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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.19:1 Standard
  • German PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with German film scholar Hermann Barth on the filmís production
  • 1988 interview with editor Jean Oser
  • 2016 interview with film scholar Jan-Christopher Horak on the historical context of the film
  • An essay by author and critic Luc Sante

Kameradschaft

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
1931 | 88 Minutes | Licensor: Janus Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #908
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: January 30, 2018
Review Date: February 6, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

When a coal mine collapses on the frontier between Germany and France, trapping a team of French miners inside, workers on both sides of the border spring into action, putting aside national prejudices and wartime grudges to launch a dangerous rescue operation. Director G. W. Pabst brings a claustrophobic realism to this ticking-clock scenario, using realistic sets and sound design to create the maze of soot-choked shafts where the miners struggle for survival. A gripping disaster film and a stirring plea for international cooperation, Kameradschaft cemented Pabstís status as one of the most morally engaged and formally dexterous filmmakers of his time.


PICTURE

Criterion presents the German version of G. W. Pabstís Kameradschaft on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.19:1. According to the notes on the restoration the 2014 2K restoration, conducted by Deutsche Kinemathek, was put together using a 35mm duplicate positive held by the BFI National Archive. Unfortunately the opening credits and the ending were missing, so it uses a 35mm original nitrate negative of the French version to fill in for the ending, while the opening credits are left out. A single insert shot of a newspaper clipping is missing and text notes have been inserted in its place to indicate this to the viewer (interestingly the French version of this insert still exists).

Like its companion release, Westfront 1918, also from Criterion, the image is limited by materials, though probably more-so here. Yet all things considered the source materials look quite remarkable, the restoration work having cleaned it up pretty well. Yes, there are still scratches, tram lines, marks, fluctuations and so on and so forth, with shots and sequences presenting heavier, more intrusive marks and scratches, but on average these instances are pretty infrequent and the general image is clean.

Grain can be dense but it is at least rendered well, looking sharp without appearing blocky or pixilated. The image is a bit blurrier and less detailed in comparison to Westfront 1918 (something I blame more on the elements) but I still think it looks decent, and thanks to the strong black levels and overall contrast the filmís many darker scenes are still very clear and easy to see, nothing getting crushed out. Aided by a sharp encode that keeps a film-like look the final image, despite any remaining source issues, manages to be a real knockout.

7/10

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AUDIO

Age may be again a limiting factor, similar to Westfront, with the audio coming off a bit tinny and hollow, but there is no significant background damage other than a faint background hiss. Itís about what I expected.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Though lacking a significant historical feature like the one on Criterionís Westfront 1918 featuring veterans WWI veterans talking about the film and their experiences, Kameradschaft still packs in some solid material. Film scholar Hermann Barth first pops up for a 30-minute segment about the filmís intriguing production history, starting with the actual 1906 mine cave-in that influenced the film. Pabstís intention with the film was to hopefully address and/or ease tensions that were building in Germany against the French, which had been building since the Treaty of Versailles, but it ultimately didnít play well in the country. But problems arose in development, specifically over possible censorship from the government (as well as objections from the corporation that was allowing Pabst to use their locations for shooting) and Pabst had to be very careful in leaving out anything that could be seen as political, especially difficult when your story revolves around a bunch of working stiffs both employed and unemployed. From here Barth talks about items left out of the original script, as well as various adjustments that were made to dialogue. He also explains that Pabst had originally intended for the film, with characters that spoke either German or French, to shown without subtitles, the idea being this would help show some of the confusion that occurs because of language barriers. While this would have worked with certain scenes where visuals could aid the audience (and Barth points out evidence of Pabstís intentions here) other sequences would have come off far too confusing, like a scene where a French girl turns down a dance request from a German man. He even provides details about the mine set, complete with pictures (looks like a wooden hamster tube maze) along with the filmís reception, which was incredibly lackluster in Germany but a fairly big hit in France. Iím still disappointed there isnít a single commentary between the two titles but this feature, which is jam packed with engaging information, does make up for that absence a little bit.

Similar to Westfront 1918ís features we get another excerpt from an audio recording made by film editor Jean Oser, recorded in 1988 in response the questions sent to him by Barth. This one runs about 4x longer at over 12-minutes and Oser gets far more in-depth about editing this film, primarily because he had to create two cuts: one for Germany and another for France. He explains the two cuts, even making mention of the key differences between both, though notes the differences are mainly that he used different takes for similar scenes in each cut. Still, the French version does feature a montage missing from the German version and the German versionís original ending (which again has gone missing) was more political. Oser does consider the German cut the definitive version, though, saying the French cut is the ďwatered downĒ one. I do find it interesting that the French version wasnít included on this release (my understanding is that a print still exists, which was used to fill in the ending for the German version presented here) but remedying that a bit is that the audio does play over segments from the French version, showcasing some of the alternate takes, the montage excised from the German version, the opening credits, and the French newspaper insert. In all Oser offers a wonderful amount of detail around editing the film and the feature has also been nicely constructed with footage from the French version showcasing some of his comments.

Scholar Jan-Christopher Horak, who also appears on the Westfront 1918 disc, appears yet again on this disc to offer an intro of sorts to the film, though it does contain spoilers (Iíll point out the feature was also originally made for the UK Masters of Cinema edition). Horakís contribution for this film isnít as thorough as what he provided for the other film, giving a simple outline of its production, talking about the various actors that appear in the film, and then its release. But of most value here is his coverage of Pabstís career after this film, talking about his short-lived move to the States and his return to Germany during the war, going over some of his later films. Horakís piece is fine, though an expansion on Pabstís career after the war would have been a beneficial feature.

Criterion then includes an actual booklet (not just an insert) which first features an essay by Luc Sante. Most interesting, though, is the included ďtreatmentĒ written up by Karl Otten for a contest involving the submission of film story ideas. It was this piece that was used for Pabstís film.

An obvious feature would have been the alternate French version of the film (my understanding here is that it still exists in its entirety but I could be mistaken) but the supplements are otherwise fairly well rounded and engaging.

8/10

CLOSING

The materials hold this one back a bit more in comparison to what we got for Westfront 1918 but I still found the restoration work and final presentation impressive. And though it lacks a feature as significant as the veteran discussion found on the other disc the features here do a wonderful job covering the filmís interesting production history and its multiple versions (short of actually including one of those alternate versions). Itís another solid release to add to your collection.


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