Farm Farces and 'Heimat' Films

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Farm Farces and 'Heimat' Films

The urban comedies of the Weimar era, which presented their romances, mistaken identities, and musical interludes, etc. in a metropolitan setting, had a counterpart in the country. Farm farces, Laendler burlesques, and "heimat" films were charged with a kind of "folk humor". Whereas the musical comedy, for example, often reflected new developments in contemporary popular culture, pastoral comedies were in dialogue not only with a theatrical tradition but with regional stereotypes and features. Further, a cinematic tradition of such comedies had been established in early German films. The still-prevalent dialectic of north German and south German, the principle of rustic shrewdness, and the touristic view of rural idylls and folklore were already present in Wilhelmine-era films such as "Wie Bauer Klaus von seiner Krankheit geheilt wurde" (How Farmer Klaus Was Cured of His Illness, 1906), "Eine billige Badereise" (A Cheap Trip to the Baths, 1912), "Alt-Heidelberg, Du feine…" (Old Heidelberg, You Fine City… 1913), and Ernst Lubitsch's "Meyer aus Berlin" (Meyer From Berlin, 1918).

Source: DIF
Ernst Lubitsch in "Meyer aus Berlin" (1918)
 

This tradition further took shape in Weimar-era cinema. In particular, two varieties were popular: one that showed the clash between the country and the city, with a character from one finding him- or herself in the other; and one that took place entirely in a village or in some other rustic idyll. Examples for these two forms include: "Der Provinzonkel" (The Country Uncle, 1926), "Schützenliesel / Auf der Alm da gibt's koa Sünd" (Liesl the Shooter, 1926), "Der Hochtourist" (The Alpine Tourist, 1931), "Barfüßele. Ein Schwarzwaldidyll" (A Black Forest Idyll, 1924), "Der fidele Bauer" (The Jolly Peasant, 1927), "Der unsterbliche Lump" (The Immortal Vagabond, 1930), "Der Schützenkönig" (The Champion Shot, 1932), and Ernst Lubitsch's well-known farce "Kohlhiesels Töchter" (Kohlhiesel's Daughters, 1920), which inspired no fewer than four remakes, the most recent in 1979. The first was made by Hans Behrendt in 1930, a sound version about which the critic Herbert Ihering remarked witheringly: "Silent, 'Kohlhiesels Töchter' meant progress for the German Lustspiel; as a talkie, 'Kohlhiesels Töchter' is a throwback to the village theater of clod-hoppers." Lubitsch himself described the film as the recycling of a classic story: "It was ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ transposed to the Bavarian highlands. The film was typically German."

Source: DIF
Emil Jannings and Henny Porten in "Kohlhiesels Töchter" (1920)
 

Few films were more "typically German" than "heimat" films like "Schwarzwaldmädel" (Black Forest Girl, 1929), "Die Försterchristel" (The Bohemian Dancer, 1930/31), "Das Rheinlandmädel" (The Rhineland Maid, 1930), or, especially, Hans Behrendt's "Alt-Heidelberg" (Old Heidelberg, 1922/23). Behrendt's film was based on Wilhelm Meyer-Foerster's eponymous play whose the enormous success was the first pinnacle in the popularization of "romantic, nostalgic" Heidelberg — the picturesque university town on the Neckar as the sentimentally-figured birthplace of youthful romance, as inspired by Joseph Victor von Scheffel's nineteenth-century poem "Alt Heidelberg, du feine." So it was expected that "an Alt-Heidelberg film", as the Film-Kurier emphasized in 1923, should provide "a certain colorfulness, a surfeit of whimsy, high spirits, and humor" as well as "painterly tableaux, South-German Romanticism, and atmospheric images of 'Old Heidelberg' the fine city." In 1926/27, Lubitsch, who was already in the U.S. at the time, adopted the subject for "The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg"; and with his 1930 film "Ein Burschenlied aus Heidelberg" (A Song From Heidelberg), Karl Hartl provided another variation on the successful Heidelberg theme. Only after 1933 did pastoral comedies and "heimat" films, which fit in perfectly with the ethno-nationalistic blood-and-earth ideology of the Nazis, come to enjoy a wider popularity. The well-known Bavarian comedian Weiß-Ferdl had his heyday in films like "Der Lachdoktor" (The Laugh Doctor, 1937). After World War II his mantle was donned by the popular favorites Joe Stöckel and Beppo Brem, for example in their film series about the "Two Bavarians". Other rustic comedies, like the remake "I A in Oberbayern" (IA in Upper Bavaria, 1956), ensured the tradition's continuity, as did the exceptionally successful "heimat" films of the 1950s.

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