Friday, April 13, 2012

The German Titanic {1943}.

Wow. I don't even know where to begin. How about...if you're a Titanic fan looking for a truly bizarre experience, this is the film for you! Things got so kooky during certain parts of this film that I grabbed a sticky note and a pen to take notes, in order that I could share them all here. :)

I'm talking about the 1943 German film, Titanic.

Before I even get to the film itself, here's the strange history behind it. The film, one of the biggest and most expensive German films at the time, was being directed by Hebert Selpin. It's a piece of propaganda full of anti-British sentiment, which I'll mention later. During the filming, Selpin was arrested by the Gestapo, apparently for making negative comments about the behavior of German officers who were brought in to advise on the film. One day later he was found dead in his jail cell. Then, after the film was finished, it was banned because it was decided that the scenes of terror and panic were too much for the German people. An incredibly ironic mess, huh?

By the way, the film is in German, so you have to read subtitles. This isn't as annoying as it sounds, but it did hinder me from embroidering while watching it. :) And surprisingly, it isn't too hard to find. It's even available on Netflix (on DVD- I don't know about streaming).

I watched this film just days after watching A Night to Remember. That may explain why it seemed especially strange to me, because the two films are practically complete opposites. A Night to Remember is all about the facts; this Titanic is full of fictional plots, characters, and exaggerations.

Mostly what they did is to take famous, real-life passengers and involve them in made up plots. There's a big conspiracy plot involving White Star stocks and driving the prices up and down, which I {someone who has absolutely no interest or knowledge of the stock market} could understand the basics of. John Jacob Astor IV, who was in real life the wealthiest passenger on the ship, is working against the White Star Line director, J. Bruce Ismay, in this stock scheme. There are also fictional plots about Astor and Ismay involving their wives, fiancees, and other women on board.

Speaking of Ismay, this film is probably the most brutal, of all Titanic films, against him. Honestly, he's pretty much portrayed as a speed-obsessed lunatic who announces that not only will Titanic be the biggest ship ever to sail the seas, but also the fastest. He's determined to break all speed records with Titanic's maiden voyage.

And now we get into the propaganda part, which is pretty fascinating and amusing (amusing now, though I'm sure it wasn't in WWII). It all boils down to this: The English are greedy and obsessed with money and power. The one German officer on the ship is the single soul who is concerned about justice and saving lives.

It's going to sound like I'm making this up, but I'm not. I am poking fun, however. You have to see it to believe it...

This German officer is like a super hero.

He alone stands up against both Ismay and Captain Smith, warning them against this speedy voyage through icy waters. He rambles off iceberg statistics and facts about how the lifeboats on the Titanic are sorely lacking. He makes pleas to both of the women connected with Ismay (despite the fact that he seems to be in love with one of them), asking them to persuade Ismay to slow the ship. He saves a little girl left alone in her cabin. He even survives the sinking and goes on to testify against Ismay in court.

The last scene of the film is this: text scrolling across the screen which the subtitles translate as this: "The deaths of 1,500 people remain unatoned eternal condemnation of England's quest for profit."

Wow. Right? That's all I can say about that. :)

There are other little quirks throughout the film. For example, The Iceberg glows in the dark. It really does. If the real Iceberg had glowed like that, you would have seen it from miles away.

Also, after the ship hits the iceberg, a crowd of third class passengers notice that the engines are off. So what do they do? They take off in a mob to ask the captain what's going on, and in the process randomly burst into one of the fancy first class social areas. Just walk right in and stare around at the fanciness.

Some of the special affects are quite good, especially for 1943. Others aren't. Sometimes the shots of flooding rooms looks like someone stuck a hose inside the door of an elaborate dollhouse.

By the way, I thought this was interesting...there are apparently some parallels between this relatively obscure film and the blockbuster 1997 one. Like a jewelry theft plot, a character being locked up when the ship begins flooding, etc. You can read more similarities here, under "Allegations about Titanic."

So...did I enjoy this film? Yes. Though I was a bit distracted by all of the other craziness going on to really focus on whether the film was actually good or not. :) It's worth watching just for the glimpse into WWII propaganda, and it does hold your interest. It's also probably the shortest Titanic film, at just over an hour and twenty minutes.

Until next time,


  1. Wow, this sounds wild to say the least! :)

  2. Oh my, I've got to see this one! ;D At the least I love watching films in German (though I don't speak it...much). And the 1943 historical implications/propaganda angle sounds fascinating!

    Plus, your description of the super hero German officer made me giggle... got to see him now! :)

  3. I loved these reviews. I especially love that you're watching them with an eye for propaganda and how they reflect the culture they were appealing to. It's crazy to see how storytelling changes. And I love to read about the Titanic. Even before Jack and Rose, I was fascinated by the Titanic. That's one of the ultimate symbols to me about how so many things that seem unshakable really aren't. I think it's been so movie-fied that I forget it was the most real, most painful day for thousands of people. It's really mind-boggling when I think of the scope of it. (And I'm also so psyched for JK Rowling's new book! That's definitely a first day splurge. Even though I read it's going to retail for like $40. INSANE. But I'll do it for Jo ...)

  4. It was wondering if I could use this write-up on my other website, I will link it back to your website though.Great Thanks. german transcription


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