Ernst Thälmann - Führer seiner Klasse (1955)

  |  Biography, Drama, History

Ernst Thälmann - Führer seiner Klasse (1955) Poster

The second part of the Ernst Thaelmann films encompasses the time period between 1930 and Thaelmann's murder in 1944. It shows Thaelmann's battle to achieve a united front with all German ... See full summary »



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3 January 2005 | manuel-pestalozzi
The Man Who Was A Flag
This was the great pet project of the Communist leaders of Eastern Germany. They could not spend enough money for the big production in which many experienced movie people were involved.

The two Thälmann movies (Son Of His Class and Leader Of His Class) are remarkable for its mass scenes, its action scenes and the use of color. The reds really are redder than anywhere else. They are often surrounded by muddy browns and greys and I wouldn't be surprised if it was an inspiration for Michelangelo Antonioni's Il deserto rosso. The set designs are simply stunning, and the street fighting scenes (in Son) are probably the best of all times.

It is really curious how dismally the film fails in its message – at least for a present day viewer, but I doubt that the people in the mid fifties felt much different. Communist leader Ernst Thälmann, called Teddy, does not come through as a charismatic leader but rather as a stiff, uninspired bureaucrat. No attempt was made to give him a human touch (and his looks didn't help either...) As to his leadership qualities – even in this heavily doctored retelling of the events leading up to the takeover of the ruthlessly totalitarian Nazis, Thälmann appears as a political powerbroker who clearly misjudged the situation and shares the responsibility for the Nazi electoral success in 1933.

Thälmann is presented as a strangely bloodless martyr to the Communist cause. As he sits in prison awaiting his execution (Stalin reportedly was not eager to help even when he was quite friendly with the Nazis), he literally becomes a flag that is first handed to the Thälmann brigade in the Spanish civil war (they lose) and then to a detachment of Soviet tanks named after him. In the final sequence Thälmann fuses with the red flag on his way to the gallows, the viewers are spared the final humiliating scene.

Despite all the shortcomings I can recommend the two Tälmann movies – especially to film buffs who are interested in the deliberate use of color. The aesthetic is not unlike the one used in those beautiful Powell/Pressburger movies like Col Blimp. And there is a beautiful love story between Fietke Jansen (who calls himself a ‚pupil of Thälmann', whatever that may mean) and his wife Ännchen. The great performances of Hans-Peter Minetti and Karla Runkehl are really touching – it hasn't anything to do with Communism and shows clearly that love transcends ideology. You somehow get the impression, that here was one of the few emotional emergency outlets for the many talented artists who worked for that oppressive system.

Critic Reviews


Release Date:

7 October 1955


German, French, Russian

Country of Origin

East Germany

Filming Locations

Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

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