Saturday, May 24, 2014

Surprisingly Deep Thoughts After the Viewing of the Shallow Movie "The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz"

Last week I watched the ridiculous and not-that-great film The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz directed by George Marshall. This was not a planned viewing, but I was home, it was on, and I said: "why not? watch a comedy about an East German Olympic hopeful pole vaulting over the Berlin Wall."

This 1968 comedy has some typical comic elements, a little slapstick, a little situational irony, and a little dose of coincidence, not to mention a love story where the principal players go from not-interested to interested.

[So knowing that you're not going to watch this film, I still will say at this point "spoiler warning" and encourage you to read on from here.]

What struck me watching this file was the whole time, the main character, Paula Schultz (Elke Sommer), was essentially being exploited. She was first exploited by the soviets, and when she was fully exploited by her nation, the propaganda minister Klaus (Werner Klemperer) tries to save her by essentially setting her up in a penthouse to be used for sexual gain. But before this can occur, Paula escapes -- and the tone of this film is that her escape and this situation is funny.

Further into the film she is in West Germany where a black market operator Bill Mason (Bob Crane) hides her with a friend who works for the CIA. Yet, while Bill is interested in saving Paula, he also is willing to negotiate with the Soviet government and the CIA to see who can give him the best deal for Paula and in the end she's sent back to East Berlin with the Soviet's offering a higher bid and she is again potentially under the control of Klaus and the Soviet government.

In the end Bill Mason realizes he is in love with Paula and goes into East Germany to save her.

Yet it really bothered me that he was going in to save her, not for her safety/dignity/human respect but because he loved her -- an interest that in essence is selfishly driven.

So, in all of this exploitation portrayed in this 1960s film (in the name of comedy), it really got me thinking. I don't have any huge insight, and I do want to be measured in my response, knowing it's just a film (and not a very popular one at that). But, it is interesting how often we like comedy that pushes the envelop, and yet social/political comedy might be funny because it is a little awkward or gives us the sense "I can't believe they did that" (I mean, hello, it's a cold war comedy about pole-vaulting over the Berlin wall). Yet, it's a pity to think about how at this time people might watch this film without a sense of how much exploitation was going on.

Paula in this film in essence is able to be saved from much of the exploitation due to her personality, her personal confidence, her ability to escape situations, and a script who keeps her out of true harm. Yet, exploitation of people is real, and hardly comedic. And yet we have this film, and certainly others that paint government and leaders who misuse their power and men who are weak to stand up for truth and instead look towards their own financial gain.

I watch a film like this and wonder, knowing people continue to be exploited -- whether we ignore these things, and although knowing I am not exploiting people in the way of Klaus or the soviet government of the 1960s, yet, am I part of situations like the army buddies Bill Mason and Herbert Sweeney who fail to stand up for Paula for fear of their own position in society or their own potential lost financial gain? I hope not - but it's worth considering and mindful of. I would hate for something I do today that seems "common" to in the future be something I look back on as "unfortunate" in this regard, particularly if I was allowing people to be exploited, say by virtue of my financial choices, ignorance to what was happening in the world, or lack of interest in standing up for the rights of those who are exploited.

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