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Friday, July 15, 2011

RARE Jewish silent film Nathan Der Weise / Nathan the Wise (1922) DVD

RARE Jewish silent gem Nathan Der Weise / Nathan the Wise (1922) DVD

Nathan Der Weise / Nathan the Wise (1922) produced in Munich, only one copy has been found. It was found in Gosfilmofond, in Moscow, under the title "Conquest of Jerusalem."

In 1997, the Munich Film Museum obtained a copy. In 2006, following notes from the
censors, the title was renamed and corrected. And tints were restored according to the conventions of the 1920s. Nathan the Wise is a German literary adaptation in six acts of Manfred Noa from the year 1922. It is currently the only cinema production of the play Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing . The TV premiere of the long term as missing current silent film took place on 1 June 2010 on the station arte .

Country: Germany
German & English (intertitles)
Release Date: 21 September 1923 (Austria)
2 hours, 2 minutes, 51 seconds

"A film for humanity"

The 1922 silent film Nathan the Wise, by the German Jewish director Manfred Noa (1893-1930) is to date the only film of the play. It sticks closely to Lessing's plot and, in a cinematic language which still feels modern, tells a story set in Jerusalem during the third crusade when the city was besieged by crusaders. With their technically impressive film, Noa and his producer Erich Wagowski of the Munich-based company Emelka, made a significant statement within early film history in support of a more political cinema. Director and producer wanted to make a "film for humanity", a plea for the peaceful coexistence of peoples and faiths.

Friday, January 12, 2007
‘Nathan Der Weise’
by michael fox, correspondent

Much of the appeal of silent movies — or any art from a distant era — lies in the glimpses they provide of the way people used to live and think. But more often than one might expect, 85-year-old films speak directly to our own time.

Such is the case with "Nathan Der Weise" ("Nathan the Wise"), German-Jewish director Manred Noa's 1922 adaptation of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's 1779 play. Set in and around Jerusalem at the time of the crusades, the story throws Christians, Muslims and Jews together in a melodramatic maelstrom of epic proportions.

With battle and crowd scenes that Cecil B. DeMille must have admired, and emotional displays of anarchy, enmity and revenge, "Nathan Der Weise" is packed with pomp and prejudice. In other words, most of the time it's quite a show.

Viewed through the prism of 1922 Germany, the movie is a plaintive post-World War I plea for the end of armed insanity. From a current vantage point, where the differences between West and East are framed by some as a battle between terrorism and civilization, Christianity and Islam, "Nathan Der Weise" presents religious intolerance as an opportunistic tool wielded by mistrustful and powerful men.

The actor Werner Krauss, coming off his star-making role as the maniacal lead in the German Expressionist classic "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," plays Nathan as a model of restraint and suffering. We are introduced to the bearded Jewish elder some minutes into the film as a voice of moderation, counseling nonviolence among his sons as a marauding gang approaches.

Nathan's family appears to have escaped the violence until a child, pursued by the rampaging criminals and desperate for a hiding place, approaches the synagogue. Nathan shields the boy, a just and brave response by any measure. But the mob torches the shul, and Nathan's wife and children are killed in the blaze.

By the sheerest of coincidences, Nathan subsequently is given a baby to hide by a fleeing horseman. We know from the opening scenes of "Nathan Der Weise" that this is a Christian baby from a powerful family, yet Nathan raises the girl as his own.

Later, the Sultan Saladin lays siege to and eventually defeats Jerusalem's Christians. Those soldiers who can't buy their freedom become his slaves, but the kind and good Nathan steps in and ransoms a large number. Yes, a case can be made that Nathan is the most positive Jewish figure in the history of movies, with the obvious exception of Paul Newman's character in "Exodus."

Needless to say, "Nathan Der Weise" and its portrait of a generous, pacifist Jewish hero did not jibe with the venal image of Jews that Heinrich Himmler and the Nazi Party were hawking to a hungry, embittered nation. Once in power, the Nazis banned the film and years later, in a twisted irony that may or may not have been intentional, cast Werner Krauss as a stereotypically rotten Jew in the infamous 1940 propaganda film "Jud Suss."

Fortunately, "Nathan Der Weise" is now back in circulation to partially offset the overriding perception of Jews in German cinema, namely the painful scenes recorded for Nazi newsreels and immortalized in countless Holocaust documentaries.

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