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THE RIGHT TO LOVE

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by Louise Kolm-Fleck and Jakob Fleck

grade: 6.5

In The Right to Love, the Flecks deal with the controversial issue of male impotence, in a feature film that shows a decidedly more mature and self-conscious direction than the pair’s previous works. At the Viennale 2019, as part of the retrospective dedicated to Louise Kolm-Fleck.

Life as a couple

Dr Magnus Hirschfeld has perfectly explained the importance of a complete marriage in all aspects, focusing in particular on certain cases of male impotence and the attitude of some wives who were not informed about their rights. Excerpts from his writings on this subject were therefore inserted at the opening of the feature film The Right to love , directed by Louise Kolm Fleck and her husband Jakob Fleck in 1929, after the two had moved to Berlin from Austria and started working with Hegewald Film. On the occasion of the Viennale 2019, then, The Right to love was presented to the audience as part of the retrospective dedicated to Louise Kolm-Fleck.

A film, this one, which, as one can well imagine, did not have an easy life. First of all with regard to censorship, since dealing with such a theme was something quite unusual for the time (and the Flecks, for their part, had always dealt with ”uncomfortable” issues, staging situations that were still considered taboo, such as sexual violence in Crucified Girl, 1929, or even abortion in Doctor Schäfer, 1928). Secondly, with regard to the preservation of the reel itself, which until today has been kept at the Ajaccio Film Archive, and which is, however, lacking some three hundred metres of film. Nevertheless, the Filmarchiv Austria did its part to ensure that The Right to love could be reconstructed as faithfully as possible to its original form.

However, in this feature film, the story is that of the young Evelyn (star of the time Evelyn Holt), who marries a man who, as a result of a war injury, has become hopelessly impotent. In spite of everything, things initially seem to be going well, but the situation will be completely turned upside down when the girl meets a charming family friend who immediately starts courting her.

And it is precisely the moment when the two meet at a party that is probably the most significant scene in The Right to Love. With a now more mature and daring directorial approach, Mr and Mrs Fleck’s camera concentrates on the close-ups of the two, with a successful cross-cutting, for a subtle and never over the top exchange of glances that is worth a thousand words.

If we think, therefore, of all the directorial naivety of the couple’s earlier films, both seem more courageous than ever in this The Right to Love. So here we have numerous dissolves at the opening and closing of the film – showing us frenetic working days in the factory, with machinery moving non-stop – oblique shots and a camera that seems incredibly agile and self-confident.

The only element that works less well is, in fact, the script itself, which is quite simple, but which, in the finale, makes the feature film to lose its credibility. What a pity. Especially because, as far as many other aspects are concerned, The Right to love shows an uncommon maturity and foresight on the part of the two directors.

Original title: Das Recht auf Liebe
Directed by: Louise Kolm-Fleck, Jakob Fleck
Country/year: Germany / 1929
Running time: 71’
Genre: romance
Cast: Georg Alexander, Evelyn Holt, Georgia Lind, Hermine Sterler, Henry Stuart, Igo Sym
Screenplay: Magnus Hirschfeld, Hans Rosen
Cinematography: Nicolas Farkas
Produced by: Hegewald Film

Info: the page of The Right to love on the website of the Filmarchiv Austria; the page of The Right to love on iMDb