Cinema Europa / 12th May / 15.30

Stärker als die Nacht (Slatan Dudow, 1954)

Hamburg, 1933: With the NSDAP’s election victory and Hitler’s final rise to power, Gerda and Hans Löning, a communist couple from Hamburg, consider it their political duty to resist the Fascists. Till the end of WWII, they’ll try to prevent the worst, albeit to little avail – the leaflets whose distribution they help organize, seem to do little. Hans spends most of his time in various concentration camps, where he also dies in the end. It’s up to Gerda and their child to help build a Better Germany: the GDR. Stärker als die Nacht was the first major DEFA-production to deal with anti-Nazi resistance – which, of course, meant Communist underground work. The choice of director is rather symbolic: Brecht-alumnus Slatan Dudow had been active as a party-aligned filmmaker since the Weimar Republic, gone into exile during the Nazi-dictatorship, only to return as the early DEFA poet laureate cum conscience – the GDR’s first official master of cinema. And let’s be clear about one thing: Dudow was a great director; which arguably shows nowhere better than here: Stärker als die Nacht is a gripping, often surprisingly subtle and nuanced, in its vision of a nation whose silence supported the Nazis maybe more than the active collaboration of the comparatively few believers above all depressingly accurate portrayal of Germans at their worst. The timing of the movie is noteworthy: for it is not only an “answer” to the FRG’s movies on anti-Nazi resistance (whose production wasn’t exactly a secret – few things were more widely argued about in print between circa 1952 and ’55 then the nation’s official cinematographic attitude regarding that subject), but also a “reminder” to all those who took to the streets on June 17th 1953 what noble nation/cause they were questioning through their protests…