The eventful history of the real Rheinhotel Dreesen provides the background for an elaborate historical two-parter in the ARD.
Frankfurt – Coincidences and favorable circumstances have made the Rheinhotel Dreesen in Bad Godesberg a focal point of history. And that several times. Opened in 1894, it saw Kaiser Wilhelm II as guests as well as prominent German and international artists, including Marlene Dietrich and Hans Albers. It housed Adolf Hitler, who negotiated the Munich Agreement with Neville Chamberlain here. It became a brown bastion, a concentration camp and, after the end of the war, a refugee camp.
Dwight Eisenhower moved into quarters here, later the hotel was converted into an office building for the French high commissioner and after his departure, it was transformed into a restaurant again, a meeting place for Bonn’s political and business elite as well as international diplomats.
“The White House on the Rhine” on ARD: War Guilt and Peace Burden
A house, a rich source of true and traditional stories. A consortium of SWR, WDR, ARD Degeto and Beta Film has set out to unearth part of this mythological treasure. The two-parter “The White House on the Rhine”, according to the overlay “inspired by true events”, begins at the end of the First World War. The hotelier’s son Emil Dreesen (Jonathan Berlin) and his comrade Robert Harthaler (Jesse Albert) stumble back home, not only traumatized by the events of the war, but also shaped by an incident that haunts the former ensign Emil Dreesen in his dreams, leading him to the becomes the target of blackmailers and later, with the rise and takeover of power of the National Socialists, is exposed to constant danger of death.
Emil quickly gets involved in the continued existence of the hotel, which was occupied by the French military. The owner family, servants, guests should give way. Against the will of his nationalist father Fritz (Benjamin Sadler), Emil negotiates a compromise solution. Like his sister Ulla (Pauline Rénevier), who leans towards the ideals of the life reform movement and has a modern attitude, he brings new ideas to the company. He dismisses the crooked spa band, shows Charlie Chaplin films, hires a French cabaret troupe, which with a frivolous revue arouses offense among the Godesberg citizens, not least Emil’s reactionary mother Maria (Katharina Schüttler).
This is how different milieus and worldviews meet. In the summer house on the banks of the Rhine, Ulla has housed a pre-hippiesque community of vegan, naked bathing life reformers. Jazz arrived in Godesberg with French soldiers of Senegalese origin. Emil, who plays the clarinet, becomes a docile student. Meanwhile, his father supports German national, anti-democratic forces and generously grants accommodation to a penniless, according to the guest book entry “stateless writer”. His name: Adolf Hitler.
“The White House on the Rhine” on ARD: Kaleidoscope of the interwar period
Screenwriter Dirk Kämper wove an incredibly dense plot from historical facts and his own ideas. It covers the period from the end of the First World War to the so-called Röhm Putsch, a bloody purge within the NSDAP. Kämper concentrates a wealth of historical events and social developments in this one place, the Grand Hotel Dreesen on the banks of the Rhine, with a view of Drachenfels and Petersberg.
Dramaturgically, this approach results less in an epic than in an episodic structure. Charlie Chaplin (Stephen Multari), who is passing through, asks for a room, where he has the idea for the dancing rolls, which he will implement in the film “Gold Rush”, while at the same time Adolf Hitler (Max Gertsch) is rehearsing one of his rousing speeches in the room next door . A certain Konrad Adenauer appears briefly. Reich President Ebert is mentioned. Musil’s novel “The Confusions of the Pupil Törleß” comes into view with the same quotation.
Where’s the two-parter?
“The White House on the Rhine”, Monday, October 3rd, from 8.15 p.m., Das Erste, and in the ARD media library.
Jazz, cinematography and nudism are dealt with in rapid succession, and the attack plan of a separatist movement is swiftly foiled. The domestic worker Elsa Wahlen (Henriette Confurius) is involved in the communist movement to the point of using violence, the maid Hilde (Edda Lina Janz), who has been repeatedly raped by Robert, emerges as an enthusiastic National Socialist.
ARD two-parter offers motifs in abundance
Male homosexuality is not only included, but highlighted as abuse of underage Hitler Youth. The vile blackmailer who repeatedly troubles Emil looks like the oiliest of all silent film villains and bears the Slavic name Rudolf Kossiczek (Hendrik Heutmann). This is reminiscent of Herbert Reinecker’s multi-part series from the 1960s, in which the former National Socialist liked to have suspicious figures with names like Marek, Korska, Wasneck or Lassowski appear.
Dirk Kämper uses a simple dramaturgical trick more than once. When Emil gets into mortal distress, the fisherman Karl Zerbes (Paul Faßnacht) appears out of nowhere, a down-to-earth, honest guy, probably only created as a character to be able to resolve tricky emergencies in no time at all.
A lot of content is offered, crowded, in a small environment. The abundance leaves no room to develop full-blooded characters. Many characters do not get beyond the stereotype. The actors make an effort, unfortunately that’s not to be overlooked. Director Thorsten M. Schmidt and cameraman Felix Cramer create a rather artificial atmosphere, whether intentionally or not. One reason: The lighting does not follow the light sources visible in the picture, which is particularly noticeable in the night scenes.
Film seems clearly overloaded
Despite the 180 minutes running time, the two-parter seems clearly overloaded. Author and director lead through their story with haste, don’t take the time for clarifications, for psychology, motivation, often leave it at the symptoms of the respective social circumstances. Not even for more differentiated criticism of the agility with which the cinematic Dreesens come to terms with those in power. Speed in storytelling, often abstractly glorified as a positive criterion in reception, does not automatically stand for quality of content.
At 11:35 p.m., following the fictional production, the first shows the documentary “Rheinhotel Dreesen – The White House on the Rhine”, a recommendable addition that, among other things, shows that the near encounter between Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler was pure rumour. (Harold Keller)