Movie Diary 6/17/2018

The Murderers Are among Us (Wolfgang Staudte, 1946) and Rotation (Wolfgang Staudte, 1949). Two from East Germany, looking back at the war from the rubble. The first one is a classic – melodramatic, but with the shock of immediacy. Hildegarde Knef plays a concentration camp survivor, Ernst Wilhelm Borchert a demolished doctor; they both claim the same empty apartment in a Berlin building. The doctor’s acquaintance with a war criminal leads to a series of tortured scenes and some wild imagery (not just the bombed-out streets, but also the sight of snow drifting through a church without walls as the congregation sings “Silent Night”). Rotation surveys 20 years in the life of a young family who reluctantly go along with the rise of National Socialism because things would be grim for them otherwise, only to realize too late they’ve lost their souls. Both movies have nudges from the Soviet authorities, but they are fascinating in the way they combine expressionist tendencies with you-are-there realism. And oh yeah, it’s impossible not to observe from the perspective of 2018 that the way people are willing to gradually go along with monstrousness is a human trait that shows no sign of abating.

Life in Danger (Terry Bishop, 1959). Odd little low-budget British thriller about a community that freaks out when a mental patient escapes from a nearby asylum. A few shades of Rod Serling in this cautionary tale about vigilante reflexes, even though it seems long at 63 minutes.

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