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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

This week at SFC: Die Elf Teufel (The Eleven Devils) and Football Short Films

All our screenings are FREE ones.

Film makers, film students, amateurs... please submit short films for pre feature screenings .

Feature will commence at 8:15 pm, Football short film programme at 7:45 pm

Doors open at 7:30 pm as usual.

Thursday June 8th DIE ELF TEUFEL (The Eleven Devils) and FOOTBALL SHORT FILMS

Just prior to kick off of the 2006 FIFA World Cup STUDIOFILMCLUB are proud to be screening their first football feature film. In conjunction with and many thanks to the German Embassy of Port of Spain we are also screening our oldest film and first silent movie... Die elf Teufel (The Eleven Devils) still has much resonance and meaning today. Starring Gustav Frohlich – whom some of you may recognise as the lead from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Before the feature we will be screening a selection of short football related films from an International short film competition – 611 applications from 75 countries... organised in conjunction with the FIFA World Cup.

Special thanks to the German Embassy for the loan of tonight’s films and other football films which we have screened and enjoyed as shorts before and after our feature films over the last few months.


Die elf Teufel (Zoltan Korda/ Germany/1927/98’/ silent)

It all sounds like a cliché: on the one side, the poor but honest workers' team who have to count their pennies and shower in the open air, and call their club "Linda" after the nice girl who has become their mascot; on the other, the stinking rich club "International", who can buy the top players, have an indoor pool and rows of massage tables, and hire a "femme fatale" to do their dirty work when money can't buy what they want.
The Eleven Devils was made in Berlin in the summer of 1927, in the last throes of the silent movie era. The director was Hungarian-born Zoltán Korda who went on to film Kipling's Jungle Book in 1942 with the legendary Sabu in the lead. The original screenplay for The Eleven Devils came from the pen of the then 24-year-old Walter Reisch, who later worked as screenwriter for directors like Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor and Otto Preminger. "Artistic supervision" was credited to Carl Boese, who worked continuously in German cinema as director and producer from 1917 to 1957. And the leading man was Gustav Fröhlich who, as Freder in Fritz Lang's Metropolis, knew what it was like to be caught between the extremes of good and evil, and between the love of a good woman and the machinations of her wicked double.
Here Fröhlich faces a similar dilemma. He plays lathe-operator Tommy, top goal scorer for the workers' team, and loved by the mascot Linda. With her blond locks, she reminds one of Gretchen in Murnau's Faust, and is dubbed the "Eleven Devils' Angel" for the innocent way in which she keeps up her team's spirits. The coach of International, Mac Lawrence - a name that to Germans evoked cunning British football know-how - tries to win Tommy for his own team. When it looks as though money won't sway him, the vampish Vivian goes into action, a kind of high class football groupie, introduced as "a keen follower of sport and sportsmen".
The Eleven Devils strikes one today as a prophetic film. One of its early captions is "Football, the sport of the century ". We are shown a ball bathed in light like some sacred relic, and observe how, even in those early days, fans on the terraces wouldn't shy away from using their fists.
For much of the time, The Eleven Devils can't make up its mind between burlesque and melodrama. The Linda goalkeeper, attempting to punch the ball away, falls flat on his bottom in the finest slapstick tradition, while the young fans on the terraces are filmed in close-up pulling grotesque faces. In the final match the goalie even tosses away his glasses in sheer exuberance, recklessly leaving them on the grass right next to the goalpost. By contrast, Linda's sufferings are heartbreaking, particularly on her birthday when, with the players doing their best to cheer her up, she can only think of Tommy, who has now fallen into the clutches of the vamp and is poised to disown Linda as Peter did Christ. Were it not for the comic overtones, you feel the film might end with the poor girl's suicide.
But football and self-slaughter don't really mix. Eventually, the burlesque elements and the melodrama somehow converge and cancel each other out - whether by accident or under the guiding hand of the screenwriter it is hard to say. When a sports paper sponsors a knockout competition, Linda and International are drawn to play each other, just as Tommy has decided to switch sides. It is some time before the penny drops that he is to line up against his old comrades. At the last minute he returns like the prodigal son and turns out for his old team.
And so finally, after the odd kickabout and plenty of commercial and erotic intrigue, we come to the showdown, the match that decides which team fields the better men. The film's structure is like a long overture followed by a rip-roaring finale. Even in those days Zoltán Korda knew that, for credibility's sake, he could only show the match in fragments. The credits reveal that the two teams filmed in long shot were made up of the best players from the top German clubs. But as none of them are identifiable on screen, the shots and close-ups of the main characters could be woven seamlessly into the whole. As the game proceeds, the cuts happen more and more quickly until the fictitious match develops a momentum of its own. Korda proves himself here - only three years after Murnau's groundbreaking The Last Laugh - to be a model pupil in the use of the "unchained camera", and anticipates with breathtaking virtuosity today's rapid tracking shots along the touchline. Such camerawork in a silent movie must literally have taken the spectators' breath away. At the end the film offers a hymn to the "unifying idea of sport". But the subtext, the secret doubts and questions that partly undermine that conclusion, are unmistakable. It is thanks to that ambiguity that, nearly 80 years after it was made, the silent movie The Eleven Devils still seems quite topical.


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