(Reinhold Schunzel, Germany, 1933) 100 minutes


Director: Reinhold Schunzel
Producers: Eduard Kubat, Alfred Zeisler
Screenplay: Reinhold Schunzel
Photography: Konstantin Irmen-Tschet
Editor: Arnfried Heyne
Music: Franz Doelle
Renate Muller (Susanne Lohr)
Hermann Thimig (Viktor Hempel)
Hilde Hildebrand (Ellinor)
Friedel Pisetta (Lilian)
Anton Walbrook (Robert)

Reviews and notes

The story itself is basically of no importance whatsoever in order simply to enjoy the film. What is much more significant is the world of theatres, stages and variety clubs, both up front and backstage, in which the film basks. We can follow the story behind the scenes and then watch complete variety acts as a member of the audience. Out of sheer childlike pleasure in its travesty, the film exploits every opportunity for frivolous implications and personal digs. It seems to lose sight of its theme as the camera dwells on settings turning the viewer into a voyeur observing the world of theatre and variety clubs from his seat in the cinema. Sometimes it is the semi-dark world of some hidden dive, then it is the glittering glamorous world of the big show theatres. The theatre motif covers the full range, from cheap entertainment shows to the luxurious night life of the city.

Produced in 1933, the film thrives on the slightly disreputable world of theatres. The blood and earnest of the impending Nazi era is not felt anywhere in this film. here is no sentimental idyllic family, none of the clogging sentimentality of the films set in a particular region of the country; it is not a historical costume film to strengthen the stricken national identity such as would subsequently become common under the dictatorship of the brownshirts. Instead, it is an entertaining dalliance without any reference to the problems of everyday life.

VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA almost seems like a film version of an operetta, although it could just as easily be a musical film such as those produced abroad. The best scenes are reminiscent of elements from Anglo-American film comedies. The humour rarely degenerates into hullabaloo, the jocular action interspersed with slapstick elements concentrating on its theme with evident enjoyment. The fact that parts of the film are set in England and that some of the songs are even sung in English show that film production had not yet been standardized in 1933. Such inspirations by the scriptwriters would not have passed the censors only a few years later. In 1933, however, the Nazis were more concerned to present a laughing, open countenance, at least on the screen, to a world still reeling from the shock of Hitler's assumption of power. The films of the day differed only marginally from those produced under the Weimar Republic.

The story of the two people without work who nevertheless launch out on a successful career and the hidden message that fortune smiles on us all at some point are the only elements that could possibly be understood as a very faint indication of the rapidly darkening political reality. The optimism radiating from the film remains totally abstract and is far removed from any flat, ideological propaganda. At best, the film offers very minor comfort for a beleaguered nation. Its style of entertainment was still very popular in the 1930s and film production in fascist Germany continued along such totally non-political lines for a number of years. These films provided an appropriate counterpoint to the dictatorial reglementation of everyday reality.

VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA was a box office success, due in no small part to the great performances by its leading characters, but also to the intelligent cooperation between director and cameraman. Karl Anton produced a remake in 1957 and the subject was also taken up again in 1982 by the Hollywood director Blake Edwards.
-Jan Thorn-Prikker, Goethe Institut.

The print supplied has German dialogue, but no sub-titles.

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