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:: Essential World Cinema: GERMANY

This box set experiences the finest in German cinema with this collection of landmark films.

The love for opera, determination and a degree of obsession is what defines “Fitzcarraldo”. As much as these elements determine the film’s main character, they also manifest themselves in the film’s creator, Werner Herzog. Herzog is a German director with an attitude who has never bowed to audience or critics’ expectations.

It’s impossible not to see the director reflected in Klaus Kinski’s half-mad entrepreneur, so obsessed with bringing opera to the Amazon that he concocts a scheme to drag a steamboat over a mountain in order to make the money to do so. The obsession is the thought of getting to see the great Enrico Caruso live at the opera house, no matter what the price may be, and he decides to build an opera house in the jungle so that everyone could enjoy the enchantment of opera music. It is a very intense film, typical of German film structures.

It's been said by German film buffs that never before, and never since, has an actress (in this case, Louise Brooks) been so perfectly defined by a single film. Both Louise and her character Lulu are erotic and wayward. She is as innocent as a child in one way, but with super-charged sexuality emerging with every glance, and with every movement of her limbs.

In Pandora's Box, Louise plays the doomed prostitute Lulu, whose sexual adventures carry her across Europe, from Germany to the London of Jack the Ripper.

The Pabst movie, made in 1929, was adapted from one of Germany‘s classic plays, by Frank Wederkind. This film introduced a very 20th century character to the world's screen - a woman of great sexuality who is totally without sin. That horrified the 'moral’ audiences of the time.

This film is so well crafted and so well edited that the absence of dialogue is almost unnoticeable. In the extras, there is a one-hour feature, “Looking for Lulu”. It's a terrific documentary and tells of the incredible story of Louise Brooks in a way which cannot help but amaze the viewer. The circumstances of her rise to fame, and how she won Hollywood notoriety, are sensational enough - what came after the making of Pandora's Box is even more startling - her career is an indictment of Hollywood itself. The documentary is a rich addition to the disc.

Europa Europa is a filmed account of Solomon Perel's autobiographical experiences during the World War 2. A Polish-German Jew by birth, Solly is a young teen when the Holocaust breaks apart his family. He survived the Holocaust by falling in with the Hitler Youth.

The film is a fascinating narrative and compelling viewing for its grim details.

The overall set of films is good but perhaps one could be mislead into thinking that if these are indicative of the standard of “essential” German cinema, then it falls short compared with other nations.

DVD Extras

Fitzcarraldo - Audio Commentary with Director Werner Herzog, Producer Lucki Stipetic & Journalist Norman Hill
Fitzcarraldo - Biographies

Pandora's Box - Looking For Lulu special bonus 60 minute documentary narrated by Shirley MacLaine