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Urlaub auf Ehrenwort (Absence on Word of Honor)

 

[note: An ESSAY on the film appears at the bottom of this webpage.]

 

This particular poster is printed without any credits, actors, director, or text.....with just the full 7–ink colour lithographic design with the Uƒa film studio rhombus, as it is an 'Auslandsvertriebplakat' meant for foreign export, where the text could be over–printed in the language of the country –– in this case, Kanji, in Imperial Japan, two years after the film was released in Germany.

Both Unternehmen Michael and Urlaub auf Ehrenwort arrived in Imperialist Japan in 1940. Unternehmen Michael was highly praised by the Japanese critics and leading film directors. According to Cin­ema and the Swastika the film was used as the basis for the famous Japanese militarist film General, Staff and Soldiers (Dir. Taguchi Sa­toshi, 1942) and was one of the few foreign films to influence Japan in that era.

Interestingly, Unternehmen Michael was severely censored when shown in Japan because of the battlefield slaughter, to which the Japanese censors objected. Urlaub apparently strongly influenced Shima Koji’s Twelve Hours to Departure (1943) although Tokyo crit­ics felt Ritter’s film was superior. Urlaub also was the ‘structure’ for the July 1945 Japanese film The Last Visit Home (directors Yoshimu-ra Misao and Tanaka Shigeo) when kamikaze pilots return home for the last time before their final mission. Highly regarded film director Tomotaka Tasaka (Five Scouts, 1938, amongst others) stated that Ritter’s films ‘penetrate the Japanese viewer to the soul.’  –––excerpt from KARL RITTER - HIS LIFE AND 'ZEITFILMS' UNDER NATIONAL SOCIALISM, by William Gillespie, 2nd edition © 2014, pg. 81.

 

Here, below left,  is the rubber–stamp from the reverse side of the poster, indicating both the German and Japanese Kanji text title for the film in 1940. On the right, a contremporary Imperial Japan ad for the film, also from our Collection:

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Note below the English–language wording "Printed in Germany" on the edge of the poster as printed by August Scherl Verlag in Berlin. This wording, which does not appear on the copies of the same poster distributed inside Germany, allowed for the export of the poster sheet to foreign destinations export tax–free.

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Finally, here is the way the poster in Germany itself looked, with film title, as shown in the "Werberatschlag" (cinema owners' publicity guide to the film, as published by the Uƒa film studio to encourage movie theatre owners to pre–order posters in time for the film's premiere. The other poster shown above this one is the Peter Pewas designed poster, also available to cinema owners, which is not in our Collection.

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 ESSAY:

 

Karl Ritter’s  WWI classic, Leave on Word of Honor(1938)

 

Karl Ritter’s WWI trilogy, Patrioten (September 1937), Unternehmen Michael (November 1937), and Urlaub auf Ehrenwort (January 1938) came out of slices of life impressed and shaken by his own WWI experiences; those from soldiering and his world view. These great political Zeitfilms (contemporary films) decisively established the name Ritter in the film world and amongst the German film-going public. Pour le Mérite (December 1938) followed, bridging Germany’s defeat in WWI through the desolate years of Weimar government and the coming to power of the Hitler regime.

Urlaub auf Ehrenwort (Leave on Word of Honor) builds on the theme established in his two earlier WWI films  -- that of the fate of the individual and his community; and duty to that community. The oeuvre of these films shows tragedy and struggle alike between a personal fate and that of a people.

It is autumn 1918. Seventy men on a troop train, who are to be assigned to a new regiment on the western front, come into Berlin with a six-hour stopover. The men breathe in the atmosphere of their homes on the march between the Schlesischen and Potsdamer train stations, as most of them are Berliners. Nevertheless, their young Lieutenant is not permitted to grant them leave. Doing so is a most serious military offence. Especially here in Berlin, subversive powers against the homeland are at work. Desertion is a major threat. But the men ask and press the young officer. He relents:  “ I grant you leave of absence until five thirty this afternoon – on your word of honor to return! ” And the young Lieutenant then stands alone on the train platform. If even just one of them deserts, that is, one of his men, it is as if he himself deserted! It would become a matter of loyalty.

The camera tracks from man to man, soldier to soldier, giving creative form that they all individually shape into every conceivable variation, caused by different occupations, characters and temperaments, on account of the different milieus shown. There’s the underworld neighborhood pub,the petty bourgeois apartment, the painter’s studio, the Marxist café, the red light hotel, the summer house garden, the barber shop, and the music conservatory. Out of the destiny of the individuals events are triggered, and private individual fates dissolve into the destiny of the community. The Berlin milieus are shown as a part of each individual’s fate – in the background of the whole, in a causal connection brought to the concept of the film. The cinematic working of all scenes was directly won out of this deep connection: between man – milieu – idea. And there, where men are willing to take on a battle – whether it be with one another or with the subversive elements of those times. Battles which must be confronted and won before a return to the Front in the last months of Germany’s great battle for victory.

Ritter had a splendid cast of actors to draw on for this ensemble film: Ralf Moebius, Carl Raddatz (in his film debut), Rene Deltgen, Fritz Kampers, Berta Drew, Ingeborg Theek; and many other fine character actors. 

In comments to the press, Ritter stated:

“Most of all, I have protected myself from any false pathos! The actors were to be nothing more than the average of our people, as we had in the trenches in 1918, and it was also important to portray the life of Berlin realistically and without false pathos.”

Leave on Word of Honor was a huge success for both the Ufa film studio and for Karl Ritter personally. Box office records, some going back to the late Weimar years, were broken in cinemas across the country. 

The 27 January 1938 SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korpsreview stated that ‘the  film is one after our heart,’ which had a ‘remarkable effect on the public – the  film itself belongs – artistically speaking – to the very best which we have yet seen.’ In the biographical sketch on Ritter in the popular magazine Filmwelt #20 in 1938, Leave on Word of Honor was described thus: ‘It is a film which one can say that for all time will be numbered among the great cinematic feats of the Third Reich.’ The official government organ, Der Deutsche Film, said the film was ‘the unique example of a war film without war, a period  film to form a cross section through the pregnant moments of a new era.’ The Stockholm Tidningen newspaper hailed it as ‘the best German film that we have seen here in a long time – it is filled with humanity.’  Even Switzerland, which during WWII banned Ritter’s Stukas, approved. The film magazine Schweizer Film Suiss nr.62, April 1938, stated that it was ‘a production that can be convincingly recommended.’

--- William Gillespie, author of Karl Ritter, 2ndedition ©2014and The Making of the Crew of the Dora, ©2016. 

 

 

 

 
Year
1938
 
Director
Ritter
 
Country
Germany