Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) Reviews

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December 28, 2016
Shot in Berlin on a tiny budget shortly before The Great Depression, People on Sunday follows the flirtatious pastoral outing of four young people; each character is played by an amateur whose role was based on their actual day job. Film scholars hold this film in high regard since it's an early example of observational cinema that was made by Billy Wilder, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Robert Siodmak before the Nazis caused them to flee to Hollywood. Social historians have also gotten a lot out of People On Sunday since it paints a vivid portrait of Weimar-era Germany. I found the movie to be more of an interesting experiment than an outright masterpiece, but I do admire its bold trendsetting as well as the accidental poignancy of having its story end on an optimistic note that belies what was actually waiting for Germany later on in the decade.
½ July 27, 2016
This 1930 silent film follows 4 people on a Sunday in Berlin. Though a feature film, it's shot like a documentary and uses non-professional actors. There is some major talen involved in this film including Robert & Curt Siodmak, Fred Zinneman and Billy Wilder all of whom had to flee Germany with the rise of the Nazis. This film is a fascinating document capturing life at an interesting time in Germany, rebuilt after WWI and prior to WWII. Certainly worth a watch for film or history buffs!
½ May 19, 2016
A neo-realist gem that takes some random people's idyllic lives and displays them for better and for worse.
May 2, 2016
good neo-realist drama
July 17, 2014
In the opening of this film, it boasts that it's a film "without actors" and introduced its five principal cast members as such. They essentially play a version of themselves as they spend the weekend together. It's not exactly a documentary but it's not a straightforward narrative either. The story is interspersed with numerous montages of people and everyday life in 1930 Germany and it creates an almost hypnotic effect that somehow sweeps you up and keeps your attention even though the story is kind of mundane because it is after all about ordinary people. There are moments of pure beauty and even eroticism (they sneaked in a implied sex scene!). It's very reminiscent of Jean Vigo's "Apropos de Nice". Oh and Billy Wilder co-wrote the script.
May 5, 2013
A Small Suburban Park on an Island in the River

It has been warm the last few days. In that border territory where you think it's hot if you're sensitive to heat but only think it's warm if you're sensitive to cold. I, as it happens, am sensitive to heat and have been hiding. It also means that it's difficult for me to concentrate on movies. However, the fact of this one isn't even that there isn't much to concentrate on, though there isn't. More to the point, this is exactly the sort of thing that I think about in weather like this. I'm willing to be that pretty much every park in town was filled with people "taking advantage of the weather" while I hid inside and watched [i]Murder, She Wrote[/i]. (What is it about that show that made even good actors so bad?) It makes me wonder a bit what temperature it was on the day when this film was set. I think a lovely, perfect day for all this is in the seventies, but a lot of people think that's too cold.

It is between the wars. The characters are supposed to be typical Berliners--none are actors, even, though one, Christl Ehlers, is an extra who only made one other movie--going about their typical lives. Erwin Splettstößer and Wolfgang von Waltershausen are a bit on the layabout side. Wolfgang picks up Christl. Erwin lives with Annie Schreyer, a model, but they are fighting. They tear up one another's pictures of movie stars and yell at one another over how she should be wearing the brim of her hat. Annie decides not to go with Erwin and Wolfgang to Nikolassee the next day, probably in part because she is unable to convince Erwin to go to the movies with her that day. On Sunday, Erwin and Wolfgang go to the park with Christl and her friend, Brigitte Borchert. They swim and picnic and gad about generally, while Annie just stays in bed. Neither man seems to worry about much other than themselves, and it's just another lazy Sunday in Berlin, though Monday always comes.

Okay, so I don't know for sure what Nikolassee looks like beyond what's shown here. The Wikipedia page isn't much help, and most of its references are in German. Therefore, I don't know if my automatic mental comparison to La Grande Jatte is accurate--though I don't really know what La Grande Jatte looks like, either. I know about Sondheim's version of it, just as I know the Curt Siodmak/Robert Siodmak/Billy Wilder version of Nikolassee. However, I think possibly that it doesn't matter. I spent many of my early childhood Saturdays at a park in Pasadena called Victory Park, where my dad and his friends shot off model rockets. There's no water at Victory Park, but that isn't entirely the point. All three are places where people go to pass an idle Sunday, just as all those people were probably swarming Marathon Park downtown today. I mean, there's water at Marathon Park, but you're not allowed into it. However, there's still picnicking and general gadding about wherever you are.

Of course, I also don't like either of our main male characters, but I strongly suspect I'm not supposed to. In later years, Billy Wilder wrote his fair share of self-centered male characters, to be sure, but the difference was that the ones we were supposed to like eventually learned better. I am not, I must confess, as familiar with the work of the Siodmak brothers, but never mind. I'm not sure we're supposed to have any admiration for the young men taking advantage of whatever women are unfortunate enough to become entangled with them. They live a seemingly pleasant, definitely laid-back life, but where are they going? You can't even trust their plans from one Sunday to the next; I have no reason to believe that they will be as good to the next young women they pick up as they could be. Or maybe, after all, this [i]is[/i] as good as they can be, which is its own kind of unfortunate. They are really just Weimar Republic man-children, the 1929 equivalent of Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler.

And, yes, the sad truth is that what is coming for these young men is not another lazy Sunday, not in the long term. I don't know what happened to most of the people in this movie, not really. Brigitte Borchert lived to be a hundred, but that's all I know about her, really. Alone of the main performers in the film, Christl Ehlers has a biography on IMDb--it's by her daughter. She was, it seems, part Jewish, and she was lucky to have had a father who made long-term plans to escape the Nazis. She survived. Wilder and the Siodmaks also got out. However, many, many others were not so lucky. Wilder lost several family members to the Holocaust (though not, as was long believed, at Auschwitz, as if that makes some kind of difference). Perhaps now, over eighty years later, it is possible to have a pleasant, laid-back life in Berlin without worrying too much about politics. For a very long time after this film was made, however, it basically wasn't.
½ January 25, 2013
Worth watching, but probably only if you're a film dork. There's great stuff here that I really enjoyed but I can't see it entertaining most people. Anyway it's hit or miss but the hits are great.
½ November 9, 2012
First of all, just read through the credits: Screenplay by BILLY WILDER, Cinematographer FRED ZINNEMANN, director CURT and ROBERT SIODMAK.

Are you serious? This is some serious future talent you have here.
I not even mentioned the naturalistic and realistic filmmaking approach. The Siodmaks used non-professionals as actors and they act completely natural. They're just not trained in theatrical acting so they have to act like normal - and that's the film's biggest strength. I've never seen a silent before that wasn't acted over-the-top (ok, I haven't seen many silents at all) and this acting style was always the matter why I criticized older films (everything earlier than the 50s).

On the other hand, it's a quite experimental take on filmmaking. In documentary style Siodmak & Co. captures the life of five young men and women in Berlin in 1929 - in a time when this very Berlin was one of the most prosperous and fancy cities in the world and just before the Nazis took over power in Germany. This is a quite trivial approach though and although the scenes when our four or five main characters interact work quite well, all the establishing shots just drag along a bit (and there are quite long passages like this).
There's also not really a plot, or a climax, or suspense or any psychological meaning to it hence the (modern) viewer doesn't have much to concentrate on or to give one's attention.

The triviality and realistic approach thus is both the pro and the contra point of the film. Fine filmmaking but not really in a narrational manner.

PS: I saw a very well preserved/renovated version of it - without any music though (which was quite odd). Interesting viewing experience, but as I said not in a conventional narrative way.
November 8, 2012
nicely done without actors
September 22, 2012
A pedestrian film about pedestrians.
½ February 25, 2012
A great early slice of experimental filmmaking that plays remarkably like a documentary. Fantastic natural images of Weimar Germany right before it all turned to shit.
Super Reviewer
November 12, 2011
a remarkable documentary/experimental late silent film made in weimar era berlin by future hollywood stars robert and curt siodmak, edgar g ulmer, billy wilder and fred zinnemann, among others. no complete copy has survived so this is a recreation from various sources, as complete as possible. and it is a wonderful time capsule, using non professional actors on their weekends going about their leisure activities, with cityscapes, beach scenes and domestic life, so naturalistic and modern, whose influence on italian neorealism and the nouvelle vague can't be denied. also incredibly poignant, with the nazis' rise to power and the holocaust looming, causing these young filmmakers to flee their homes, one can't help but wonder what became of these carefree young people on sunday...
½ October 26, 2011
Most have an idea of what's meant by phrases like "a young man's poetry" or "youthful music", but a "young man's cinema" is a phenomenon somewhat unfamiliar to the public thanks to the expensive and rare nature of the director's chair. We see examples of it in the earliest of silent films (when young people could easily get a job on-set, since filmmaking was not yet a "respectable" job), and then only rarely until these past several decades, when many cheaper production methods came into existence. (Even then, "youthful" cinema is often applied to films helmed by directors in their 30's.) So "People On Sunday" is that fairly unique example of a film in between these two points that brings a youthful--cynical, energetic, sexual, perhaps naive--perspective to the silver screen, and it does so at the very height of the silent cinema, utilizing all its most advanced techniques. Classics before it like "Battleship Potemkin" are alluded to, classics after it like the best of Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave are foreshadowed. It's an incredibly honest portrait not only of a specific time and place (the segment featuring close-ups of various faces on the street is now an invaluable graveyard), but it also shows fairly timeless male-female dichotomies which are most relevant to today's audiences due largely to the film's non-actors, who--by miracle of their inexperience--give very subtle and only lightly stylized performances. Among its many varied scenes is an exchange of knowing glances between one friend and another, who--with just their eyelines and a few smiles--communicate a shared cognition of the jealousy inherent in their female companion's demeanor. She sits just offscreen and facing away from them, having only revealed her displeasure with the audience up to this point. This glance, so emblematic of male camaraderie, is a common staple of real world friendships, but one which I've never seen before in a film. Subdued moments like this--lacking much physicality or narrative pull--are uncommon in silent films, and therefore this is a real gem, alongside many others throughout the 74 minute run-time. "People On Sunday" is still a guideline for young filmmakers like myself.
½ October 21, 2011
Playful and joyous and a little heartbreaking, "People on Sunday" is a brave and interesting experiment (the fusion of the "city symphony" documentary with an early approach to neorealism narrative), an historical document (a portrait of Berlin on the eve of Hitler's rise to power, at a time when Hitler's rise to power was probably the last thing on most young Berliners' minds) and an important piece of film history (kickstarting, as it did, the careers of Wilder, Ulmer, Zinneman, and both Siodmaks)--it's also just a great movie, beautifully put together.

I think the eat, drink, and be merry-ism of "People on Sunday" is interesting to compare with "Listen to Britain"--while the latter is obviously more conscious of political and social turmoil (and there was much more of it to be conscious of twelve years later), they both have a lot in common: the "city symphony"-style documentary approach, and, perhaps more importantly, a reassurance (whether intentionally or retrospectively) that, whatever else is going on in the world, life will go on and people will be people. I think that's sort of an uneasy thought with "People on Sunday," because we all know that Nazis are bad--the country is on the brink of what may be the most world-changing atrocities of the 20th century, and people are spending their Sundays their boating, flirting, and fling-ing. "People on Sunday" certainly represents a deeply materialistic culture, but I think it's materialism in one of its purest forms--not necessarily consumerism (though there's that), but a celebration of the material world itself: the tactile, the sensual (as it relates both to the five senses and to sexuality), the warmth of sunlight and the feel of cool water on a hot day. It seems a pretty apolitical film to me, which may be irresponsible (though, of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and it's hard to blame them for not seeing what's coming)--or it may be, like "Listen to Britain," a reminder of the things worth living (and, in the case of the latter, fighting) for. If every expression, artistic or otherwise, in a pre-war or war or post-war period reflected pain, loss, and anxiety, we'd only ever have movies about pain, loss, and anxiety. "People on Sunday" is unnervingly cheerful given what's to come, but people in Germany coming out of a lost war and a depression needed some cheering (and the film is certainly more socially conscious and grounded in reality than a lot of the escapism that was coming out of America at the time). Perhaps "People on Sunday" is blind to the world around it--but, youthful and naive as it is, it may actually be more deeply attuned to its surroundings than the rest of us. Wars come and go, and they often leave scars that never heal--but life can go on, people can be people, and springtime is eternal.
October 6, 2011
What one of the good folks at Criterion needed to do was to slap in Loverboy's 'Working for the Weekend' tune at clever intervals into this film. Would've catapulted this up to four stars!
½ September 28, 2011
3.5: Absolutely fascinating. The filmmakers include Billy Wilder, Curt & Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Fred Zinnemann. Not too shabby. While there is obviously a plot to the film (essentially guy meets girl, they arrange to meet the next day, girl brings girlfriend along, guy and girlfriend fall in love, original girl disappointed; other guy and other girl stuck in apartment, other guy wakes up on Sunday and goes to meet threesome while other girl sleeps all day in apartment), it is made with non-actors that apparently returned to being non-actors after filming had concluded. So, it is essentially a fictional documentary that gives us a long glimpse into what Berlin was like shortly before Hitler rose to power. It is truly a celebration of life (the shots of various individuals having their photos taken is particularly wonderful) at a time that seems incredibly simple and reasonably paced compared to today's world. I have to think historians would find this picture incredibly rich and useful. It's incredible just how original it all seems; I've never seen anything quite like it and I doubt I ever will again. My only problem with it is that the guy, in my opinion, ends up with the wrong girl. Pictures don't get much more lighthearted than this though; these "kinder" as they call each other seem to have hardly a care in the world.
August 15, 2011
One of the most amazing films I've seen, especially so since this was created on less that 7000 dollars and featured randomly picked citizens detailing their true identities and jobs. The semi documentary aspect of what young people liked to do in Berlin, Germany before the imminent war is incredible. The carefree attitudes and laid back atmosphere is incredibly moving for a silent film. Just 4 young people hanging out on a Sunday. A simple premise and no real plot but to this day, 81 years after it's release, this is a buried treasure of cinema and the modern silent film genre. This needs to be seen.
August 6, 2011
This movie seems to be capturing the story as it unfolds rather than having planned and rehearsed anything in advance. It also paints a youthful, lively picture of late 1920's Berlin and the hustle/bustle daily life.
August 2, 2011
The four main characters are not deeply written, but their vitality and emotional realism prove intoxicating, especially in some of the nature shots of the group lounging (and more) around. The intercut scenes with broader Sunday activities don't mesh as well with the rest of the film's vibe.
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2011
Is there a plot? Barely. Any real actors in the film or sets? Nope. Yet this is one of the best representations of people doing what they want with their weekends, which at the time was a new trend. Trying to capture the most honest and accurate representation of random people and how they spend their time and interact is captured in this film more than any other! A movie thought absurd and literally laughed at during it's inception and process of being made, but was embraced by critics and audiences instantly when it was released. The men involved would all go on to Hollywood and make international names for themselves and it can be said that this was their ticket in. Recommended for fans of silent films!
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