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Some of the great movies of all time such as "Gone With the Wind", "Doctor Zhivago" and "War and Peace" have set their characters adrift against a backdrop of momentous historical events.
"Fräulein" is certainly set against awesome historical events, but the filmmakers seem to have tackled the drama with one hand tied behind their backs - and the old Hollywood Production Code probably did much of the tying.
The film is set in Germany at the end of WW2. Erika Angermann (Dana Wynter), a young German woman encounters an escaping American prisoner, Major Foster MacLain (Mel Ferrer) who plays a significant role in her life. She flees from the Russian zone to the American Zone and undergoes many of the things women in Germany experienced at the end of the war. The sense of degradation and humiliation visited upon the defeated nation is touched on in a number of sequences.
However Erika's episode with the Red Army stretches credulity. Although upwards of 2,000,000 German women were raped by the avenging Red Army, Erika manages to stay chaste, miraculously slipping through their fingers, despite being so eye-catching that in reality she would probably have been the object of a full-scale pincer movement.
The film was based on a novel that had a harder edge, but of course a Hollywood movie in 1956 had to tone things down. Even with those limitations, more could have been done to capture a sense of the great upheaval and dislocation of millions of people that took place. Despite some footage shot on location, the direction and photography for the most part is pedestrian.
A few sequences do resonate: Erika briefly seen as one of the Trümmerfrau or rubble woman; Lt. Hugo Von Metzler (Helmut Dantine), the once proud officer reduced to making lampshades; the cruel way in which Erika is set up as a prostitute by people she trusted.
Dana Wynter (who was born in Germany) was an actress who made an impression on me growing up in the 1950's ("Something of Value", "D-Day the Sixth of June"); she seemed the epitome of beauty and elegance. Maybe Hollywood didn't know what to do with her; surely she should have become a bigger star.
"Fräulein" is interesting for the time in which it was set and its beautiful star. Unfortunately it settled for being a romance rather than something more telling.
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