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Pabst, Georg Wilhelm

b. 1885, Raudnitz, Austria-Hungary; d. 1967, Vienna, Austria

Kameradschaft 1931 Film, 92 min. Coproduction by Nero-Film AG, Berlin and Gaumont-Franco- Aubert, Paris. 

Over the course of a career that spanned three and a half decades, Georg Wilhelm Pabst directed more than 30 feature films. Kameradschaft was the penultimate work he produced in the Weimar Republic. Based on the events surrounding an accident in a Courrières coal mine in 1906, the film takes the heroic rescue effort as an opportunity to elaborate a timely allegory of internationalist worker solidarity. After learning that an explosion has trapped hundreds of French miners in their tunnels, off duty German miners on the other side of the border requisition their company’s rescue equipment and rush to lend their aid. Meanwhile, a trio of German miners already below ground on their side of the mine tries to reach their colleagues by navigating through the tunnels themselves, making quick work of the flimsy gate that separates the two nations. The ensuing encounter in the underground labyrinth evokes the hellish conditions of coal mines as the rescuers confront piles of corpses buried in the wreckage, noxious gases, and nigh unbearable heat from the fires that smoulder throughout the network of tunnels. After the survivors of the accident and the rescuers have all emerged, a pair of celebratory speeches verbalises the film’s ostensible message: “Kumpel ist Kumpel.” A miner is a miner, regardless of his nationality. In a final scene, edited out of some early versions of the film (Berman 1990:116), a pair of officers inaugurates the newly refurbished gate separating France and Germany, each from his own side of the border. CMF