Friday, July 31, 2009
Hello, Jose from "Movies Kick Ass" here. On July 31st, 1919 the Weimar Constitution was approved in the German Empire giving path to one of the most complicated eras in European history.
Weimar was a limbo of sorts between both World Wars, time during which Germany sunk in political and economical problems, but flourished culturally; Brecht, UFA, Expressionism and Bauhaus were a few of the things that came out from this period.
But thinking of a perfect way to sum up the entire history of Weimar only two people come to mind: Sally Bowles and Lola Lola.
They are the "heroines" from their respective films. Sally in "Cabaret" and Lola Lola in "The Blue Angel".
They are linked by their profession (cabaret performers/aspiring actresses), their exuberant sex appeal and their love of divine decadence.
But beyond the obvious comparisons (it's obvious that Lola and UFA films inspired Christopher Isherwood who wrote the book "Cabaret" is based upon...) there is something fascinating about how both these women embody Weimar history.
Sally and Lola take special pleasure in luxurious goods. One fur coat in "Cabaret" goes through all the phases of hyperinflation; first it becomes an almost guilt-inducing device of desire and consequentially turns into a life saving object covering her medical expenses.
Then there's the whole issue of how cabarets blossomed amidst the upcoming political chaos brewing with the Nazi party.
Isherwood, who wrote about homosexual experiences from autobiographical facts, came to Berlin because being gay was still illegal in his home country.
Sally in "Cabaret" is involved in a love triangle with two other men who also have feelings for each others.
Sex got so out of control in Weimar that a law was passed forbidding pornography. This whole issue in fact triggers the plot in "The Blue Angel" as a bitter professor (Emil Jannings) visits a cabaret to prevent his students from visiting it.
Sally and Lola became iconic characters for the actresses who portrayed them, but more than that they should be seen as fascinating representations of history through different eyes. Lola was a portrait of her times, Sally is a postmodernist vision.
Interestingly enough the very nature of their professions announces their eventual cinematic relevance; the word "cabaret" comes from the Latin "camera" (which means "small room") which later gave name to the photographic device.
If their whole history is contained in something as elemental as a word, then a line from "The Blue Angel" sums up the way in which the characters' incite public reaction.
"You've got a false conception of your profession" says someone to Lola. He might as well have been talking about the way the modern world has come to perceive Weimar.