Thursday, October 27, 2011

Maedchen in Uniform (1931)

Orphan Prussian girl is placed into a an all girl's school by her aunt,struggles to get along with the other girls and to come to terms with her feelings for one of her teachers.

Landmark film is one of the first films to deal with homosexuality openly and in some ways matter of factly (the bonds between some of the girls is clearly romantic and it just sort of is there). The story goes that the German government tried to destroy all copies of the film but failed. According to IMDB the film was banned in the US until Eleanor Roosevelt saw it and had the ban ended. (The film is based on a novel which in turn was based on actual events in the authors life)

I found the film to be good but a bit soapy with some of the pieces a bit too over done, the head mistress is a bit too stern, some of the girlish behavior is a bit too much. It is a good story well told and taken on it's own terms without the mentioning the lesbianism it's a solid little tale. The performances are quite good and on target.

Do I like the film? I do. I think it's a fine little film on it's own terms. However I think that were the film not controversial I wouldn't be taking the time to write the film up since odds are I never would have heard of it.

Since the sexuality is there (one of the first things said to our heroine is an admonishment not to fall in love and the film is full of burning stares) one has to mention it. By today's standards the looks, the stares and the chaste kisses are nothing special. The film is little more than a student in love with a teacher story, except that everyone is a young woman. One has to applaud the the utter matter of factness of it all. Yes it's key to the plot but at the same time it's just taken as a fact of life. I know that had I been gay or lesbian this film would have meant a great deal to me because it makes it clear that this is a part of life.

Worth seeing if you run across it.

The version I saw is a copy of a Janus Films print of some age since the subtitles were white and from the print itself. The print also ran 86 minutes which is about 9 minutes shorter than the complete running time.I don't know if that's from wear of the source print or if that the film was trimmed by someone's hand.

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