Enormously Entertaining And Enormously Touching
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1927 in Berlin, Harry Frommermann (Ulrich Noethen), a poor, talented musician, puts an ad in a paper asking that anyone interested in forming a singing group meet with him. Robert Biberti (Ben Becker) shows up, equally poor but brash, confident, full of drive. Soon there are five of them, plus the piano accompanist. They are all young, all talented singers, all unknown. Frommermann is the creative force, choosing the songs and creating the vocal arrangements. And of the six, three are Jews (including Frommermann), and three are gentile (including Biberti). By the end of 1927 they have become a huge success in Germany as The Comedian Harmonists. The perform in white tie and tails, sing complex harmonies, all sorts of songs, and use their voices to imitate instruments. In the next few years their success extends to Europe and the United States. Some say, even now, that they are one of the greatest vocal groups of the century. After Hitler comes to power they are quickly banned from singing any songs written by Jews. Even so, they believe their popularity will provide them protection. At the end of a successful tour in the United States they debate about returning to Germany, but decide to go back where their friends and families are. In 1934, the group is banned from performing in public, and the Nazis strongly hint that the Aryan members of the group should reform without the Jewish members. Eventually the Jews leave Germany and the Aryan members stay put. Both form new groups but without any particular success. Both groups disband in 1941.
This movie works on many levels:
--It's a clear-eyed view of the growing racist changes in German society after Hitler comes to power. It shows how people didn't want to see what was happening around them. A Jewish music shop owner who has racist slogans painted on her window blames it on kids.
--It tells not only the story of The Comedian Harmonists, but the stories of the individual members. One Aryan who is married to a Jew divorces her as soon as he can and eventually marries the daughter of a wealthy Nazi. The Aryan girlfriend of a Jewish member of the group unhesitatingly converts to Judaism so they can marry in his faith. They eventually wind up in San Francisco in a happy marriage that lasted over fifty years. One Aryan member (Biberti) helped design rocket bombs during the war. One Jewish member (Frommermann) became a U.S. citizen, immediately joined the Army and spent the war years entertaining U.S. troops. One Jewish member after the war became a manufacturer of eye glass frames.
--It resurrects the style and skill of The Comedian Harmonists, who in America have been long forgotten. Throughout the movie the group performs some of their best songs, with the actors expertly lip synching to superbly restored original recordings.
There are many movies which show the impact of Nazism in the Thirties and Forties. I suppose the fate of a successful singing group, in that context, might not be considered worth too much attention. But this is an accomplished movie, with great acting. It is entertaining and enormously affecting. It's a movie well worth having. The DVD transfer is excellent."
A Fantastic Film on Many Levels
Lisa Shea | 02/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Harmonists is a movie about the real life singing group which rose to fame during World War II. The group was torn apart by the Nazis and ended their brilliant career abruptly.The movie does a great job of showing how the six men had very different personalities from each other but blended together to create incredible music. There was love and bitterness, friendship and joy. The group focusses on singing for their audience, but in the meantime the Nazi power grows.There are three Jewish men in the group, and each one looks at his faith differently. There are also Jewish women involved with the men, and each situation causes friction and difficulty. The group gets more and more pressure to abandon its Jewish members.The group does visit New York, where all but one member want to stay. Because of that one member, though, the group returns to Germany. Shortly after, they are banned from singing and the three Jewish members leave Germany permanently.The actual group, the Comedian Harmonists, are still considered to be one of the greatest groups in Europe and their records are treasured. If you haven't heard of this group before, be sure to watch the DVD! The musical performances are a real treat and the story is quite moving."
From the view of a german
vaxachill | Trier Deutschland | 06/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"the average american movie goer might not expect too much from a german movie,and mostly isn't that wrong.But when we make good movies,than they're really great.
If you want to get a feeling about "how could all these have happened?"you'll find a splinter of it in a movie that describes the life of six artists from the late 20s to the life under Nationalsozialismus before WWII.Seldom a movie made me cry like this, the struggle of the six for their art and the daily life struggles, the love they shared and they shouldn't have shared, their creed,they fought for and how the good in life ends under the boots of evil- and more, ends, cause too many turned their heads, reminding everybody of us on the words of german poet H.Heine:In einem Land, in dem Bücher brennen, brennen bald auch Menschen(in a country where books burn,soon will burn humans)written 100 years before Hitler. The movie not only is a must for every german, it also is a must for everybody who wants to understand what will be the consequences of turning your head and keep silent.
Excellent sound, graet acting and camera combined with a detail-obsessed directing and a music that is eternal, based on a story only life can write.
But when the US-DVD is available only with 2.0 sound german audio-track and english subtitles and your german isn't that bad at all,stay with the german region 2 coded version with its 5.1 audio track.Listen to the original sound of "Die Comedian Harmonists" and if you want more information you can have a documentary video tape from 1976 (german director E.Feschner) with interviews with all that time still alive members of the group, called The Comedian Harmonists-6 Lebensläufe, available from Studio Hamburg,in case amazon doesn't carry it)"
An excellent film!
Lisa Shea | 01/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Harmonists is a gripping tale about a group of singers and a piano accompanist who won the hearts of the world through their music. It is based on a true story, taking place in 1930 Berlin. In the advent of Nazism, the three Jewish members were prohibited from performing with them, and the group had to choose between music and politics. The actual recordings of the original group's music are used, with a deeply nostalgic effect. The music speaks to the heart, from joyous songs about springtime to sad farewell songs. Music is portrayed so powerfully that the Jewish leader of the group finds himself physically sick and unable to continue singing when the group attempts to fill a request from a major local Nazi leader.The film focuses on the founding of the group, their difficulties as a growing group, their world success, to their eventual fall. It explores the conflicts within the group and the political tensions outside the group. The music is nostalgic, even to those who have never heard it before. The story is timeless. The action is gripping. The problem is real."