WOMAN IN THE MOON
GIRL IN THE MOON
(Die Frau im Mond)
Die Frau im Mond was made by Fritz Lang, who had risen up through early adventure films and hit his stride with epics of German silent cinema such as Dr Mabuse (1922), Siegfried (1924) and Metropolis (1927). (See below for Fritz Langs other genre films). Lang brought everything to bear on Frau im Mond. He even brought in scientific advisors such as Willy Ley and Herman Oberth, who later became instrumental in Hitlers V2 rocket program and the early days of the US Space Race. There were plans which never happened that the group would launch a rocket to coincide with the premiere of the film. The care and attention shows on screen. They get an amazing amount right, including the need for a rocket to achieve orbital escape velocities, the lower gravity on The Moon and the screens first depiction of zero gravity. Die Frau im Mond is also uncanny in its prediction of the launch being accompanied by a countdown and is far more accurate than Destination Moon is portraying the worldwide media fascination that such an event would be followed by. The special effects are particularly good, with the film portraying the imposing size of the rocket as it is towed to its launchpad and some lovely travelling matte shots of it dwarfed against the full looming Moon. They are slightly off in predicting that the Moon has plentiful supplies of gold and an atmosphere (something that would have been common scientific knowledge at the time) the sight of Lunar explorers wandering about in lederhosen and woolen sweaters as though on an Alpine hike is a rather ludicrous one today.
It is a surprisingly long film. Lang once commented that he made his films long so that they took up both halves of a double-bill. Most versions of Die Frau im Mond seen in English-language release are cut to 90 minutes and the full-length restoration print seen here runs to a sizable 200 minutes. Lang composes long scenes some run over ten minutes apiece. It is 90 minutes (over the normal running length of the average film) before we get to the rocket itself and these are taken up with drawn-out scenes of Helius going to visit the professor, his comic attempts to contact his rival Windegger during his engagement party and Turners Machiavellian schemes to get in on the deal. Nevertheless, these scenes grip because Fritz Lang has an often deft sense of humour, particularly the running cuteness of the professors mouse or some of the scenes with the boy. Fritz Rasp also makes a wonderfully hissable villain, seeming like a physical embodiment of a rat with his tall obsequiousness and perhaps intentionally Hitler-like cowlick.
Die Frau im Mond also shows Fritz Lang at the height of his powers as director. His previous films were constructed as epics of silent screen grandeur Die Frau im Mond is the culmination of all that and yet where Metropolis is sprawlingly indulgent, Die Frau im Mond is superbly restrained. Lang uses the intertitles with an amazing inventivity and in ways that no other director of the silent era ever thought of. When it comes to the countdown the numbers 6, 5, 4 ... come rushing at the screen, each one getting bigger in size; the discovery of gold is accompanied by the world gold coming shooting out of the cave; and the radio announcer at the launch is placed inside a montage as though he were surrounded by a tuba out of which the words he is uttering emerge. An amazing film.
Fritz Langs other films of genre interest are: Destiny (1921) wherein Death incarnates two lovers throughout various historical periods; Dr Mabuse, The Gambler (1922) concerning a ruthless criminal mastermind; the two-part Niebelungen saga, Siegfried (1924) and Kriemhilds Revenge (1924), based on the Teutonic myths; Metropolis (1927); M (1931), a thriller concerning the hunt for a child killer; The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933); the afterlife fantasy Liliom (1933); the film noir psycho-thriller Secret Beyond the Door (1948); and a further Dr Mabuse sequel The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960).
Full film available online here:-