Furlough on Word of Honor

Furlough on Word of Honor

Urlaub Auf Ehrenwort (Original Title)

Autumn 1918. Four long years of horror and bloodshed left Germany perilously close to losing the First World War. Frontline troops have had enough. To Berlin, a capital teeming with deserters, pacifists, and red agitators, comes a trainload of recently convalesced troops, on their way back to the Western front. With only six hours until their departure and no time for leave, the battle-weary recruits beg their young commanding officer, Lieutenant Prätorius, (Rolf Moebius), for leave.

Prätorius grants their request, knowing that if even one soldier fails to return, he will face a court-martial. Some troops seek out their girlfriends, wives, and families, while others drink away the hours in bars, cafés, and a bordello. Several are tempted to desert, increasing tension as departure time nears. Seven minutes left. Two minutes. Will they honor their sense of duty and reach the station in time?

In this, the final picture in Karl Ritter's First World War trilogy, the theme is duty to the Volksgemeinschaft (people's community), first explored in the two films that preceded it, Patrioten (Patriots) and Unternehmen Michael (Operation Michael), but this time on the home front. Urlaub auf Ehrenwort (Furlough on Word of Honor) premiered to tremendous acclaim on January 11, 1938 in Cologne and then moved to Berlin's opulent Ufa-Palast am Zoo. Its New York run began on March 27, and it was exhibited at the Venice Film Festival on August 31. The film was immensely popular abroad, where it was acclaimed for its humanitarian values, only to be censured after the war for promoting senseless sacrifice and slaughter.

1h 27min
March 9, 1938
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US censorship

Admin comments

What lifts this movie, is the diverse range of minor stories which it very simply crafts, and which thus form and drive it. These stories of the common man and woman are played out effectively against a backdrop of impending social upheaval; of rationing at home, of nascent socialism, and the ultimate betrayal of the military by the left, the profiteers and the defeatists.

This film was censured after the war for promoting “senseless” sacrifice. I guess that sacrifice, honor and commitment are not the essential virtues in a Marxist liberal democratic society.

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