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by Richard Lubowski

grade: 5.5

Minderjärige klagen an, while partly retaining the original intentions of Harald Röbbeling’s excellent Asphalt (since it is in fact a much more softened reworking of it), is much weaker, much less incisive than the original and decidedly uncohesive, with a frame story that seems almost artificial, to the point of making it scarcely credible.

The fate of young people

The feature film Minderjärige klagen an (‘Minors accuse’) has a very special history. And to explain its origin, one can simply state that this work – made by Richard Lubowski in 1959 – would never have existed if, a good eight years earlier, director Harald Röbbeling had not made the controversial Asphalt.

Because, in fact, this work by Lubowski is nothing more than a reworking of Röbbeling’s previous feature film, which, due to its topics and some rather explicit scenes of violence, had quite a few problems with censorship at the time.

And yet, in spite of everything, Asphalt had its artistic value. And although it was evidently ‘uncomfortable’, there was still a need to distribute it abroad. Thus, Minderjärige klagen an originated, comprising about three quarters of the previous Asphalt and intended almost exclusively for distribution in German cinemas. Yet here, however, the music changes.

Here there are always five episodes, all about young minors struggling to find their place in the world in post-World War II Vienna: while young Erika is forced to work as a dancer in a nightclub to make ends meet, Walter, in order to support his family, starts to try his hand at petty theft. And if the shy Gabriele does not know how to tell her parents that she has become pregnant, Karl is fed up with being constantly teased by everyone. And finally, the very young Helli, finds herself in an equally difficult situation, forced as she is, by her mother, to beg in order to earn some money. Will these teenagers ever have the chance to live a better future?

Thanks to an editing, whereby the frame story present in Asphalt was simply replaced with the story of a young reporter who discusses with one of her bosses about the fate of some young people of the time, Minderjärige klagen an, while staging highly dramatic situations, immediately takes on a totally different mood and, in its own way, also wants to convey a subtle feeling of hope.

Everything is strongly softened, in Minderjärige klagen an. And even the most brutal stories seem much more ‘acceptable’ here (as far as one can speak of acceptability in such situations). Yet, as is often the case, when it comes to making such heavy changes and cuts in a finished work, there are many contradictions. Not to mention that, precisely, most of the footage belongs to Röbbeling’s previous work.

There is little point, therefore, in shoot-outs, suicide attempts or even hands holding banknotes inside a sad and seedy nightclub. Minderjärige klagen anpartly retains the original intentions of Asphalt – namely, to denounce the conditions in which some young people had to live in the immediate post-war period – but it is much weaker, much less incisive and decidedly uncohesive, with a frame story that seems almost artificial, to the point of making it scarcely credible.

But, as we know, these are the consequences of heavy censorship. And although, on the whole and inevitably, the original directorial approach – complete with cues taken directly from Italian Neorealism – has been maintained for much of the feature film, Lubowski’s film is not completely convincing. And it still shows traces of Röbbeling’s hand that, in this case, leave the audience with an uncomfortable feeling of incompleteness. And just think that, perhaps, with a total rewrite and new shot scenes, Richard Lubowski would surely have achieved something far more worthwhile. What a pity.

Original title: Minderjärige klagen an
Directed by: Richard Lubowski
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 1959
Running time: 60’
Genre: drama, ensemble movie
Cast: Johanna Matz, Viktor Gschmeidler, Milan von Kamare, Anni Korin, Helmut Krauss, Edith Meinel, Inge Novak, Hannes Schiel, Franz Bernd, Reinhold Siegert, Heinz Farda, Maria Eis, Oskar Hugelmann, Albert Strouhal, Ernst Waldbrunn, Otto Weinert, Elfriede Garden, Margarete Fries, Harry Hardt, Martin King, Kurt Vittek, Monika Sigmund, Otto Wögerer, Lilly Karoly, Edith Zogelmann, Elisabeth Epp, Curt Eilers, Heinrich Ortmayer, Helmut Janatsch, Hans Frank, Stella Kadmon, Erich Maria Schill, Rita Ballner, Theodor Grieg, Franz Herterich, Renée Krystufek
Screenplay: Harald Röbbeling, Richard Lubowski
Cinematography: Walter Partsch
Produced by: Savoy

Info: the page of Asphalt on iMDb