Berlinale: Yearbook


2nd Berlin International Film Festival
June 12 - 25, 1952

"If we can help a little bit, that would be wonderful. The whole world is waiting for a German film. When they begin copying Hollywood, though, it's all over."

(Billy Wilder in an interview for "Die Welt".)

© Filmmuseum Berlin
Gérard Philipe in Fanfan, la Tulipe

Success awakens ambitions

The success of the first year secures Alfred Bauer’s position. At the same time the international attention that the festival brought awakens ambitions among various social and political groups. Many hope to profit from the prestigious event and so the working committee set up to prepare the second Berlinale becomes too large with 25 members, leaving little more than a type of advisory body. Alfred Bauer continues to make the real decisions. Already in the following year the committee and its tasks are split in two.

The Titania-Palast in Steglitz, the main venue of the opening year, was for many too far away. After an extensive debate, the Delphi Filmpalast in Kanstraße and the Capitol on Lehniner Platz – today the home of the Schaubühne theatre – are chosen as the new festival cinemas. The new venues promise to bring in more revenues and are located closer to the organizers’ offices, which moved to the Budapester Straße not far from Zoo Station during the run-up to the festival.

FIAPF intervenes

Further changes take place on the international level. The FIAPF (Federation Internationale des Associations des Producteurs de Films) banned the Berlinale from letting a jury award official prizes, in other words organizing a competition, which is reserved solely for Cannes and Venice. While this puts a damper on the Berlinale, the festival’s future depended on the FIAPF, and it was impossible to ignore the organization. Berlin reacted diplomatically. Through different political interventions and informal initiatives, the festival managed to win over the German FIAPF representative Dr. Günter Schwarz, thanks to whom the Berlinale was at least recognized as a regular film festival at the convention of the FIAPF in 1952. A “foreign policy” success – and yet there was still an unresolved conflict with the SPIO, the umbrella organization of German feature film producers, who felt they were underrepresented at the Berlinale.

© Filmmuseum Berlin
The Capitol cinema in 1952

In fact in the early years the influence of political players on the festival was considerably greater that that of filmmakers or representatives of the film industry. The Berlinale was seen as a delicate political entity, rather than a cultural counterweight to the political hardships of the era. Important decisions were made based on political considerations. The “special situation of Berlin” was considered more than the concerns of the film industry; often Bauer’s work resembled more that of a diplomat than that of an artistic director.

The first "scandal"

A scandal surrounding Orson Welles typified this environment of skewed priorities. Welles’ film Othello would have become one of the highlights of the festival – had not the working committee entered into a fierce debate over critical comments Welles had made two years before on the situation in post-war Germany. Several committee members interpreted Welles' comments as “anti-German” and took the opportunity to prevent Othello from being invited to the festival. When finally the committee decided to belatedly send Welles an invitation, the director turned it down.

Opening 1952

At the 1952 festival, most attention was lavished upon Billy Wilder, who missed no opportunity to spread optimism about the future of German film. German film was in urgent need of a boost. Already in the first year, the German entries to the festivals had been a flop with both the press and audiences. It didn’t go any better in the second year. Many were surprised and shocked by the blunt reactions of the audience. If it liked a film, the Berlinale audience reacted with euphoria. The reaction was no less outspoken when it disliked a film. The audience’s booing nearly forced some screenings to be broken off.

A daring winner

One of the most observed and most controversial films at the 1952 Berlinale was Hon Dansade en Sommar (One Summer of Happiness) directed by Arne Mattson. The single nude scene was a considered risky, and yet finally was well received as an expression of a new freedom. The film won the Golden Bear – chosen by the audience, which awarded the prizes through collective voting. And so the Berlinale could meet the requirements of the FIAPF without having to do away with the awarding of prizes. And yet the democratic awarding of prizes meant that films such as Jean Renoir’s The River and Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon were virtually unnoticed – also by the German press.