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Pillars of Society

Original title
Stützen der Gesellschaft (Pillars of Society)
Running time
85 min.
Germany Germany
Karl Peter Gillmann, Georg C. Klaren (Play: Henrik Ibsen)
Franz R. Friedl
Carl Drews (B&W)
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R.N.-Filmproduktion GmbH / U.F.A
Drama | Melodrama
Synopsis / Plot
Henrik Ibsen's 1877 play Samfundets Stotter (Pillars of Society) was the source for this German drama. The plot centers upon a flagrant case of municipal corruption, carried out by the town's "finest" people. The selfishness of the elite results in widespread tragedy, yet still the perpetrators hypocritically blame everyone but themselves. The director of Stutzen der Gesellschaft was Detlef Sierck, who as "Douglas Sirk" would later expose the peccadilloes of the rich and powerful in such American films as Written on the Wind. The Ibsen original was earlier adapted to the screen in 1915, with H. B. Walthall in the lead.
~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Hypocrisy, opportunist exploitation, small-town gossip and greed: the ills infecting the bourgeoisie in the sublime '50s weepies of Douglas Sirk were already deliciously apparent in his German films of the '30s. Characteristically dissecting a decadent middle-class family, his Pillars of Society - adapted from Ibsen - employs the homecoming of black sheep brother-in-law Johann (Schoenhals) to exhume the buried sins of corrupt capitalist Councillor Bernick (George). Just as illicit desire and deceit fester beneath Bernick's respectable facade, so lucid detachment and acute psychological detail underlie Sirk's smooth, shimmering visuals: Brechtian songs and discreet symbolism keep things cool and clear until the repressed passions finally erupt in a cathartic sea-storm.
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