Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nachts Auf Den Strassen

I watched, the other night on YouTube, a German film made in 1951, called “Nachts Auf Den Strassen” (Nights On The Streets). I hadn’t intended to watch it for I came across it only by chance. But, after tasting the film’s first few minutes I couldn’t tear myself away........

***

Heinrich Schlüter (Hans Albers) is an independent long distance middle-aged truck driver. One night, while driving the highway, he happens upon an overturned car in the middle of the road, and also a man sprawled unmoving nearby, and there’s nobody else about. Obviously it’s an accident that’s just occurred. It seems Heinrich is the first on the scene.

Heinrich stops to see what he can do. He can’t do much because the sprawled man is obviously dead. Heinrich notices a wallet on the ground. He examines it, and sees it contains lots and lots of banknotes. What to do?

After some hesitation, Heinrich puts the wallet inside his jacket. Then the police arrive. Heinrich learns from them that the dead man is suspected of having ill-gotten money on his person. Not finding the money, the police suspect an accomplice of having made off with it. Hearing this, Heinrich says nothing about the banknotes inside his jacket. He returns to his truck and drives off into the night.

The next morning when Heinrich is still driving on the road, he comes across a detour and has to slow down. At the entry to the detour an attractive young woman, Inge (Hildegarde Knef), stylishly dressed and carrying a suitcase, raises her thumb because she’s hitchhiking. He stops and says, “Hop in” (“steigt ein”), and she does.

On the journey Inge behaves coquettishly towards Heinrich, but he doesn’t allow himself to succumb. Well, at first he doesn’t, for he has a wife at home, and a daughter no younger than Inge probably is.

After dropping Inge off at a stop where she said she wanted to be dropped off, Heinrich didn’t expect they would ever again meet. They do, actually, because Inge contrives that they do. Unable to resist Inge, Heinrich eventually succumbs to her, thus falling into the trap she’s set.

The thing is, Inge hasn’t told Heinrich that she’s in league with a petty criminal, Kurt (Marius Goring) who wants to smuggle animal furs across the border and needs a big truck with which to do this. So Kurt has told Inge to find a willing trucker.......

Lots more happens, with lots of twists, that I'll not waste more time telling of, because what you’ve read so far may well encourage you to watch “Nachts Auf Den Strassen”, which you can if you *click here*.

***

Heinrich is a good and honourable man. After all, he has both a wife and daughter, with whom he lives in a modest but clean house. That’s about as good and honourable as a man can get. But, like all good and honourable men, Heinrich was human with human weaknesses, and so couldn’t help sometimes doing things not good and honourable. Temptation was occasionally too much.

Like, the wallet with all those banknotes in it. No doubt had it had no banknotes, or just a few banknotes, Heinrich would, like most good and honourable men, not have kept the wallet. But it turned out this wallet had 20,000 Deutschmarks. Circa 1950 this was an awful lot of money, the equivalent today of more than 100,000 dollars.

Heinrich still owed money on his truck, and 20,000 Deutschmarks would assumedly have been more than enough to pay it off. As it was, he also, out of this money, bought some nice things not only for Inge (Hildegarde Knef), but for his wife and daughter too.

In the matter of the married Heinrich falling for Inge, if you, who are reading this, are a man, and an uxorious one like Heinrich, can you say in all honesty that were a young woman as alluring as was the young Hildegarde Knef, to set her cap at you, you would be able to resist?

An interesting feature of “Nachts Auf Den Strassen” is its showing of the German urban landscape as it was in 1950, just five years after the end of Der Zweiter Weltkrieg. So, as Heinrich drives his truck through towns you sometimes see the rubble of buildings in the background. The Wirtschaftswunder had yet to flower. 

Despite “Nachts Auf Den Strassen” being in German with no English subtitles, you should, even if you know no German, still be able to follow it, especially after what you’ve learned so far, however little that is.

“Nachts Auf Den Strassen” is a gem. You owe it to yourself to *watch it*.

6 comments:

  1. It is normal, uxorious or not, to be susceptible to passing thrills and flattery. The trick is to recognise this and decide whether to hurt and jeopardise all that matters.

    Women instinctively, and in the vast majority of cases innocently,know how to exploit this dilemma.

    I look forward to the film, even though I have little or no German, despite one of my daughters-in-law being a native.

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    1. Do you really believe that women flatter and exploit married men "innocently"?

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    2. Glenys told me that her mother once warned her, as part of her regular maternal duties, to be very careful because it was easy to arouse powerful emotions in a man.

      So yes, I believe women are largely innocent of the nature and level of a man's response.

      My mother-in-law was, I believe, largely innocent of the nature and level of my response to the words when repeated to me as, even to this day, I contemplate if they refer to me ........ or someone else!

      My own mother's advice to my sister is likely to have been more direct: You'll get more than you bargained for!

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  2. We men are so vulnerable!!

    While I read German reasonably well, I can follow spoken German hardly at all. Hence when watching the film I could only get one word in ten. But I could still understand what was going on, albeit less well than if the film had had English sub-titles.

    Many people, particularly sports stars when interviewed, speak their native English so fast, and in so garbled a way, that I can only get one word in ten of what they say. Nonetheless I can understand them as well as if they spoke every word clearly. This is a lesson in how we comprehend speech.

    As to films, there is of course so much more to them than just dialogue. Hence we can understand them from other aspects. We need think only of the silent films of yore.

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  3. This was the first time that I had watched a feature-length film from start to finish without understanding a single word that was spoken. I would not have had the stamina to do this without your fine review and your encouragement.

    What surprised me was the extent to which I speculated about parts of the story and what was said by watching the expressions and movements of the actors and the changes of scene. It brought home to me that stories have a shape independent of their content, similar in many respects to the shape in music. Whether this was supplied - to the extent that it was not covered by your review - by me from past experience or whether it is an innate and universal quality of story and language, I could not tell.

    Your reference to silent films was apposite, although in that case there is a conscious focus on elements of movement and expression designed to convey specific predetermined meaning in much the same way as certain aspects of ballet. More and more I understand that language is an entity separate from the medium.

    Do you recall how we used to speak of "carrier waves" in relation to wireless? There is there, I think, something of an analogy.

    Anyway, I rather gathered that it all ended happily, despite the wife's discovery of the dalliance - perhaps they still had the money - that the young girl repented her ways because she fell for the old man and the baddies met their come-uppance.

    There was also a disturbing association in the old man's mind between the young girl and his own daughter. Did he behave as he did because his daughter had married and left home?

    Thank you for an interesting experience. I am not sure I have the patience to repeat it.

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  4. I admire your fortitude in watching the whole film despite your knowing no German. I can appreciate that you won't want to repeat the experience.

    Yes, it did all end happily, although how much Heinrich told his wife about what he'd done, especially with Inge, we can only guess. He would have been a changed man thereafter. Inge, who appeared to have mixed feelings about she was doing, would have been a changed woman thereafter too.

    As to the money, Heinrich gave it all back to the police, and the police didn't press charges. Would police today be so forgiving? I suspect not.

    One difference between the times then and the times today is that young women today don't nonchalantly hitchhike, like Inge did, and accept lifts from truck drivers they don't know.

    In the flashbacks on Heinrich's home life as he was driving, he appeared to be of the middle class, yet he was a truck driver, and who still hadn't paid off his truck.

    He must, then, only recently have taken up truck driving for a living. Because he appeared to be at least in his fifties, we can surmise he had spent the previous decades working at something else.

    Perhaps he'd been a banker or lawyer, or had been otherwise in a middle-class occupation. Then war came and the German economy was ruined as a result of the bombing. So at war's end Heinrich could only turn to truck-driving to keep his and his family's heads above water?

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