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  • This forgotten gem once won the Golden Globe as best foreign film of the year. It is the second cinematic adaption of Gerhard Hauptmann's naturalistic drama "Vor Sonnenuntergang" (1931) – not to be confused with his more important play "Vor Sonnenaufgang" (still lacking cinematic treatment). (The first adaption was Veit Harlan's "Der Herrscher" from 1937 which, unfortunately, had changed the original ending to fit the ideology of the Nazis.)

    Hans Albers plays the 70 years old company owner Clausen who after a disagreement with the way Klamroth (Martin Held), his son in law, is running his companies now is called an "old man" and asked to finally "step back". However, after meeting the young girl Inken he finds a new meaning of life and decides to marry her – much to the disapproval both of his family and company members who will soon try to get him into an asylum.

    Hans Alber's performance is heartbreaking from the start until the end and it is clearly one of his best serious performances ever. Annemarie Düringer as Inken could be better but still does a good job especially during her first dialog sequence. Equally good is Claus Biederstaedt as the seemingly "spoiled sun" who in the end turns out to be his father's only loyal supporter.

    The best thing about the film are probably Erich Schellow (the Macheath from Lotte Lenya's "Threepenny opera"-production), Wolfgang "Dr. Mabuse" Preiss and, most of all: the incomparable Martin Held. Although the original play is set in the early thirties, they fully succeed in portraying the darker side and the "efficient" economic coldness of Western Germany in the 50ies, an era which by now has become known as the German "Wirtschaftswunder" (the "miracle of economy"). Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" from 1949 covers some of the same issues. What isn't needed any longer is thrown away – things, people and most of all: a disagreeable past (which is perhaps the only issue that falls surprisingly flat in this otherwise brilliant German after-war-film).

    If this film is almost forgotten today, it is perhaps because the cinematography is "adequate" rather than "excellent". The original music is good and adds a lot of atmosphere. However, direction and cinematography, though brilliant sometimes, too often convey the feeling of filmed theater.
  • Nobel Prize winner Gerhard Hauptmann's play 'Before Sunset' of 1932 has been committed to celluloid twice and its formidable leading character Matthias Clausen played by the equally formidable Emil Jannings and Hans Albers. Ironically Albers also followed in Janning's footsteps when playing the hotel doorman in the remake of 'The Last Laugh'. One wonders what the playwright made of Thea von Harbou's 'free' adaptation of 1937 directed by Veit Harlan with Jannings as both star and 'artistic supervisor'. It is a very well-made film with a mesmerising Jannings heading a strong cast but as one would expect it has a distinctly National Socialist slant in so far as Clausen has become a German industrialist in Krupp mode whose final speech;"He who is a born leader needs no other teacher but his own genuis" leaves us in no doubt to whom he is referring. I would imagine that Hauptmann probably took the whole thing in his stride as he was notoriously 'uncritical' of the Nazi regime. Gottfried Reinhardt's film of 1956 is a far more faithful adaptation in which Albers giving a powerhouse performance as Clausen. He is a widower who falls in love with a much younger woman played by Annemarie Dueringer. His family feels threatened and having failed to buy her off conspire to have Clausen certified as mentally incompetent.. The whole cast is uniformly admirable and there is a haunting score by Wolfgang Eisbrenner for strings only. A previous reviewer has referred to this as 'filmed theatre' but surely that is the proper way to do it and anyway, the director has also taken the play out of the proscenium arch with scenes on the ski slopes and at the railway station. A great play has become a great film and although the play's tragic ending has been changed to one that is more 'optimistic' it is no less dramatic.