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THE COLD HEART

East Germany, 1950 (MIFF 1958, Programme 22)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

A dramatic fantasy, in colour, of a handsome young peasant who pledges his heart to an inimical wood demon in exchange for worldly prosperity. But without a heart, he loses the means of enjoying his good fortune and becomes cruel and sadistic and eventually a murderer.

Two traditions are at work here. The first, literary and dramatic, traces from Goethe, Hoff¬mann, Ewers and Lindau: the deep-seated obsession with dualism of personality which Siegfried Kracauer found so significant. In this eight-year-old DEFA production, Peter Munk's dualism and eventual regeneration might well be taken as a rather half-hearted symbol of the German people yesterday and today. Far more rewarding is the second tradition, the purely cinematic one of Paul Wegener's earliest films &ndash: The Student of Prague and Rubezahl's Marriage &ndash: fantasies rich in demonology, imagination, mystery and trick camerawork. Paul Verhoeven's sharp, assured direction offers all these properties: it has colour and panache; the woods are truly enchanted; and in the settings, costumes and vistas there is more than a hint of Diirer and Breughel.

The macabre trick scenes are remarkable—as when tlie hero encounters the forest demons and also later when he tries to rescind his sinister pact. An agressively handsome young actor in a blond wig, Lutz Molk, gives a bright, calculated, mercurial performance that is part Siegfried . . .

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