Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, Kurt Gerron
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Running Time: 100 mins
The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel) is a German film about a school professor who, after confronting his disobedient students at a local cabaret bar, falls in love with the bar’s lead dancer.
This film is now 86 years old, and it is a part of the time in cinema that is pretty hard to relate to nowadays. Whilst there are a couple of moments of entertainment here, it’s tough to watch a film like this without thinking of it more as a historical document, rather than just a movie, because it is so far from what we’v been accustomed to for years.
That said, you do have to admire The Blue Angel for the fact that it was so groundbreaking and important at the time of its release. Filmed in both German and English, it was one of the first internationally-acclaimed foreign films, whilst it’s also got talking in it. That may not seem like much considering that this was made three years after the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, but even for 1930, talkies were still hugely advanced, and it’s impressive to see it here, also in a much more sound and coherent dialogue track.
The directing isn’t bad either. Although a lot of this film is extremely stationary, either set in a classroom or a cabaret bar, there are some shots in The Blue Angel, particularly the final shot, that are really impressive for the time.
But the main reason that I just couldn’t find any real enjoyment out of this film was because its plot felt so dull. It’s designed as a sort of tragicomedy about the fall of a once-principled school professor to a lowly clown in a cabaret bar after he falls in love with this dancer, but it’s never really that emotionally affecting, or funny.
The major issue that I have was the lack of dialogue. Now, just like The Jazz Singer, in the early days of non-silent cinema, it was hard to make a dialogue track, meaning that the script had to be shortened. However, the amount of dialogue here is almost less than you’d get in a run-of-the-mill silent movie, often going up to ten minutes without anyone saying a word. If it’s a silent movie, that’s fine, because there’s a big score to add emotion, but when you’re watching a film that spends so long just looking at its characters moving around in rooms making clunking noises, it’s understandably difficult to get interested, and that’s why I’m giving The Blue Angel a 6.0.