13 April 1999 | Varlaam
This story, set in the days of the Holy Roman Empire, has the look of a very poor television production. The acting is of average TV quality. With their nicely pressed doublets and jerkins, everyone looks set for the big Mediaeval Pageant, put on for the tourists every summer at the local schloss.
"Iron Hand" was theoretically directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner, but he seems to have been napping most of the time. More about him presently.
The dialogue is so simple, this movie would make a good subject for students in German class. "Listen, and you will understand German" as our old school training films used to say. Optimistically. Stilted acting is actually a boon when you are simply trying to follow what the knights and comely damozels are saying.
During the course of the story, our hero Götz is referred to as "mit der eisernen Faust", that is, "Iron Fist". That would certainly have made a poorer title for the English version, creating a false impression in fact. Götz is a good guy.
Supposedly, this film is based on Goethe's play, Goethe of course being the author of "Faust" (with his bargain) and "Werther" (with his sorrows). Reference works call his "Götz von Berlichingen" a "massive prose drama" and an "attempt to emulate the Shakespearean history play". His "Götz" is not much in evidence here.
In the Anglo-Saxon world, this film's director, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, is best known for his infamous Nazi propaganda film, "Ich klage an" (1941), which softened up the German public to the idea of euthanasia for psychiatric patients, and, hence, for other mental patients and surplus people in general. Liebeneiner did not receive any special preferential treatment after the war; most Nazi film directors continued working. Let's see. A director makes a Faustian bargain with Hitler during the war, so afterwards ... he gets paid to make movies about Goethe. Something in this analogy isn't working quite right.
(A production note: The costumes and weapons in "Iron Hand" came from a company based in "Rom und Florenz". Frankly I was surprised that they would have to go all the way to Italy.)