Movie Magazine International

The Harmonists

Germany - 1999

Movie Review By Erik Petersen

Set in Berlin in the late 1920ís, "The Harmonists" is based on the true story of a German a capella group who achieved fame during the Nazis rise to power. Despite their popularity the group is threatened by the Nazis since three of their members are Jewish.

The film was directed by Joseph Vilsmaier who began the project by interviewing a surviving member of the group, Roman Cycowski. He was intrigued when Cycowski told him, "If we hadn't been forced to split up weíd be more famous than the Beatles today." Roman's modesty aside, the group was enormously popular and many of their songs stand the test of time.

Ulrich Noeten stars as Harry Frommermann, a failed actor who refuses to give up. He is now committed to forming his own version of the popular American group "The Revellers" and holds open auditions to find singers. Noeten, a stage actor starring in his first feature film, does a wonderful job of portraying Harry's commitment and dogged perfectionism while also revealing Harry's shyness and vulnerability around his love Erna, played by Meret Becker.

Ben Becker portrays the brash Robert Biberti, a talented deep voiced singer who answers Harry's ad and helps him recruit the remaining members of the group. Eventually the dashing Biberti with his Aryan looks and headstrong ways clashes with Harry who is Jewish. They battle for leadership of the group as well as the affections of the same woman.

Some of the film's most chilling moments occur when the group performs their lighthearted music while enormous red banners emblazoned with the swastika hang in the background.

"The Harmonists" looks at the familiar story of Nazi persecution from the unique perspective of successful entertainers who are struggling with their sudden rise to fame. It's an interesting story that leaves you wondering what mightíve been for this talented group.

© 1999 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 3/17/99

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