Die Brueder & Such Is Life
(Brothers), hardly seen at the time of its first appearance, and made by a filmmaker, Werner Hochbaum, whose career and life were characterized by the political conditions of Germany under the Third Reich, was rediscovered in 1973 by the East German Film Archives, and must now be regarded as the most important of the small group of proletarian films (including Mutter Krausens Fahrt Ins Gluck, Kuhle Wampe, So Ist Das Leben and Jenseits Der Strasse) that came out between 1928 and 1932. Unlike the others, Die Brueder is a reconstruction of an actual historical event - the strike of Hamburg dock workers of 1896-97. Politically aggressive, the film is at once a tribute to the classic Soviet cinema, especially Eisenstein, and a remarkable anticipation of Neo-Realism in its unsparing picture of daily work and of life in wretched tenements, using the people of Hamburg as actors.
• Produced, Written and Directed by Werner Hochbaum. Photographed by Gustav Berger. Art Director: Walter Guenterlitz. With non-professional actors. (1929, 63 mins, silent with music and sound effects, German intertitles with English translation provided, Print from Museum of Modern Art)
Please note: Non-German speaking audiences will have no difficulty understanding this film.
Such Is Life
(So Ist Das Leben) is not much better known than Die Brueder. It was a German-Czech production, shot in the environs of Prague in the same year, 1929, by a director, Carl Junghans, who made no other films of note and emigrated to the United States in the 1930s.
“The story concerns a working-class family: the wife, a washerwoman; her drunken husband, a manual laborer; and their daughter, a manicurist. The husband takes a girlfriend in the beer hall; the daughter becomes pregnant; and the mother scalds herself, dies, and is buried. The loosely-knit narrative is developed through constant intercutting between the characters at work, at home, at the beer hall, and in housetops, streets, cats, children, statues, and trees.
“Such Is Life (an exquisitely woven tapestry) draws upon the diverse cinematic styles of the great films of the 1920s. Junghans vividly evokes the ambience of the Czech capital in the manner of the best of the ‘city films,' Ruttmann's Berlin: The Symphony of a Great City (1927) and Cavalcanti's Rien Que Les Heures (1926). The composition and lighting... suggest as well the ethereal tone of the German expressionistic films. Yet other scenes, such as the rapid cutting from statue to statue on a Sunday and from grave to grave during the mother's funeral recall the great Soviet montage works... (and the mother recalls Pudovkin's Mother). The sequence of the mother's death ranks with the major cinematic achievements of all time...” -Jon Gartenberg, Museum of Modern Art
• Directed and Written by Carl Junghans. Produced by Kavalirka. Photographed by Lazslo Schaeffer. Art Direction by Ernst Meiwers. With Vera Baranovska, Theodor Pistek, Mana Zeniskova, Wolfgang Zilzer, Jindrich Plachta, Manja Kellerova, Eman Fiala, Veleska Gert, Uli Tridenska, Edith Lederova, Betty Kysilkova, Frantisek Juhan. (1929, 65 mins, silent with musical score from 1959 re-release, English intertitles, Print from Museum of Modern Art)