In the summer of 1931, by taking advantage of especially propitious circumstances
(the dissolving of a film company, willingness of an unnamed individual to
invest a modest sum of money together with his theatrical abilities in a film,
etc.), we had the opportunity to produce a short film. With the impression
left by the Three Penny Opera case fresh in our minds, we drew up a
contract which, for the first time in the history of motion pictures we are
told, made us legally both the producers and the authors of the film. Though
this cost us our claim to the usual guaranteed fee payments, it secured for
us almost unlimited control over our work.
Our small company consisted of two screenwriters, a director, a musical scorewriter,
a production manager and, last but not least, an attorney. Understandably,
organizing the company and planning the details put us to much more trouble
than the artistic work itself, that is to say, we came more and more to regard
the organizing as being a significant aspect of the artistic work. That was
only possible because the nature of the work was as a whole political.
Yet, at the last moment before completion of all work in progress with nearly
nineteen-twentieths of the film shot and considerable funds used up, our credit
was withdrawn. A firm that had loaned us money and which had a monopoly on
certain equipment that we needed explained to us that it no longer had any
interest in the release of our film and was canceling funds which had been
promised to make further work on it possible. They claimed that though the
film might be highly lauded by the press, the press did not reflect the opinions
of the paying public, and that the film could not possibly turn a profit,
in as much as communism no longer posed any danger for Germany.
Other firms refused to extend credit because they feared censorship of
the film, not so much government censorship, though, as censorship by the
theater owners themselves. Indeed the former is just the mouthpiece of the
latter, and the government censors generally don't act just as an impartial
third party, but rather as executors of the wishes of the existing administration
and economic system.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FILM
The sound film Kuhle Wampe or Who Owns the World? consists of four
self-sufficient sequences which are separated by musical pieces which accompany
montages of tenaments, factories and landscapes. The first sequence, based
on a true event, shows the suicide of a young man out of work during the best
years of his life. His troubles have accumulated layer by layer until, on
top of all this, the final unbearable misery is laid: the young man's unemployment
benefit is canceled. Before hurling himself out of a window, the aforementioned
young man takes off his wrist watch and lays it aside so that it will not
be broken. The beginning of this sequence in the film shows the search for
work as work itself.
The second sequence shows the eviction of the family as the result of a court
judgment (which refers to the unfortunate family's inability to keep up its
rent as being "brought about through their own fault.")
The family moves out of the city to a tent colony called Kuhle Wampe and
takes shelter in the tent of their daughter's boyfriend. (The film was for
some time supposed to have been titled Ante Portas.) The daughter becomes
pregnant, and because of the narrow-minded attitudes about relations prevalent
with those in the colony, (a type of "possession" of land and property
plus the acquisition of a little income create peculiar social forms) the
young couple is pressured into an engagement. It is the daughter's decision,
though, to break off the engagement.
In the third sequence, a workers' Sports Rally is shown. The rally is well
attended and excellently organized. It's purpose is thoroughly political;
the recreation and competition of the masses is merely a symbol for revolutionary
activity. In this sequence, over 300 worker-athletes were involved. The young
couple from the second sequence are shown among the athletes and the workers:
the girl has, with the help of her girlfriends, raised the money for an abortion,
and the couple have put aside all thoughts of marriage.
The fourth sequence shows the trip home from the rally in a railroad car
in which takes place a discussion over a newspaper article which tells of
the destruction of Brazilian coffee for the purpose of price-fixing.
CONCERNING THE POETRY
The "Song of the Homeless" was omitted because of apprehension
over censorship, and "Roll Call" because of technical problems.
The "Solidarity Song" was sung by some 3000 worker-athletes. The
"Sporting Song" was sung by a soloist during the motorcycle and
The poem "On Nature in the Spring," done in solo voice, accompanies
and connects three walks taken by the young lovers. During production, this
part of the film was screened for worker-athletes who objected to the nudity
Brecht, Dudow, Hollering,
Kaspar, Ottwald, Scharfenberg
Translation copyright ©1980, 2003 by E. J. Campfield. All