SKU 834

DAS MÄDCHEN JOHANNA (1935) *with switchable English subtitles*

Angela Salloker, Gustaf Gründgens and Heinrich George

While not the most accurate portrayal of historical events, as we purport to know them, this film nevertheless shows a historical viewpoint, which may not be too far from the truth. Neither the French, nor the British, come out looking too good in this film ... and why should they? Nazi Germany had no interest in wooing either of their future enemies. Yet, in spite of fascist Germany's abhorrence with all religions, which placed God above man, this film resembles the Passion of Christ more closely than it does historical events and therein lays the discomfort: the betrayal of the servant of God; the mocking of the same; even the request of the British soldier, who asks her to remember him in Paradise, just like the criminal at Jesus' side who asked the same at the crucifixion. King Charles of France, so often portrayed as weak-minded, indecisive and incompetent is shown here as weak and apparently malleable by his nobles; but eventually, the film shows him to be rational, cold-blooded, manipulative, calculating and politically savvy. In the end, he, too, will abandon the "tool" which saved France and brought him to power.

The film is less an anti-British and anti-French propaganda piece -- for it happened 500 years past and the Nazis were hardly the ones to point the moral finger at anyone without turning red-faced -- than it is a commentary on how untrustworthy all people are and how those who do good are usually rewarded so poorly. In this, the film is significantly more successful than it ever could be in showing the corruption of two peoples only doing what the Nazis themselves would do over and over again half a millennium later.


77 minutes long.  REGION FREE  (will play in any DVD player)

FILM QUALITY:  Very good VHS quality.


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History as Propaganda, 5/23/2015 4:48 AM
From: John C
There have been several filmed versions about Joan of Arc but none as iconoclastic as 1935's 'Das Madchen Johanna' a big prestigious Ufa production filled with many of Germany's best actors. The producers were wise to cast a relatively fresh face for the title role with a little known Austrian actress Angela Salloker (1913-2006) who was mainly a stage performer. This was her third film, ably supported by Gustav Grundgens, Heinrich George, Willy Birgel, Rene Deltgen, Erich Ponto, and Veit Harlan before he became a director. Although it was filmed on indoor sets, Gunther Krampf's photography (He also shot 'Nosferatu' and 'Pandora's Box'), the costumes, and Peter Kreuder's majestic score give the story's setting its needed historical scope. What's missing are large battle scenes but what's there are brutal enough. The story also avoids us seeing Joan having visions and omits her trials which are replaced with political intrigue where Joan becomes almost a secondary character. You can't help feel sympathy for her as she becomes a pawn or "tool'' and victim of the sly king (Grundgens in a showy part with several costume changes) whose treasury is empty and in debt to his squabbling vassals who mistreat their detested subjects or "scum."  

Graham Greene wasn't the only reviewer who recognized the film as an anti-French and anti-British propaganda piece buried under the trappings of a historical costumer mirroring recent events in Germany. H.George as a drunken Burgundian Duke with an eye for virgins and Ponto as a cruel English lord more interested in money than his men become buffoons for comic effect.  'Johanna' was written by Gerhard Menzel, who wrote several pro-Nazi films like the odious 'Heimkehr' ('Homecoming' 1941), and was directed by Gustav Ucicky who helmed both films. Greene said it best that the film is "of greater interest to students of Nazi psychology.... It is very noisy, like the Zoo at feeding time.... and it is quite inaccurate as any Hollywood spectacle... but not so funny.... Perhaps one should not condemn Fraulein Angela Salloker for her quite nerveless playing for it is one of the purposes of this Nazi film to belittle a rival national savior. The real hero is Charles VII with his Nazi mentality, his belief in the nobility of treachery for the sake of the nation. The [Rohm] purge of 30 June [1934] and the liquidation of Tremouille [Birgel], the burning Reichstag and the pyre in Rouen market-place - these political parallels are heavily underlined. The direction is terribly sincere, conveying a kind of blond and shaven admiration for lonely dictators who have been forced to eliminate their allies." Twenty-five years after Joan was deliberately sacrificed by the sanctimonious Charles who advocates  "Politics is the art to make use of all occasions," we see him smugly annulling her sentence because she was the ''state's most faithful servant'' (i.e., loyal Fuehrer follower) which makes him feel better knowing how ''sweet it is to undo a wrong,'' her death he blamed on the Church and England, the height of hypocrisy per Nazi propaganda. Another English reviewer, Robert Hering, spotted the Charles/Hitler connection: "There is much implication that the Dauphin is a leader in advance of his time. But it may be suspected that there is now less stringency, or perhaps a little more evasion, in the German studios. How else would the final message of the film be that Joan, the girl of the people, who is hailed and followed by the people, is nothing but a figure-head for folk not of the people?"  

There's a lot of story packed into this loud dialogue-driven film running 77 minutes. Goebbels had mixed feelings about 'Johanna' for in his diaries he wrote it is "my great success" but later added: "Too noisy [also Greene's words above], too contrived. Unfortunately not what I wanted." 'Johanna' would come full circle for Greene when he wrote the screenplay for 1957's 'Saint Joan' directed by Otto Preminger, a bomb with critics who lambasted his miscasting of the unknown Jean Seberg as Joan as well as disliking Greene's adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's play. Regardless of what Greene, Hering, and Goebbels thought of 'Johanna' it's definitely worth watching if only to see how history is distorted by propaganda.  The disc's quality is reasonably good.
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