Director: Willi Forst
Writer: Willi Forst, Walter Reisch
Cast: Paula Wessely, Anton Walbrook, Olga Tschechowa, Hans Moser, Walter Janssen, Peter Petersen, Hilde von Stolz, Julia Serda, Fritz Imhoff
Seen on: 9.2.2021
The painter Heideneck (Anton Walbrook) tends to draw the attention of women. His latest flame is the married Anita (Olga Tschechowa), but Heideneck isn’t all that interested in her anymore. Anita’s sister-in-law Gerda (Hilde von Stolz) thinks that Heideneck could be a wonderful distraction from her rather boring marriage. After they meet at a grand masquerade, she simply comes to his studio and he paints her – in the nude. When nothing more happens, Gerda leaves disappointed. Unbeknownst to Heideneck, the drawing is delivered to the newspaper to be printed as his illustration of the masquerade. The drawing causes quite a stir in Viennese society and Heideneck has to make sure that the identity of his model is neither revealed nor falsely assumed. So he simply makes up a name – not knowing that there actually exists a Leopoldine Dur (Paula Wessely) who gets drawn into the scandal without even realizing.
Maskerade is absolutely fantastic. I already liked Leise flehen meine Lieder, but Maskerade is even better – funny and charming and very stylish.
I got an inkling of the kind of film I was in for when Anita pulls out a gun-slash-cigarette-case: a slightly melodramatic film that does everything with a small twinkle in its eye. This goes doubly for Walbrook’s performance that fits that tone perfectly. Wessely is a little more grounded, but only a little – and at least as charming as Walbrook.
I didn’t notice just how much I was drawn into the film and its character – until the point where the happy end was threatened and I wasn’t sure whether the film wouldn’t lean into the melodrama more at the end and maybe even forego a happy end entirely. At that point, I was so tense, I realized just how much I rooted for Heideneck and Leopoldine. Hans Moser has a nice supporting role here, and Tschechowa is wonderful, but my heart was with them.
I usually don’t like it when relationships start with one part being deceived, and the film doesn’t really do too much to excuse Heideneck here, but it worked anyway – probably because Leopoldine always knows how to push back against him and isn’t so easily steamrolled.
In any case, Maskerade is a whole lot of fun to watch and really a classic of Austrian cinema that is deservedly remembered.