Der Schweigende Engel

Today’s update is an old review (I think it was written in 2002). It appears here unedited. The movie, Der Schweigende Engel (The Numb Angel),  is a 1954 movie by Harald Reinl. I’ve added it here because this movie is still unreleased on dvd. In fact, in my history of reviews for the IMDb there have been two movies which I often received mails for: the excellent short by Alan Cumming (Burn Your Phone) and this film. Did I own it myself? No, I only saw it on tv. So no, I couldn’t help them to a copy. Ever since, I’ve never caught another screening of this film. That’s why it deserved a post, I thought. It’s rarely seen and hardly known (only 7 votes on the IMDb site).

Der Schweigende Engel is a melodrama about a young man, Andreas, who has to go to prison after meddling with counterfeiter Kats. After serving his time, Andreas hopes to start a new and decent life, but Kats isn’t true with him and even tries to involve Andreas’s mute sister Angelika in his sick schemes.

Elements of a film noir seem to have found their way into this melodrama. Not every element though, unless I managed to miss the presence of a femme fatale. The only girl that could pass for a femme fatale is the sweet-looking ballerina who puts a needle in Angelika’s shoe. The nicest ode to the film noir genre is in a scene where naive officers try to find out who the counterfeiters are: they ask the girl at a box office who gave her the money and she gives them a weird look: “Do you know how many 20 Mark notes we get on a day?” The film playing at that theatre is Jacques Tourneur’s classic film noir “Out of the Past”.

It’s easy to summarize “Der Schweigende Engel”: a talented young girl has a nasty accident which makes her lose her voice, her brother’s in a bit of trouble, counterfeiters blackmail her (if you don’t distribute the dirty money, we will do something to your brother), she’s so talented some ballerinas are jealous. And yes, this is the sort of melodrama where you can guess the ending a long time before the movie is over, but that doesn’t matter: soak yourself in the many emotions and enjoy the several nods to the film noir. The predictable ending is even worse than you could have expected (we could have done without that monologue!), but there is so much you can enjoy before the ending it would be a shame you would miss the entire film for that.

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