A Glass of Water (1960)

  |  Comedy, History, Musical

A Glass of Water (1960) Poster

London, early 18th century: Queen Anne, the last of the House of Stuart, is a weak ruler. She is committed to peace in the War of Spanish Succession. The Duchess of Marlborough, whose ... See full summary »



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15 January 1999 | major-3
| Deserves to have a Comeback
German Humour in the 50s and 60s? Oh, yeah, let's have a laugh about it! Sadly, it's true, during the 50s and 60s one could only seek and

not find humour and art in German films. At least those who were

striving for it didn't really stand a chance, as the so-called

"Heimatfilm" was Box-Offing everyone else. Still there were exceptions. Like director Helmut Käutner who, from "Große Freiheit Nr.7"

which was banned by the Nazis despite starring the times biggest

star Hans Albers, to "Die letzte Brücke", which turned Maria

Schell into an international celebrity, had shown his individualism and never gave in to the comfy no-style of the

Adenauer-aera. "Das Glas Wasser" turns out, in retrospect, to be one of his

best, if most neglected, pictures. It was not a success at the

time of its release precisely of its qualities. At that time

everybody in Germany wanted to be told how great it is to live

in this country, after all, those who had survived had managed

the "Wirtschaftswunder", and that corruption may have played a

part in it was something nobody wanted to hear and that a

"royal" (like Adenauer) could fail was out of the question. But "Das Glas Wasser" is neither comforting nor wholesome, in

fact it it is cynic, or if one prefers, realistic, depicting

Queen Anne as a naive and indecisive non-entity while the

Countess of Marlborough and the Viscount of Bolingbroke fight it

out among themselves. Definitely not a message the Germans

wanted at that time. Nevertheless a film only proves its quality by the test of

time, and "Das Glas Wasser" holds up very well indeed. The

credit goes, not in the least, to the actors. Gustaf Gründgens and Hilde Krahl, the german/austrian equivalents of Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn turn each

line into a battlefield of wit, and to watch them is not only a

joy but also a lesson in comic timing that Jim Carrey should

cherish. And Liselotte Pulver, a German Mega-Star at that time

(until then not known for subtle characterizations) turns in a

surprisingly subtle, witty and emotional performance as hapless

Queen Anne. Finally –surprise, surprise – even Horst Janson

(Masham) and Saabine Sinjen (Abigail), as the lovers, stick to

memory – not a bad feat in this kind of film, that grants the

best lines to the leading actors. Still it's Helmut Käutner's direction which provides the perfect

surroundings. He obviously knew from the beginning that

realistic art design would destroy the lofty architecture of

Eugène Scribe's play. So he decided on a completely artificial

look (no exteriors, flashbacks in black/white). The Queen's

chambers are always shown in blinding white, as is the Queen,

while the Countess of Marlborough is usually dressed in the

opposing colours black and dark red, and the innocent Abigail is

dressed in green, the colour of hope (and innocence). Bolingbroke‘s (as the communicator) clothes always fit into the

picture and therefore he never seems to stand out. Mashams red

uniform obviously turns on all the ladies and makes proceedings

so difficult. Besides the artistry so obviously inherent in the picture,

people turned their backs to the movie. Seeing it today one

cannot help but thinking that, whether knowingly or unwittingly,

Käutner had dissected his country at the time (thereby

fulfilling Scribe's intentions of exposing human corruption and

hypocrisy through satire) and thus alienated it. But whatever the intention, he managed to produce the only

really funny German mov

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Plot Summary


Comedy | History | Musical


Release Date:




Country of Origin

West Germany

Filming Locations

Hamburg, Germany

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