[Movie] The Threepenny Opera (1931)

  • Directed by: G. W. Pabst
  • Cast: Rudolf Forster, Carola Neher, Margo Lion
  • Based on: “Die Dreigroschenoper” by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (1928)

You, poorest of the poor, who’d long ago have perished in the sewers of Turnbridge if I hadn’t spent sleepless nights devising a way to wring a few pence out of your poverty. For I’ve shown that the rich of this world have no qualms about causing misery but can’t bear the sight of it. They have hard hearts but weak nerves. Well, we won’t spare their nerves today! By the thousands we’ll tear at their nerves, for our rags do not conceal our wounds!

from the movie

The film is the adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s famous stage play “Die 3 Groschen-Oper.” You might even hear the song “The Ballad of Mackie Messer – Die Moritat von Mackie Messer -,” which many famous singers had sung.

The production of the film was catastrophic. Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill – the playwriter and composer of the original play – were invited to adapt the play for the film, but they were left during the production. The conflict between Brecht/Weill and the German production company shows the typical mode of struggles of movie production under capitalism. The stage play was a satire on capitalism, but the producers wanted a movie more entertaining and less ideological. After that, the film was banned by the Nazis, and most of the negatives were destroyed. The film was restored in the 1960s.

This musical (?) film is an example of how unfitted pieces can still fit into a whole. The acting is outrageous, the lighting is poor, the story is jumpy, and the music does not sync well with the scenes. But the film is overall entertaining, and the songs were good to hear. Especially the casting was good. It is interesting to see their overacting in a shabby stage setting actually paid off.

Even though the film is entertaining, I am a little bit disappointed. I had expected the more ideological drama of sarcasm – good and evil, rich and poor, proletariat and capitalist, etc. – What is left? Songs are still good!

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