Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rosen blühen auf dem Heidegrab (1952)

... aka: Dorothee
... aka: Rape on the Moor
... aka: Roses Bloom on the Grave in the Meadow
... aka: Roses Blood on the Moor Grave

Directed by:
Hans H. König

In a small country village, lovely young blonde Dorothee Aden (Ruth Niehaus) has attracted the attention of two very different men. The first is Ludwig Amelung (Armin Dahlen), a nice guy architect who's been away in the big city and is beginning to do quite well for himself there. He's back in town visiting his mother Sophie (Lotte Brackebusch) and bragging about the modern apartment blueprints he's just sold when Dorothee catches his eye. The other man is big, brutish, violent and hot-tempered Dietrich Eschmann (Hermann Schomberg), a well-off local farmer who already has a lover, maid Fiete (Gisela von Collande), but is obsessed with Dorothee. He's quite pushy when he's around her and goes so far as to get the consent of Dorothee's parents for a marriage proposal. Unfortunately for him, she's not the least bit interested. Dorothee's parents however, at least her father (Konrad Mayerhoff), seem to side with Dietrich. Nevertheless, Dorothee is more interested in Ludwig and the two quickly fall in love. He decides to eventually propose to her himself once he tends to some business.

Dietrich gets pissed at what's going on and, madly in love with Dorothee, decides to destroy their romance. He slashes the tires on Ludwig's car so he and Dorothee cannot go on a trip, which leads to a (horribly-choreographed) fist fight, which leads to a drunken Dietrich trying to stab his rival with a switchblade in a pub. Ludwig has to go away to Hamburg for a meeting and Dietrich uses this opportunity to really force himself upon the object of his unwanted affections. After church, he follows Dorothee through a field, pins her down and rapes her on top a grave, but it's no ordinary grave, but one that holds with it a local superstition of "The Roses of Wilhelmina." 300 years ago during the Thirty Years War, a Swedish general (also Schomberg) gained the trust of a German girl named Wilhelmina (also Niehaus). After he raped her, she led him into the moors and the two were never seen or heard from again. Someone left a tombstone behind bidding farewell to Wilhelmina, where a big, lone rose bush began to grow around the grave marker and continues to grow to this day. Local superstition has it that the roses are bewitched. Will history be repeating itself.

Roses is basically one part melodrama, one part romance and one part ambiguous and possibly supernatural revenge tale. The dramatics and accompanying music score are pretty hokey and the symbolic elements are of the baseball-bat-over-the-head school of subtlety unless you missed one of the 5000 other Euro 'art' films that link up rosebuds and virginity. Still, this is worth checking out strictly for its visuals. It's beautifully photographed in black-and-white and has some breathtaking scenery. The director has a deep love and appreciation for nature, which is evident in lots of long, loving, lingering shots of the outdoor locations. Silhouettes of trees, plants, windmills, horses, field workers and other things stand out from the horizon, lone trees stand isolated in flat fields, the sun shines through the clouds, boats sail along small creeks, horse-drawn carriages travel down dirt paths and tall grass blows in the breeze. These shots are very nicely framed and create an intoxicating atmosphere; an impact lessened a bit by a story that's not dated so well over the years. I know films need to be put into context to when they were made but modern viewers are going to be downright offended by some of what goes down here. And rightfully so! You may want to skip the next paragraph if you don't want the ending spoiled cause that's just what I'm about to do.

You still here? You're just asking for it, aren't you? So here goes. Not only does the Dietrich character not get what he has coming to him, but he's not even punished for the violent acts and rape he's committed. To make matters even less palatable, the ending seems to want to warm our hearts with the mere idea that he learned a valuable lesson from what he's done! Depictions of the weak female characters are also probably going to rub anyone under the age of 80 the wrong way. Instead of discussing what's happened with her future husband, a post-rape Dorothee simply tries to kill herself since her "virtue" is no longer intact. In her defense, it's possible she's the reincarnation of - or possessed by - the Wilhelmina character, so that may explain that. There is no such excuse for Dietrich's lover Fiete. He manhandles her, lusts after another woman, rapes another woman and then kicks her out of the house so he can be with the rape victim, and there she is at the end cradling him in her arms professing her love. It's impossible to celebrate love between a man who deserves to be castrated and thrown in prison and a pathetic, spineless doormat who desperately need to see a therapist.

Lead actress Niehaus was dubbed Germany's answer to Rita Hayworth back in her day. She reportedly rejected the advances of - and a marriage proposal from - Orson Welles in real life. Roses never received much of an American release and remains mostly unseen in this country till this day.


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