Cinema Europa / 9th May / 18.00

Die Halbstarken (Georg Tressler, 1956)

Legends has it that Will Tremper (like Gerhard T. Buchholz an echt Adenauer-era conservative anarchist) saw a short by Georg Tressler on how to better cultivate potatoes and thought: If that guy makes growing veggies look like a thriller, what will he be able to do with a really tough and thrilling subject like juvenile delinquency? Thus Die Halbstarken was born, and with it a new realist style in FRG cinema. Which, on closer inspection, was not without precedents. It’s telling, actually, that Tremper took note of Tressler thanks to a Marshall Plan-production – for many attempts at making veristic fiction features were conceived and/or directed by people connected to the European Recovery Program’s film wing (Louis Agotay, Stuart Schulberg, Victor Vicas…). Timing, therefore, had a lot to do with the film’s monumental success: 1956/57 was a turning point in FRG history: the young nation had finally caught up with the rest of the Western world in terms of Modernism – a critical cultural mass had been reached. Die Halbstarken embodies that in the way it looks at Berlin (West): the film is so much in love with the spacious and open new architecture (eg. the communal swimming hall early on) while acutely conscious of the omnipresent ruins. Besides that, the film managed to make everybody happy: The conservatives got a tale of young criminals who stopped at almost nothing (which is all juvenile dissent meant to them: disobedience deserving of the severest kind of punishment); the progressives saw a problem-riddled FRG they knew from experience but had never seen like that on the big screen; while the youngsters enjoyed the fact that here they had locals actors (girls and guys just like them, in theory!) who behaved and even looked like James Dean et.al.