This powerful, World War II drama frequently cited as one of the most important films in German history tells the heated tale of a family divided over supporting the Nazis or fighting for the equality of all races and creeds. Originally censored by the Soviets for its unwavering message of pacifism, Rotation finds father turning against son as the troubled family patriarch agrees to print up Nazi fliers in hopes of improving the family finances before being betrayed by his Hitler Youth son. When the bombs stop ...
This powerful, World War II drama frequently cited as one of the most important films in German history tells the heated tale of a family divided over supporting the Nazis or fighting for the equality of all races and creeds. Originally censored by the Soviets for its unwavering message of pacifism, Rotation finds father turning against son as the troubled family patriarch agrees to print up Nazi fliers in hopes of improving the family finances before being betrayed by his Hitler Youth son. When the bombs stop dropping and the bullets stop flying, father and son are forced to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives despite their troubled past.
Interview: film historian Christiane Mückenberger on "Rotation"; Newsreels: "The Eye-Witness" reports on director Wolfgang Staudte and making "Rotation"; Essay: "1945-65: The Cold War - The Film in Historical Context"; About the filmmakers; Stills gallery
Considered one of Germany's most important historically-based films, 1949's Rotation tells the story of the German Benhke family, who are divided over the Nazi movement and Hitler's rise to power. Father Hans (Paul Esser) wants to join the Nazi Party simply to secure a better job as a mechanic, while son Hellmuth (Karl Heinz Deickert) joins the Hitler Youth. After Jewish neighbors are taken away, Hans seeks to support the resistance -- until his son betrays him. Exrtas include biographies, filmographies, newsreels, interviews, and a photo gallery.
All Movie Guide
Rotation is one of the most notable films produced by DEFA, the film production company started in Germany's Soviet sector, in the immediate aftermath of World War II. The "hero," Hans Behnke (Paul Esser), is a machinist who makes a series of ethical compromises to support his family that leads to his ruin. At the beginning the youthful optimism that follows his marriage to Charlotte (Irene Korb) and the birth of their son Helmut is eroded by the poverty and unemployment of the Weimer Republic. Frustration and anger lead brother-in-law Kurt (Reinhold Bernt) to the Communist Party while another family friend joins the National Socialists. Hans gets a job with a printing company that produces propaganda for the Nazis, but he resists joining the party. The shock of his eventual enlistment is through the offhand way it's conveyed -- a tiny portrait of Hitler on an apartment wall, a swastika pin on the lapel of a jacket draped over the kitchen chair. Meanwhile Helmut (Karl-Heinz Deickert) has grown up poor and partially uncared for, finding family in the big brothers of the Hitler Youth. When Kurt returns looking for assistance in printing resistance fliers and Hans reluctantly agrees to help. Helmut reports his father. He's arrested and sent to prison. The combination of director Wolfgang Staudte's ease with actors and cinematographer Bruno Mondi's skills with fluid tracking shots and expressionist lighting and framing techniques produces a number of thrilling hyper-realistic scenes. An argument between Kurt and Hans in the Behnke's bombed out apartment, conducted by candlelight, gradually turns abstract, highlighting the angst of German citizens torn between resistance and survival. Characters are frequently framed through bars and though it's a rather obvious visual theme, it effectively builds until the epic climactic battle of Berlin sequence (a technically remarkable highlight), when a final close-up of a drowning bird cage, a canary desperately flitting it's beak through the bars, represents the self-destructive confines of Nazism. Staudte is both sympathetic and critical towards Hans. Making the film was reportedly his attempt to deal with his own passivity during the war and the film is an angst-ridden and convincing chronicle of how thousands of ostensibly "good" people supported a terrible regime. The benignly optimistic ending, playing off the film's theme of rotation (echoed through the spinning of the printing press), has a new generation offering hope and optimism, with the underlying implication that their corruption seems just as likely. Supposedly the pacifist Staudte deliberately intended to include this as a warning about the Cold War, and was roundly criticized for it by his Soviet superiors.
Disc #1 -- Rotation
1. At That Time - ...the Battle for Berlin [4:12]
2. ...It Started Twenty Years Ago [11:01]
3. It's Time Mrs. Peschke! [3:12]
4. How Are You? Ah, Well, Not Too Bad! [1:41]
5. ...We Demand Work and Bread! [3:29]
6. What Are You Doing? ... Propaganda and Protests!? [1:50]
7. That Really Would Be Great, Eh? There's a Strike on Here!...All Power to Hitler! [6:42]
8. ...There's a Swastika Hanging From Every Window! [3:52]
9. ...What Would Hans Have to Say About It? [5:48]
10. ...We Will March Again! [2:39]
11. ...You Can Bet on It That It Will Get Much Worse! [4:52]
12. ...Manly and German - Unquestioning and Loyal! [1:23]
13. End the Madness of "The Hitler War!" [6:29]
14. Helmut, What Do You Want So Late?...That's Enough! [4:28]
15. Blow Up All Bridges in the Section "City Centre!" [4:31]
16. Get Out. That's It, Finito! [4:41]
17. Mum Is...I Know! Now Your Life Can Begin! [7:14]
Disc #1 -- Rotation
About the Filmmakers
Observations by Film Expert Christiane Mückenberger on "Rotation"
"The Eyewitness" Reports
AZ 8/1946/1: Wolfgang Staudte at the Presentation of the 1st DEFA Production Programme in Berlin-Wannsee
AZ 121/1948/3: Wolfgang Staudte in the Reichskanzlei During the Filming of "Europa Wird Wieder Lachen" ("Europe Will Laugh Again")
AZ 7/1949/1: Wolfgang Staudte Shooting "Rotation" in the Babelsberg Studios
1945-1965: The Cold War - The Film in It's Historical Context