Die Tat des Andreas Harmer is an extremely sophisticated noir, where – just as the great Fritz Lang had shown us in Metropolis in 1926 – the clear separation between good and evil is well represented on two levels by the settings, be they the basement of a building and the sewers of the city or a sunny park on a hot summer’s day.
Memories from the underground
In 1930, mostly sound films were being produced. This, at least, was the case in the United States. As far as Europe was concerned, however, sound films spread much later. Suffice it to say that it was in 1930 that the first German sound film in film history was made (The Blue Angel by Josef von Sternberg). It is therefore not surprising that in Austria – as in the rest of Europe – silent films were still being made in those years. And yet, true gems of film history date back to this era, particularly aesthetically and narratively well-edited films, which, today as in the past, are perfectly able to fascinate, amuse and move audiences of all ages. This is also the case, for instance, with the feature film Die Tat des Andreas Harmer, made in 1930 and the penultimate film of director Alfred Deutsch-German.
The story staged, then, is that of young Andreas Harmer (played by Oskar Marion), at first unemployed and then, thanks to the help of his sister, who works as a nanny at the home of councillor Othmar Valentin (Arthur von Duniecki), a police apprentice. The man soon finds himself having to deal with a couple of forgers (Attila Hörbiger and Kurt Doehn), who live in the basement of Valentin’s building and who, uneasy because of the presence of a policeman who frequently visits the house, will do anything to drive the man away, even organising the kidnapping of Valentin’s little daughter.
Nowadays almost forgotten, Die Tat des Andreas Harmer is in fact an extremely sophisticated noir, where – just as in Metropolis the great Fritz Lang had shown us in 1926 – the clear separation between good and evil is well represented on two levels by the settings, be they the basement of a building or the sewers of the city (as far as the environments frequented by criminals are concerned) or a sunny park on a hot summer’s day.
Alfred Deutsch-German, for his part, paid attention to every smallest detail, focusing now on single objects, now on scars on an ear, now on intense close-ups of young women in love, who, due to bizarre misunderstandings, struggle to make their love dreams come true.
And it is precisely the tender love story between Andreas and the young Paula, whom he helps after an attempted mugging, that acts as a pleasant – although not always properly developed – subplot to the noir component. Yes, because the director, in realising his Die Tat des Andreas Harmer, was clearly inspired by what was simultaneously made in France and in the United States, making a feature film with an international scope, for a story that could take place not only in Austria (the city of Vienna itself, here, is scarcely characterised), but in any other big city in the world. A love story charged with adrenalin, which in the eventful final scene sees its just fulfilment.
After Die Tat des Andreas Harmer, Alfred Deutsch-German made only one more film (Der Musikant von Eisenstadt, directed in 1934 and his only sound film). For the rest of his life, until his tragic death in the Auschwitz concentration camp, he mainly worked as a film producer. The films he directed, however, are still today true gems of Austrian film history.
Original title: Die Tat des Andreas Harmer
Directed by: Alfred Deutsch-German
Country/year: Austria / 1930
Running time: 93′
Cast: Arthur von Duniecki, Tala Birell, Attila Hörbiger, Gina Puch-Klitsch, Oskar Marion, Paula Pfluger, Annie Rosar, Annie Markart, Ly Corelly, Walter Huber, Roman Winter, Kurt Doehn
Screenplay: Alfred Deutsch-German
Cinematography: Hans Theyer
Produced by: Sascha-Film