Cinema Europa / 12th May / 17.30

Der 20. Juli (1955; Falk Harnack)

It says a lot about the Federal Republic of Germany that a group of Wehrmacht officers was made into the nation’s epitome of anti-Nazi resistance: They were men of arms (and not pacifist like the Weisse Rose with their leaflets); many of them came from nobility (and not proletarian or lower middle-class households like the Edelweisspiraten); as such they represented the Prusso-patrician ideals the young FRG’s ultra-conservative establishment was keen to connect with (instead of anything even moderately progressive rooted in the Weimar Republic German Reich); and, yes, they failed – with Hitler retaliating almost to the last day of his life by having seemingly everybody even merely suspect of having supported Stauffenberg and his group executed (which made quasi-official FRG heroes out of politically opaque figures like eg. Canaris and Rommel whose if-only-ever-so-lateral involvement in the June 20th putsch attempt was never conclusively proven). Stauffenberg was actually such a hot topic at the time that two films on the subject were made parallel – to reach the FRG’s cinemas inside 48 hours! First came Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s icily sardonic, crypto-Beckett’ian endgame Es geschah am 20. Juli which critics didn’t like at all (same way they hated (almost) everything else he had done post ’45). Der 20. Juli, on the other hand, was widely appreciated, for its hands-down realist style as well as its perspective: Harnack and co-author Weisenborn (both, by the way, resistance members with some tacit involvement in this particular matter) present June 20th as only part of a much more complex political process that included workers as much as academics or clerics. Safe for the latter’s almost excessive (and very 50s FRG’ish presence), Der 20. Juli could almost have been a DEFA-movie – in fact, Harnack had been one of the GDR studio’s most important early personalities.