Sunday, July 4, 2010

stencil #021 - zarah leander


The aesthetics of Trübsinn

(gloomy shot, Town Hall end of High St, Northcote)

With an unparalleled talent for portraying suffering in song and film, who better than Zarah Leander to indulge one’s sense of gloominess?

Her contralto voice and moody, romantic songs have accompanied me during (frequent) periods of wistful self-indulgence.

She’s captivating in Douglas Sirk’s gloomy 1937 melodramas, Zu neuen Ufern and La Habanera, alternating from a whispered delivery of her dialogue to singing heartrending songs in her signature dark voice. 

In Zu neuen Ufern, Zarah plays the role of a singer in Victorian England who takes the blame for her lover’s crime of forgery and is transported to Parramatta prison, Sydney (!).  After serving her sentence, she attempts a return to the stage singing "Ich steh’ im Regen" but is booed off by the Australian audience for her gloomy act . . . which I thought was quite uncharitable, considering her song is so heartbreakingly good:



In La Habanera, Zarah sings "Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt" . . . it’s an extraordinary performance in an extraordinary scene . . . dressed in Latin costume, but with an über-Germanic vocal style, she sings about irresolute tropical desire (!) . . . it’s astonishing and memorable (credit to my chess partner for the translation of the beautiful lyrics):



Alone I am at night, my soul is awake, listening
Heart, can you hear the palms singing and whispering
The wind sang me a song of fortune, so unspeakably beautiful
It knows what my heart lacks and for whom it beats and glows
It knows for whom. 
Come, oh come. 
The wind sang me a song about my missing soul mate
At the beach I often stood and hoped for, for what?
I watched colourful birds - oh dear, my happiness shattered like glass
The wind sang me a song of fortune, so unspeakably beautiful
It knows what my heart lacks and for whom it beats and glows
It knows for whom. 
Come, oh come. 
The wind sang me a song about my missing soul mate

Thanks, once again, to David Stratton’s (sadly defunct programme), Cinema Classics, for screening La Habanera all those years ago. English subtitled versions of her other films are very hard to come by. Die große Liebe is easily available on the net and I recently found Damals on EU Torrents but have had no further luck with any of her other films. Naturally all her films are available on Amazon.de but they don’t have English subtitles. I’ve got Premiere, too, but can’t find any subtitles for it so I’m relying on my chess partner to do a simultaneous translation (whenever you’re ready). There’s always the hope that Melbourne Cinémathèque will have a Zarah Leander feature one day . . .

(bright shot, Town Hall end of High St, Northcote)

Other homages of note:

Read Ben Letzler’s tribute to Zarah here 

And check out Nina Hagen’s version of "Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt":


Allein bin ich in der Nacht, meine Seele wacht und lauscht. 
Herz, hörst du, wie es klingt, in den Palmen singt und rauscht 
Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt
Am Meer stand ich Abends oft und ich hab gehofft, auf was? 
Ich sah bunten Vögeln nach - ach, mein Glück zerbrach wie Glas. 
Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt von einem Glück, unsagbar schön. 
Er weiß, was meinem Herzen fehlt, für wen es schlägt und glüht. 
Er weiß für wen. 
Komm, komm, Ach. 
Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt, von einem Herzen, das mir fehlt.

1 comment:

Janne said...

Supernice photos! Thanx!!!