Original Title: Friederike. Operetta 1932; 91 min.; Director: Fritz Friedmann-Frederich; Cast: Hans Heinz Bollmann, Ferdinand Bonn, Erika von Wagner, Paul Hörbiger, Ida Wüst, Mady Christians, Else Elster, Veit Harlan, Eduard von Winterstein, Otto Wallburg; Heros-G. P.-Tobis-Klangfilm.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, a popular student in Strasbourg, falls in love at first sight with Friederike, one of the pastor’s daughters, but their young love faces obstacles. When Goethe is summoned to the court of the Duke of Weimar, he must be single, leading Friederike to sacrifice their love and get engaged to another man. As Goethe departs, Friederike desperately tries to call him back, but it’s too late as the carriage disappears from her sight.

This is the story of the young poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe and the pastor’s daughter from Sesenheim, the story of the wild rose and the boy who plucked it – a story as old as humanity itself, yet always fresh and eternal.

In Strasbourg, at the dance master Sauveur’s, the couples dance the Palatine dance, some better than others depending on their temperament and ability. But when someone makes a mistake, Master Sauveur points to his best student – Mr. Studiosus Goethe. The beautiful daughters of Master Sauveur also have their eyes on him, for Goethe has a way with women, much more than his friend Wagner, the mossiest head of the Alma Mater in Strasbourg, the perpetual student who heroically gave up his doctorate out of love for the beautiful Alsace and the Palatinate wine. Wagner feels more at home in the tavern of the Palatinate innkeeper than in Mr. Sauveur’s salon. He admires and idolizes his friend Goethe, whom he believes in as the aspiring great poet – and with whom he plans to go to Sesenheim tomorrow, to Pastor Brion and his daughters.

It is a glorious Sunday, the sun shines down from the blue sky, the church bells ring, Pastor Brion preaches to his congregation. In the front row sit his wife and his two daughters, listening attentively to their husband and father, while Goethe and Wagner ride towards Sesenheim on the country road.

The church service is over. The two pastor’s daughters, Friederike and Salomea, step out of the church – and there Friederike encounters a passionate gaze, the gaze of a man she does not yet know, but feels that she will get to know, must get to know – Goethe’s gaze. A few minutes later, the two face each other in the parsonage. They have seen each other, they have found each other, and the next evening, at Madame Schöll’s in Strasbourg, Friederike’s aunt, they realize that they both share the same feeling. Friederike is experiencing love for the first time in her young life, and Goethe is truly in love for the first time. They spend a wonderful and happy time in the parsonage garden, by the Rhine, celebrating Friederike’s birthday with students, the perpetually thirsty Wagner, and Friederike’s lively sister Salomea. They are so immersed in their happiness that they don’t think about anything else – even though Friederike’s mother does not approve of the flirtation with Mr. Studiosus Goethe, and Wagner fears the anger of old Mr. Goethe.

Goethe travels to Frankfurt to speak with his father. He wants to marry Friederike. Naturally, his father, Herr Rat, is against it – but he is not the real danger to Friederike’s happiness. The threat comes from elsewhere – from Weimar, from the court of the art-loving Duke Karl August. The Duke wants to refresh the circle of intellectually distinguished men that always surrounds him. He has heard of the young Goethe and sends Captain Knebel to Frankfurt to bring Goethe to the Weimar court. But there is a condition – Goethe must not be married…

The captain departs. He doesn’t find Goethe in Frankfurt and continues on to Strasbourg. He meets Goethe there, but when Goethe learns of the Duke’s condition, he refuses. He would rather give up the appointment than give up the girl he loves. He is not a servant of princes; he is a free man and wants to remain one. Knebel is dismayed. At least he wants to see the girl who means more to Goethe than the fame awaiting him at the Weimar court. He travels to Sesenheim with Wagner, who recognizes the opportunities that Weimar offers to his young friend, foreseeing worldwide fame. Wagner takes on the difficult task of speaking to Friederike.

In Sesenheim, Friederike eagerly waits for Goethe. Finally, he is there! She falls into his arms and learns about the appointment to Weimar and Goethe’s refusal. She is blissful – but when Wagner tells her what Goethe is willing to give up for her, a greater and nobler love triumphs within her. It is a love that is ready to make the greatest sacrifice for the sake of the beloved. She says to Wagner, “Goethe will go to Weimar,” and asks him to leave her alone. She goes to “Friederike’s rest,” where he gave her the ring. She whispers her lament to the trees, the bushes, and the blue sky: “Why did you wake me with a kiss…” and then she goes to play the comedy that will restore Goethe’s freedom. She dances with the young Lenz, who has loved her for a long time. She dances, embraces him, becomes engaged to him, and when Goethe demands an explanation from her, she laughs and tells him, albeit with a bleeding heart, that she is engaged to Lenz. She tells him that Mr. Goethe is a poet, and he doesn’t need to take everything so tragically!

Goethe believes he has been mistaken about her. Now he is ready to go to Weimar, and he boards the captain’s carriage. The carriage departs. Friederike watches him until the carriage disappears around the bend in the road – then her strength fails her. She runs out of the house, chasing after the carriage as if she could bring her beloved man back. But the carriage is already far away… very far away… and she collapses on the road that Goethe took from her, towards Weimar, towards immortality.

This is the story of the young poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe and the pastor’s daughter from Sesenheim, the story of the wild rose and the boy who plucked it – a story as old as humanity itself, yet always fresh and eternal.

Georg Herzberg’s review in Film Kurier No. 270 (November 15, 1932)
In light of the film’s strong success during its double premiere yesterday, it doesn’t make sense to contrast historical facts with the events depicted in the film. What was silently allowed in the operetta can also be credited to the sound film. So, let’s set aside the Goethe biography that was brought up for comparison and approach this film with open hearts. In doing so, we will discover a work that surpasses the average of related productions, thanks to its effective use of wonderful outdoor shots, which create a fresher and more natural atmosphere compared to the operetta confined to three stage walls. Additionally, the film boasts an exemplary ensemble. As a result of this film, Fritz Friedmann-Frederich, credited as the author and director, will be judged differently in film circles compared to his previous accomplishments. The film successfully captures every audience-appealing moment without resorting to obvious banality, thus avoiding alienating a portion of the viewers.

Mady Christians, portraying Friederike, greatly contributes to Fritz Friedmann-Frederich’s work. She delivers one of the best performances achieved by a woman in German sound film thus far. She manages to elevate elements that may not have seemed trustworthy in the script. By giving existence to a monologue that could have been seen as ridiculous, she elicits a noticeable emotional response from the audience, as evidenced by the handkerchiefs in action. At the end, the women in the audience collectively reached for their powder compacts to conceal the suspicious blush around their eyes, while many men had no such recourse.

Mady Christians handles the preceding lighthearted moments and the exuberant exultation of first love with equal conviction. Her voice avoids any pitfalls caused by the microphones. Regardless of one’s opinion on the film’s content, Mady Christians’ performance is an indisputable highlight.

Hans Heins Bollmann not only portrays Goethe effectively but also vocally adapts to every situation without the stiffness commonly seen in most operetta tenors. One cannot help but believe in the young student’s future worldwide fame.

Ida Wüst once again excels in delineating a truly wonderful female character. As Pastor Brion, she infuses her voice with sparkling cheerfulness, evoking thoughts of Palatinate wine. Paul Hörbiger portrays the pastor as worldly-wise and full of joy for the beautiful world. Otto Wallburg shines as Goethe’s drinking companion, fully embracing his role down to the last detail. Else Elster achieves success in her portrayal of Friederike’s sister.

Adele Sandrock delivers some grumpy lines, while Theo Lingen provides amusing goofball moments. Debutant Maria Fein establishes herself as a cultured speaker. Veit Harlan infuses the Weimar Duke with daring impetuosity. Eduard von Winterstein, Ferdinand Bonn, Erika Wagner, Karl Meixner, Else von Haartmann, and Hedwig Wangel complete the excellent ensemble.

Werner Brandes and Werner Bohne’s photography significantly enhances the overall impact of the film. Hermann Warm and Arno Richter skillfully handle the architectural aspects. Dr. Leistner’s sound is exemplary.

Franz Lehár’s charming music is effectively utilized in the film by Eduard Künnecke. It’s worth mentioning the high technical sound qualities of the work.

The audience willingly embraced the film from the first frame, expressing their joy through repeated applause. The film’s conclusion was met with countless curtain calls.