In our 7th meeting we discussed the film "La Habanera" which each of us had watched at home before.
The film deals with a young woman who during a trip to Costa Rica falls in love with one of the locals, Don Pedro de Avila, and decides to stay and marry him much to the chagrin of her Swedish aunt who returns to Sweden without her. After some years however, the marriage grows dull in spite of the fact that the couple has a son. The young women, Astrée grows tired of Costa Rica and its inhabitants whom she has never succeeded to entirely connect with and she longs for her old home Sweden which she describes to her son, Juan, in all its grandeur. On the other side of the Ocean two Swedish medical doctors embark on a trip to Costa Rica in order to solve the riddle around the infamous Costa Rica fever and to find a cure for it. Just upon their arrival the fever breaks out again but they succeed to develop a drug against it. However their explorations are sabotaged by Astrées husband Don Pedro and some other Island dwellers who want to conceal the information about a newly outbreak of the fever. They break in the doctors' hotelroom and steal and destroy the suitcase the necessary medicine. One of the doctors knows Astrée form his high school days and has promised her aunt to find her. During a party at Astrée's house he meets her and realizes how unhappy she is. She, however, fearing the wrath of her husband ignores his attempts to convince her to return to Sweden. When Don Pedro suddenly collapses because he, too, has caught the fever, the doctor's are being told that the cure has been destroyed and are therefore unable to safe him. Don Pedro dies and Astrée takes her son Juan back home to Sweden.
The film is a German production from the year 1937. The director was Detlef Sierck who after completing the film immigrated to the United States where he continued to work as a director. In the group we discussed the implications of a film exalting the "developed" Western homeland on the one hand but also playing, sometimes sutbly, sometimes overt, with the trope of a male suppressor who prevents Astrée from being happy and choosing her own destiny. We discussed what it meant to a director to produce a movie in late 1930s Germany and what it could have meant for the spectators to watch it.
In addition we discussed the first chapter of Linda Schulte-Sasse's book "Entertaining the Third Reich.Illusions of Wholeness in Nazi Cinema" and examined how Schulte Sasse conceptualized Nazi Cinema, its functions and its effects.
The meeting took place on the 17.5. at 14.30 at the Koebner Centre for German History.