Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Der magische Gürtel - 1917

Country: Germany
Director: Hans Brennert
Writer: Hans Brennert
Stars: Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière
Also known as: Auf einer Fernfahrt mit U 35 (Germany); La croisière de l'U 35 (France);
The Exploits of a German Submarine U35 (United Kingdom); The Log of the U-35 (United States)
Production Co: Bild- und Filmamt (Bufa)
Runtime: USA: 27 min  | Germany: 45 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: U Boat | Sinking | Cargo | Germany | Submarine  | Prisoner Of War | World War One | Exploding Ship
Genres: Documentary | War
A documentary filmed aboard a German U-Boat during the First World War , featuring footage of the capture and sinking of cargo ships and a private schooner.
This movie's unnerving premise has a camera crew following an actual U-boat during the First World War, as it attacks and sinks its victims. Most of the resulting footage (which has been preserved in very good condition) is just as chillingly suggestive as the premise would lead you to expect, and it is almost impossible to pull your attention away from the screen. At the same time, this actual war footage speaks about its subject more eloquently than even the most carefully crafted fictional story or re-enactment could have.
U-35 was phenomenally successful in its grim mission, and within less than a half-hour of running time, a large number of the submarine's targets are shown in succession. On one level, the tactics and the methodical approach of the Kaiser's sailors are intriguing. But what comes across more than anything else is the use of their technical skill, the ingenious ideas, and the patient planning, all for the purpose of destroying equally skillful and careful use of resources by an 'enemy'. It all results in nothing of value for anyone, simply an immense waste of valuable resources.
The inter-titles, though about as close to being objective as you could ask, often underline the enormous waste by detailing the cargoes that were destroyed, the vast majority of which were not for military use. The titles also fill in many of the gaps, since there were long stretches of battle during which the film crew was, obviously, not able to photograph the action.
Because of the limited opportunities for filming, the actual footage generally comes from less bloody or overtly horrifying moments, yet these are generally more than enough to hint strongly to the carnage that occurred off-camera. The feature would be very watchable simply as a historical curio, but it is of even more significance as a piece of genuine history that provides an inside look at the nature of this aspect of military conflict.
Featured in The Moving Picture Boys in the Great War (1975) -  lots of footage from this film is used, and it is identified by name in the narration.

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