13 March 2014 | JohnLeeT
Fascinating When Viewed in Context
A somewhat fascinating film when considered purely as an artifact of the times in which it was produced. While the story reflects the background of the Great Depression and it is clearly evident in the plight of the character portrayed by Robert Young, it is the black storm clouds of the coming war that cast their shadow across this motion picture. Based on a German novel that is harmless enough to have escaped the flames of a Hitlerian bonfire, the setting is Vienna, 1938. The fluff that is the plot plays out in a city facing its utter doom as Hitler is fated to soon shatter forever the loveliness of the cultural mecca. The delusional will hysterically welcome the evil seducer into their midst and crush the illusion this motion picture projected on thousand of screens. It is the beat of storm troopers' boots that echo in the background, overwhelming the soundtrack as the cast frolics in the Alpine snow soon to run red with the blood of Nazi victims. It is as if monstrous hordes of black helmeted ski troops line the peaks of the slopes, waiting to sweep savagely down upon hapless Hollywood stars. The characters seem oblivious to what is to come but their future is inescapably intertwined with the geo-political environment in which they are trapped. This film stands as a curious moment in time, a snapshot of people dancing on the precipice of the abyss. The Europe in which they exist will soon be no more and they will be engulfed in the wave of unrelenting violence and horror that will break upon them within months. The creative minds behind the production can not ignore the headlines and that shadow of fear fleets across the shallow smiles of the actors. The theatre audiences that watched this film were well aware of what was happening and perhaps had just seen a newsreel of goosestepping SS parading before the swastika draped maniac who would soon touch all their lives with his frigid fingers. It is this background that is the foundation of this production and our hindsight cuts deeply into the way we view this film. The audience of the era sat uneasily in their seats, conscious of the horror awaiting them but in determined denial regarding the future. The audience of today can see that future and watches powerlessly, looking at the images that are now tainted by the dark knowledge of historical perspective. The broad grins that illuminate the opening credits seem forced now and strange in the harsh light of reality. But what indeed is reality once time and history have had their way with it? The images in this movie are the present and what we see is what was as well as what will be. It is in this context that the true value of the film can be discovered and considered.