This lavish, impudent, adult fairy tale takes the viewer from 18th-century Braunschweig to St. Petersburg, Constantinople, Venice, and then to the moon using ingenious special effects, stunning location shooting.
The character of Baron Münchhausen is a bit of an obsession with me. I’ve read every book about him I could get my hands on, and even made a pilgrimage or two down the Märchenstraße (Fairytale Road) in Northern Germany to visit his manor house/museum.
There are an awful lot of Münchhausen movies out there as well, some terrible, some sublime, and some cleaving right down the middle. In the pantheon of Baron M. films, this 1943 German version rates just slightly below Karel Zeman’s luminous masterpiece of live actors and stop-action animation, Baron Prášil. This film is beautiful in its own right, filling each frame with sumptuous scenery and costumes, saturated colors, brilliant in-camera effects, and sly, philosophical dialogue about shunning authority and seeking out all that life has to offer.
It’s a shame that this film hasn’t been more widely seen, but it’s gotten an undeserved reputation as being a Nazi propaganda film because it was made during WWII on the orders of Joseph Goebbels himself, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of UFA Studios. In fact, it’s a clever bait-and-switch on the Reichsfilmkammer. Screenwriter Erich Kästner was actually a blacklisted Jew, who had his books burned by the Nazis, and had to spirit his girlfriend out of Germany to escape the deathcamps. Kästner’s script is filled with concealed slams against his Nazi overloads, which they were apparently too arrogant (or stupid) to detect.
The result is truly a gorgeous, subversive masterpiece which should be required viewing in every film class as a primer on how to produce a movie with a message that comes through loud and clear, without beating the audience over the head with it. James Cameron and Matt Damon, are you listening?
2.71GB | 1h 57mn | 792×576 | mkv