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Menschen am Sonntag / People on Sunday (Robert Siodmak, 1930)

Young city dwellers enjoy their Sunday off by taking a trip to the countryside on the quest for romance and relaxation.

Apart from the superstar-studded cast of emerging filmmakers (Siodmaks, Ulmer, Billy Wilder, Zinnemann) behind this project, there are also many astounding discoveries one can make about Berlin. In an astounding way, this film is timeless. The careless joie-de-vivre in Berlin is just as tangible today as it is in this pre-war film. Would this film be re-made, there are barely anything that would need change.

Due to the use of non-actors the makers kept a careful distance to their subjects. They don't ask them to do much or complicated things (a kiss, maybe). This inner distance gives the film its documentary touch which at points nearly drowns the story. This seems intended as the charming little tale is intercut many times with documentary footage of normal people, enjoying their Sunday on the outskirts of Berlin.

What surprised me was the open-minded approach to casual sex in the story, which I guess must have been quite bold at the time. But the lightness of the whole film makes this just a random happening amongst many events just as important, like lying in the grass or watching the clouds.

The beauty of the many close-ups in the film is remarkable.  They are mostly portraits of regular people, but they all seem to be inhabited by an easiness that has been wonderfully captured on film. I found myself immediately familiar with those happy inhabitants of a blooming city at the end of the 1920s.


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