The Great King

The Great King

Der Große König (Original Title)

Der Grosse Konig was begun in 1940 and tells the story of Prussia's greatest king, Frederick the Great. It is 1759 and Prussia has just suffered one of its greatest defeats at Kunersdorf at the hands of the Austrians. Prussia is surrounded by enemies and after losing more than half his army, Friedrich wonders whether he and his kingdom will survive for much longer. All of Friedrich's advisors reasonably suggest capitulation while there is still a country left to save. No one is more determined to see Friedrich end his campaigns than his own brother, who is to inherit the throne upon the great king's death. But Friedrich is determined to perservere in spite of well-meaning advice, attempts on his life by allies of the Habsburghs, and treachery on the part of the Russian commander in East Prussia, who pretends to offer Friedrich an alliance.

1h 58min
March 3, 1942
Admin comments

Surely one of the best films of the decade from one of the best directors. Pompous, self-indulgent, melodramatic, operatic, and therefore full of many condensed truths of life, Harlan depicts male characters that are ambivalent to the core. Otto Gebühr, who played King Friedrich II. in over a dozen films from the early 20s onwards, culminating in this film, gives a masterful performance as the titular hero, who can only let his true emotions come into play when he is alone. Bruno Mondi was one of the best cameramen of his time at Harlan’s disposal. His cinematography produces many special moments that had me in their grip from the beginning. The way he shows close-ups of faces (think Hollywood of the 30s combined with Eisenstein) or makes one of his tremendous tracking shots (equally effective in enhancing the dynamics on the battle field or zooming in on people). His super-impositions, montage-sequences or the combination of both, like in the incredible closing images of Friedrich's eyes over a rotating windmill.

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