World Melodrama: Opfergang, 1944

[While this will only technically apply to those in California, I figured I would share with the wider world the line-up of the world melodrama series I run with my collaborator and friend Erik, for any of those who need some things to be watching, or even better, who want to follow along week by week.  When time permits, I'll write up reflections on them as they go.  All are relatively easy to track down.  If anyone really can't find something via the channels I need not spell out, let me know, and I'll try to find a way to get it to you.  Omnia sunt communia, especially a century's worth of tears and bareback horseback riding.]


You, death's sweetest and most secretly anticipated pleasure.
One of only a few color films produced by the Third Reich during World War II, Veit Harlan’s Opfergang is probably the most Nietzschean melodrama you will ever see. Adapted from Rudolf Georg Binding’s 1911 novella, Opfergang depicts the conflicting allegiances and desires stirred up for and by Albrecht Froben (Carl Raddatz), wealthy shipping magnate recently returned from a mission for the German Colonial Association. Engaged to his hyperbolically Teutonic cousin, Octavia (Irene von Meyendorff), whose immediate family likes to read Nietzsche to each other in darkened salons in the middle of the day, Albrecht soon finds his attentions diverted by a free-spirited, skinny-dipping, and bow-and-arrow-wielding Swede named Äls (Kristina Söderbaum), whose outer vitality masks a rare blood disease that threatens her life. There’s no escape from morbidity and imminent destruction for Albrecht, Octavia, or Äls it seems, though the complicity of each in playing out this love triangle to its end becomes downright pathological by the finale. Made at a point in the war in which the Nazis could see their defeat on the horizon, Opfergang is melodrama as death-rattle. Come for the bareback feats of beach archery, stay for the hallucinatorily telepathic tête-à-têtes. As ever, not to be missed.


[For those in California, tomorrow night, Santa Cruz.  Any and all are welcome.]


[For the record, last week was this, which is an alarming, remarkably funny and potent film, that can be tracked down via Criterion:

I can't help it. The truth is out. It’s washing over us, shaking us. We’re soaked. We’re both lost.Waggishly referred to by some as the greatest piece of fan fiction in the history of French cinema, Jean Grémillon’s Lumière d'été (Summer Light) is certainly more than the sum of its Rules of the Game (1939) parts. Freely riffing on the themes and character elements of the Jean Renoir film, Grémillon’s melodrama amplifies the latent class tensions of that earlier work as aristocrats, bourgeoisie, artists, and workers collide in a way that is graphically emblematic of the divided nation France became under Nazi occupation. Lumière d'été also heats up the sexual musical chairs of Renoir’s Rules of the Game into one of the most delirious ménage a cinq you’ll ever see, as a do-nothing bohemian artist, the woman who loves him, the engineer who loves her, the degenerate aristocrat with a penchant for playing William Tell who also loves her, and the hotel owner who loves him discover under penalty of death to whom the future of France belongs. One of the best films produced in Vichy France, Lumière d'été is not to be missed.