More than party doctrine and propaganda
The film "Die Unbesiegbaren" covers an episode in German history, in which the Bismarck government tried to mitigate the rise of the social-democrat movement. On the one hand, the government developed her own social provisions in order to satisfy the demands and needs of the workers. On the other hand, a law was passed (Sozialistengesetz, 1878-1890) in which the social-democrat party lost the right to form affiliate organizations, to hold mass meetings and to make propaganda. The organizations were forced to continue underground, while hoodwinking the spies of the Prussian police. Nonetheless the social-democrat party (SPD) was allowed to remain present in the Reichstag with a fraction of 11, under the leadership of the famous duo August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht. In those days the social-democrats had not yet abolished the possibility of the road to power by means of a revolution. One should bear in mind that the European turmoil of 1848 was not forgotten and that in the year 1870 France still saw the temporary establishment of the peoples Commune in Paris. Not even the leaders were exempt from persecution, and Liebknecht spent some time in prison because of his statements. Note that the SPD had always included a right wing of Lassallian reformists, but only around 1900 did this wing gain in strength, among other due to the writings of Eduard Bernstein. Basically the SPD buried its revolutionary ambitions around 1913, together with the deceased Bebel. In 1919 the party decided to participate in the government. The episode of the Sozialistengesetz contains plenty of material for an emotional and exciting film. Somehow the illustrious Defa studios in the GDR did not quite live up to this task, since the script creates a rather languid atmosphere. The main character is the train mechanic Schulz, one of the lower party executives, who is active as messenger boy or pamphlet printer. He is a portrayed as a quiet person, calls his wife "mother", and is bright enough to deceive the police and their eavesdroppers. Finally he is caught while distributing pamphlets, and is imprisoned for 11 months. At the precise day of his release the Sozialistengesetz is abolished. So what is wrong with this film? Well, perhaps that the dialogs and the relationships have a strong resemblance with the average Heinz Ruehmann film. Somewhere in this site a reviewer compared the characters in the Defa films during the fifties with dull and dusty officials, and I agree. Don't expect to see much emotions. In Europe and especially in Germany there was still that desire for law and order, where every person knows his place and willingly adapts himself (after all, Hitler was barely dead). For those who have not had the pleasure to see a Ruehmann film, searching for an American equivalent, one might compare it with the atmosphere in the traditional religious communities. Or in those cozy little towns of European settlers in Western movies (which were religious anyway). And it is true, that many films suffer by the excessive emotionality of the main characters. Whining and screaming persons may get their wants satisfied, but generate little sympathy. From time to time the Bolshevist ideology pops up. This is the case for instance in the ridicule of the SPD fraction member Karl Frohme, who advocates negotiations with the Emperor. Here the film-Bebel sneers down with the reply that dissidents shall be expelled from the party (a typical Leninist reaction). It is just to serve the people, but Frohme had the wrong ambition, added the film-Bebel (thank you!). Here Frohme symbolizes the collision between the ideologies of the post-War BRD socialist SPD and the GDR communist (Bolshevist) SED. Typical is also the unshakable belief, that the revolution is near, which is so apparent in the title: "The invincibles". This of course refers to the class war. The Bolshevists enjoyed false heroism (hero of works etc.), and disliked the common sense of the perpetual motion of the political goals, which are so necessary for the incorporation of the experiences along the road. Evidently the film was destined to strengthen the identity of the newborn GDR. But the comment of the Viennese Filmschau (1953): "two hours of party doctrine and propaganda" is definitely of the mark. The West-German actor Alice Treff participated in the film (as Frau Schulz), and barely escaped from an occupational lock-out in her own land. Erwin Geschonneck plays Wilhelm Liebkecht. Verdict: the film is not bad but rather boring, and still has some value and interest because of its taste of the period.
- Aug 9, 2010
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