F.P.1 Doesn’t Respond

Original Title: F.P. 1 antwortet nicht. Adventure 1932; 114 min.; Director: Karl Hartl; Cast: Hans Albers, Sybille Schmitz, Paul Hartmann, Peter Lorre, Hermann Speelmans, Erik Ode, Werner Schott, Gustav Püttjer, Georg John; Ufa-Klangfilm.

A military officer plans to build a floating platform for intercontinental pilots to refuel and repair. With the help of a skilled pilot and a company, the platform is constructed. However, during a storm, communication is lost, prompting the pilot to embark on a perilous journey. They survive a crash but find the platform sabotaged, incapacitated. Despite personal challenges, the pilot regains his resolve and initiates a rescue mission to save the platform.

With a spectacular break-in at Lennartz Shipyard’s offices, the renowned aviator Ellissen draws attention to his friend Captain Lieutenant Droste’s long-forgotten invention. Droste had conceived the idea of constructing an aircraft platform in the middle of the ocean, enabling planes to refuel during intermediate stops. Faced with a choice between staying with his love interest Claire Lennartz or accepting an offer from Meteor Works, Droste opts for a non-stop flight using a prototype aircraft.

Under Droste’s guidance, Lennartz Shipyard builds an impressive technological marvel in the ocean over the course of two years. Droste and Claire have discovered their love for each other and occasionally exchange words when radio contact is established. As time passes, Droste realizes that the project is systematically sabotaged by an unknown employee, resulting in intentional damages. Finally, F.P.1 is ready to fulfill its purpose. Ellissen, who has fallen on hard times, learns about this development and returns, hopeful that Claire still loves him.

The last radio conversation with F.P.1 hints at something dreadful. Gunshots and the sounds of a fierce struggle are heard before the communication abruptly ceases. Concerned for Droste’s safety, Claire implores Ellissen, the aviator, to take her immediately to the platform. Initially reluctant, he eventually relents, believing that Claire’s love for him endures. Upon arrival, they discover the incapacitated crew. The artificial island’s energy supply is compromised due to a lack of fuel, causing F.P.1 to slowly sink. Droste has sustained a gunshot wound. He reveals that Chief Engineer Damsky was an agent of a foreign power intent on destroying the artificial island, and their mission has been accomplished. Following a shootout that severely damages Ellissen’s aircraft, Damsky escapes on a motorboat, destroying all other boats in his path.

Claire’s devoted efforts to care for the injured Droste open Ellissen’s eyes. Consumed by disappointment, anger, and jealousy, he decides to refrain from taking any action to save the island, intending to perish alongside its crew. Helplessly, he observes Droste and his team’s attempts to assemble an airworthy aircraft using several damaged planes. Against all odds, they succeed, and Ellissen’s sense of decency finally prevails. Muttering curses, he takes off with the aircraft in search of help.

W. H.’s review in Film Kurier No. 302 (December 23, 1932)
A machine symphony; a song of the mechanized world; a grandly conceived dramatic epic depicting manly courage, fortitude, bold heroism, and silent, relentless diligence.

Is it romantic? Film-romantic? Certainly. However, beneath this romance, a new emergence is already taking shape—an individual molded by the world of machines, a cold intelligence asserting itself minute by minute in this crowded human world, a new animalistic instinct on the assembly line, and a heightened elasticity of the brain. The complete focus is on a single goal: mastery of the elements, mastery of this shrinking Earth. There is a sense of the new world of “workers,” as interpreted by the interesting revolutionary nationalist Ernst Jünger. Even the young, wealthy girl is already a “worker” in this sense, devoid of luxury or coquetry.

It is a world of steel and steel intelligence—hard yet flexible. Love is not an idyll here, but a partnership in work. The faces of people in this world are almost coincidental. This film is for those who, despite everything, enjoy living in this time, particularly in this era. Walter Reiß skillfully outlines this certainty (based on Kurt Siodmak’s novel).

A thoughtfully crafted film, it rewards the man of tenacious, years-long diligence, rather than the reckless Viking; the colorless rather than the colorful; the consistent rather than the interesting. This film emphasizes that while the daring Viking may be more intriguing, true triumph belongs to the one who works—not the daring daredevil, the radiant star, or the thundering youth. It is the quietly aging, somewhat gray, half-bitter individual who prevails over the girl amidst the shining, thundering youth because he better represents the working type of tomorrow. It is characteristic that today this is unconsciously perceived as a happy ending, even within the film.

A film of great tensions and gigantic constructive structures, where the concept of “home” is scarcely present or hinted at. In this world, one does not die alone with oneself but swims amidst the countless intersecting electric waves of wireless telephone connections, carrying every sigh of the wounded across the globe. It presents the image of man on his lofty podium, the throne of our world of machines—visible, audible, and eavesdropped upon everywhere. The private life of man is nearly nonexistent, with the individual already becoming the man in the middle.

The film fulfills the essence of cinema, offering a love story. Love is loved in the same way, and here the peculiar aspect lies in a shy man in the middle of the ocean on a completely lonely, mechanical island made of steel and concrete, who suddenly blushes upon hearing the voice of a girl from the reception apparatus—an office in Hamburg. Perhaps his heartbeat can be heard in Hamburg. This has always been the deepest secret of the private individual. As for death, the gramophone plays a jazz band from some London hotel. It portrays a very social world of many lonely people—the world of this film, the world of today.

Director Karl Hartl has skillfully and clearly arranged the nearly unavoidable grand painting, tightening the rhythm of the montage. Only a few tête-à-tête scenes seem somewhat staged to me. On the other hand, the ironic, always slightly feverish, ever-jumping, dancing, running, and ever-changing movement of Hans Albers’ character is slightly too pronounced in the end, although we do not fail to understand the director’s intentions. However, these are minor aspects. A hammer is recognized by how it strikes, not through child’s play, and when this hammer strikes in the decisive scenes of the middle and second half, sparks fly.

The true hero of the film is the technical constructions by Kettelhut (and Henninger). These structures are gigantic, yet devoid of ostentation found in certain extravagant colossal super films. The colossal effort precisely suits the external subject, a strictly calculated technical economy that justifies the millions spent with taste. It is not an inflated private feature film; it truly and concretely portrays a piece of technical world domination that cannot be visualized with three boudoirs and a hotel lobby. The technical island, a hidden calculation problem and one of the most impressive film structures ever seen, is a testament to the architect’s merit.

Albers shines again in all colors, like a fountain in summer. He leaps like a salmon, laughs like the dear sun, jovially slaps shoulders, throws out and brings back those thrown out with laughter. He explodes with lust for life, seducing all the girls in the stalls. And when he is completely down and out, he turns up the collar of his jacket—have you ever seen a down-and-out person in a film or on stage who didn’t turn up the collar of their jacket? Paul Hartmann portrays the silent, reserved, wordless nature of the working man—an artistic achievement rather than a natural one, but appropriate in this context where machines dictate real life. Sybille Schmitz is an extraordinary and interesting presence, a true embodiment of today’s elegant girl without a trace of affectation. Her beautiful, strong, and characteristic mouth possesses an almost masculine quality, yet her voice reflects the refinement of a well-bred patrician child. She remains simple and athletic, even in the grandest ball gown—a balanced individual. Lorre has a small role, but his well-placed caricatured strokes make for an excellent little sketch. The music by Allan Grey is simple and highly usable. Cinematography (Rittau, Tschet, Becker), sound (Thierry), film editing (Zlyn Jr.), and sound editing (Schaad) are faultless. Erich Pommer, to whom Eberhard Klagemann attested, skillfully assembled artists and technicians for this colossal work.

In the end, the film received unusually strong applause, repeatedly calling all those involved to the stage.