Berlinale: Programme

Film file


The Docks of New York

Die Docks von New York

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While on shore leave, stoker Bill rescues a woman trying to commit suicide by drowning herself. He brings her to a nearby dive bar and steals some clothes from a pawnshop for her. Bill and Mae enjoy a good night in the tavern and are even married by a minister visiting the bar. For Mae, it’s the real deal. But the following morning, Bill returns to his ship as it prepares for departure … In The Docks of NewYork, a dark colossus and a shiny, good-time girl meet, and love is a shining light showing our soot-darkened hero a path out of the shadowy world of the boiler room into ever-brighter light. Josef von Sternberg’s film became famous for its chiaroscuro effects as it portrays that emergence from the gloom as an odyssey through streaks (and moral grey areas) of fog and smoke. People and objects are often seen only as vague silhouettes, in keeping with von Sternberg’s maxim that ‘the greatest art in motion picture photography is to be able to give life to the dead space that exists between the lens and the subject before it. Smoke, rain, fog, dust, and steam can emotionalize empty space.’

USA 1928, 80 min


Josef von Sternberg


George Bancroft
Betty Compson
Olga Baclanova
Clyde Cook