Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Die Feuerzangenbowle

Die Feuerzangenbowle; Comedy, Germany, 1944; D: Helmut Weiss, S: Heinz Rühmann, Erich Ponto, Paul Henckels, Karin Himboldt, Hilde Sessak

Four old teachers get a visit from writer Johann Pfeiffer who tells them that he never attended school because he was educated at home. They are astonished to hear that, so they persuade him to disguise himself as a young student in order to at least for one month experience the benefits of school adventures. Pfeiffer leaves Berlin and goes to a small village where he signs in at a gymnasium. There he meets snappy students who make pranks to the strict teacher Crey. When he is found by his wife Marion, he refuses to return to the adult world. He even meets a girl, Eva, the daughter of the principal. In the end, he disguises himself as Crey during the inspection and admits he already has a diploma.

Although it wasn't simple to make comedies in Germany during World War II, director Helmut Weiss and legendary comedian Heinz Ruhmann managed with an easy hand to craft a harmless and successful film "Die Feuerzangenbowle", an adaptation of Heinrich Spoerl's novel with the same title, about the departure of an adult writer into student lives in order to experience the joy of school days. This amusing film that awoke nostalgia of comic adventures during class is an ode to escapism and even today enjoys the status of a classic in it's homeland, never becoming boring like some films of it's time. Ruhmann is wonderful as the main protagonist, the writer Pfeiffer, who disguises himself as a student, which looks surprisingly believable even though he was 42 at that time (!), while the movie is filled with simple jokes, among the highlights are the scene where he helps a student - who is questioned by the teacher during history class - by reflecting with his mirror the way of the Goths on the map or when he puts a sign in school that says: "Closed for repairs". Even the dialogues are pretty cleverly written ("Is the name Pfeiffer spelled with one or two f?" - "With three") establishing, despite the slightly mild tone, a very neat and nostalgic comedy.


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