Liebelei

Ophuls's last German film before his exile, this adaptation of a Schnitzler drama is both a sharp critique of outmoded social conventions and a lyrical evocation of times past, and of a love that transcends time itself. “Since I met you, the past doesn't count,” a sensitive young lieutenant tells his new sweetheart on an idyllic sleigh-ride in turn-of-the-century Vienna. But experience soon proves that the past and its indiscretions can be a matter of life and death. Despite its indictment of military hypocrisy-in one remarkable scene, a soldier convincingly insists to his commanding officer that “any shot not fired in self-defense is a criminal act”-Liebelei enjoyed great popularity in Nazi Germany, where it was released in 1933 with the names of Ophuls (né Oppenheimer) and Schnitzler significantly excised from the credits. But Liebelei is unmistakably Ophuls, from its atmosphere of morally dubious Old World elegance to its devastating tracking shots.

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