Diederich Hessling, a “sissy” and mother’s pet, is scared of everything and everyone. But as he grows up, he comes to realize that he has to offer his services to the powers-that-be, if he wants to wield power himself. His life motto now runs: bow to those at the top and tread on those below. In this way, he always succeeds: as a student in a duel-fighting student fraternity and as a business-man in a paper factory. He cajoles the obese district administrative president von Wulkow and wins his favors.
He slanders his financial rivals and hatches a plot with the social democrats in the town council. On honeymoon with his rich wife Guste, he finally finds a chance to do his beloved Kaiser a favour. And when a memorial to the Kaiser is unveiled in the town where Diederich lives and works, he delivers the festive address. He stands behind the lectern in pouring rain, saluting “his” Kaiser. The crowd has dispersed. Everything is laid in ruins… —German Film Archive
Wolfgang Staudte was born in Saarbrücken, in 1906, to parents who were both actors. Six years later, his family moved to Berlin. He trained to be an engineer before he began performing at the Volksbühne in Berlin, where he worked with Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator from 1926 to 1932.
Wolfgang Staudte is one of the few important German directors of the postwar years. Die Mörder sind unter uns , the first German postwar film, remains today among the director’s best works. In the film, a surgeon, Hans Mertens, returns home from the war, becomes an alcoholic, and lives hopelessly among the ruins. His girlfriend Susanne has survived a concentration camp and attempts to help him overcome his apathy. The apathy is quickly dispelled by the appearance of an industrialist, formerly a Nazi, whose outlook remains unchanged and who, just as before the war, uses deceptive phrases to justify the new situation.
This contemporary material was realized by Staudte in a thoroughly realistic… read more