Der Pl?tzliche Reichtum der Armen Leute von Kombach

 (Volker Schlöndorff, West Germany, 1971) 94 minutes


Director: Volker Schlondorff
Producer: Volker Schlondorff
Screenplay: Volker Schlondorff, Margarethe von Trotta
Photography: Franz Rath
Editor: Klaus von Boro
Music: Klaus Doldinger
George Lehn (Hans Jacob Geiz)
Reinhard Hauff (Heinrich Geiz)
Karl-Josef Cramer (Jacob Geiz)
Wolfgang Bachler (David Briel)
Margarethe von Trotta
Angelika Hillebrecht
Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Reviews and notes

Closing in fast on the reputations of Herzog and Fassbinder is yet another Munchener, 36-year-old Volker Schlondorff. Unlike his better-known colleagues, Schlondorff had considerable training abroad. He left Germany at 15 for school in France, where he met Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Godard as they were shaping the New Wave. In 1959 he signed on as an assistant to Louis Malle. All told, Schlondorff worked on fifteen films in France, including Alain Resnais's Last Year at Marienbad. But the expatriate life proved frustrating. "It was great to see the French workmanship," he recalls, "but as a German I realized that I was quite different."

Volker Schlondorff exploded on the scene with his adaptation of Robert Musills Young Torless (1966) for Franz Seitz in a coproduction about cadets in a pre-1914 military academy. After the disappointing Murder and Man-Slaughter (1967), and Michael Kohlhaas (1969), an international coproduction with Rob Houwer, Schlondorff made the impressive THE SUDDEN WEALTH OF THE POOR PEOPLE OF KOMBACH (1971), about impoverished Hessians told in a cool narrative style.
-Federation News, Australia, Summer, 1976 (Adapted from "Newsweek", and "Film").

Within the framework of a social parable, THE SUDDEN WEALTH OF THE POOR PEOPLE OF KOMBACH attempts to show how easily the structure of a society works to prevent the under-privileged from recognising their true position. Dealing with the oppression of German peasantry in the 1820's, it demonstrates by implication how superstition and religion, pompous educational concepts and a paternalistic interpretation of the law, can turn poor people into clumsy fools who are taught to laugh at their own miserable fate - and to accept it as God-given.

Based on a true incident, the film tells of a group of impoverished peasants, suffering under the burdens of crippling taxation and official repression, who attempt, in desperation, to ambush and rob the coach which carries the fortnightly tax money. After five unsuccessful attempts, they finally succeed. Due to their low status, they immediately fall under suspicion because "money in poor families is always suspect".

Director Schlondorff is especially interested in understanding the political history of Germany, and the irrationality into which the 19th century poor were forced: Their dreams were of either sudden wealth through discovering treasure or emigration to America.
-from Melbourne Film Festival Programme, 1972.

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