arrived earlier with his "Nerven" (1919) and "Homunculus" (1916). "Von morgens bis mitternachts" tries very hard to make an artistic statement but does not succeed. The cheap, "expressionistic" set design just looked like a bad day with "H.R. Pufnstuf" done in monochrome. From the Pete the Pup makeup stylings to a narrrative always stuck in second gear, the entire production seems out of joint, sloppy, futile. The newly composed music track, consisting of a drum set and xylophone, sounds like Lionel Hampton and Gene Krupa sharing a mental meltdown.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Von morgens bis mitternacht" or "From Morn to Midnight" is German black-and-white silent film from the year 1920, so not even five years anymore until this one has its 100th anniversary. I cannot say I am really familiar with any of the people who worked on this movie. To me, it looks like the majority of players here (in front of and behind the camera, except lead actor Ernst Deutsch perhaps) have this credited as their most known performances. It is the story of a man who works at a bank and decides to embezzle some of the money from his investors. Afterward, we watch him go on a travel and see everything he decides to do with the money. Will there be a happy ending for him? And with that I do not necessarily refer to the question if he gets caught by the police, but just if he finds personal happiness. Watch for yourself. Or don't as this was not really a too compelling watch. It helps the film that it is really short (only slightly over 60 minutes), but still there were a couple moments when it dragged and lacked focus. Only a good watch for really big silent film lovers. And I myself am not such. Thumbs down.