Der alte und der junge König

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Der alte und der junge König
Directed by Hans Steinhoff
Produced by Deka-Film GmbH
Written by Thea von Harbou,
Rolf Lauckner
Starring Emil Jannings,
Leopoldine Konstantin
Narrated by 100 minutes
Music by Wolfgang Zeller
Cinematography Karl Puth
Edited by Willy Zeyn junior
Country Nazi Germany
Language German

Der alte und der junge König (The Old and the Young King) is a German historical film by Hans Steinhoff, made under Nazi rule in 1935.

The film ostensibly deals with the intense conflict between Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I and his son and heir, Crown Prince Friedrich – the future King Friedrich II "The Great". This is a well-known incident of 18th century German history, which had drawn much public attention in the time itself, and been artistically treated before.

However, in its specific presentation of this historical theme, the film was clearly seen to be a work of Nazi propaganda aimed at extolling the Führerprinzip, i.e. blind obedience to the Leader (the King in the film's plot, Hitler in the reality for which the film was a parable); complaints of "encirclement" and the need for Lebensraum also feature.[1]

For that reason, the film was banned by the Allied military government following the Nazi defeat in 1945. However, after the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany the FSK ("Voluntary Self Regulation of the Movie Industry") subjected it a test on August 4, 1958, and ruled that, unlike other films made under the Nazis, the propaganda element in it was not so blatant as to justify its inclusion in the list of "Forbidden Films" (de:Vorbehaltsfilm).

Cast[edit]

Plot[edit]

The film opens at Potsdam in the time of "The Soldier's King" Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, with the Royal Family sitting at the breakfast table. It turns out that Crown Prince Friedrich, informally called "Fritz", had lost so much money at the gaming tables that he had to sign debentures. Members of the grenadier regiment had seen the crown prince appearing late in a wretched state, which greatly angers his father. The King would like to prepare his son for the future role as a ruler, and regards his preoccupation with music and literature with big displeasure.

Fritz, for his part, is infuriated with the austere treatment by his father and hatches a plan to flee Prussia and get to France and England, where he expects a welcome from his mother's family. His companion Katte would like to help him in this plan. However, being a second lieutenant bound by his officer's code, he at first declines.

The father-son conflict further escalates when Fritz accumulates even heavier gambling debts than those which the King already had to pay off before. To King insults the Crown prince, calling him "a liar and coward" and puts him under arrest. In the barracks he is forbidden to engage in his beloved flute playing, nor read French literature.

At night the King returns earlier than usual and surprises the Crown Prince together with his sister Wilhelmine, playing the flute in the music room. Katte, who was also present, manages to hide just in time. The angry King throws Fritz's books and flute into the open fire and orders the Crown Prince to accompany him on a trip to South Germany. Fritz, more than ever determined on his escape plan, can after this incident count also on Katte's support.

However, the escape fails, and both the Crown Prince and Second Lieutenant Katte are condemned by a court martial to custody at the fortress of Küstrin. Indeed, the King goes much further, arbitrarily changing the judgement against Katte into capital punishment and insisting on having him actually executed.

The Crown Prince submits to the King's authority and is moved to better quarters in a palace. Nevertheless, in a visit by the King it is evident that the relationship between father and son is still very chilly and they are estranged. Fritz who in the meantime has proved his "character" is now given his own household at Rheinsberg Castle, where he can follow again his artistic inclinations.

Still, reconciliation between the estranged father and son does come about, shortly before the death of the King. The last words of the Old King to the Young are: "Make Prussia great!". (The audience, aware of basic elements of German history included in their school curriculum, know that Friedrich would duly proceed to do just that.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema, p 113 ISBN 0-02-570230-0

External links[edit]