Die Heinzelmannchen (1956)

aka The Shoemaker and the Elves
Article 3123 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-15-2009
Posting Date: 3-3-2010
Directed by Erich Kobler
Featuring Nora Minor, Dietrich Thoms, Elke Arendt
Country: West Germany
What it is: Fairy tale

Every 100 years, elves appear in a small town and help the villagers with their work. They help a shoemaker, a baker, and a tailor. They also have to contend with a thief and a shrewish wife.

Just how long can you watch a group of children dressed up as elves do work to sprightly music without wanting to take a nap? I’m willing to bet that it’s not half the amount of time that this movie dedicates to showing you that very thing. The first twenty minutes introduces the human characters; the shoemaker, the tailor, and the baker and their respective families, as well as the thief and the local constabulary. Then we get a good thirty minutes of toiling elves, and that’s a good twenty-five minutes too long. The littlest elf does a few magic tricks for us to enliven things (to no avail), and the action is interrupted by a slapstick sequence in which the elves outwit a thief, another scene that wears out its welcome before its done. After this nonstop whimsy, we have another ten minutes of villagers reacting to the elves’ work while an elf who failed to vanish with the others at daybreak must elude capture. Then it’s night again, and the elves come back and…start working some more. After five minutes more of this they have a little change of pace (so you can stop climbing the walls) by having one of the elves break into a drum solo, and the other elves start playing along on makeshift instruments of their own (and guess what? They’re awful!) And then the shrewish wife tries to capture them, and I’ll be merciful and not give away the ending of the movie.

I found this one on YouTube in undubbed German, but it doesn’t really matter; after the first twenty minutes, there’s very little dialogue, and it’s not as if the story is unfamiliar in the first place. However, I suspect even children will have their patience tried by this one; there’s only so much whimsy you can get out of working elves, and that whimsy gets spread way too thin here.

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