Last night I was invited by my friend Ute to attend the screening of a 1927 German silent film ‘Der Himmer auf Erden’ (Heaven on Earth) which was accompanied by a live orchestra. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I certainly didn’t think that the experience would be as enjoyable as it was.
The film was the usual farce of misunderstandings and wacky characters and of course the usual (for that time) scenario of the main male character ending up in drag. This is where things stopped making sense.
The film is about the main character Bellmann inheriting the notorious nightclub Himmel auf Erden on the same day he gets married and makes a speech in parliament about shutting down notorious nightclubs like Himmel auf Erden (it was a busy day for him). Of course, he tells no one about his inheritance and this sets up the whole farce. At the end of the film, he encounters his father-in-law at the nightclub and dresses up as a woman to avoid him. His new bride also turns up at the club and it is revealed that the gorgeous woman that the father-in-law was flirting with is in fact his son-in-law. Bellmann’s new wife and father-in-law are shocked at this depraved behaviour until it is revealed that he is the owner of the nightclub and then his cross dressing ways are all forgiven. Um, what the? It’s okay to cross dress if you are the owner of a notorious nightclub but not okay if you aren’t? Those are some interesting social rules they had back in the 1920s.
Still, I totally recommend that if you ever get the chance to see a German silent film accompanied by a live orchestra, that you definitely go. It was such a fun evening and a unique experience, plus it gives your German reading skills a real workout.