To New Shores

English Title: To New Shores

Original Title: Zu neuen Ufern

Country of Origin: Germany

Studio: Universum Film (UFA)

Director: Detlef Sierck

Producer(s): Bruno Duday

Screenplay: Detlef Sierck, Kurt Heuser

Cinematographer: Franz Weihmayr

Editor: Milo Harbich

Runtime: 106 minutes

Genre: Melodrama, Adventure

Language: German

Starring/Cast: Zarah Leander, Willy Birgel, Carola Höhn, Victor Staal

Year: 1937

Volume: German

Synopsis:

London, 1846: Gloria Vane (Leander), a famous actress, is sentenced to forced labour in Australia after her wrongful conviction for forging a cheque. This is unbeknownst to the actual perpetrator, her boyfriend and army officer Sir Albert Finsbury (Birgel), who has since also relocated to Australia. While Gloria serves a seven-year sentence in the Parramatta prison, Finsbury enjoys life in the finer circles of colonial Australia. When Gloria asks for his help in escaping, Finsbury refuses. Eventually, Gloria agrees to marry farmer Henry Hoyer (Staal) in order to curtail her jail term. On the way to the farm, she tells Hoyer that she is still in love with Finsbury and flees to Sydney, only to learn that Finsbury is engaged to the Governor’s daughter. Tired and heartbroken, she works in a nightclub where she once again meets Finsbury, who tries to persuade her to be with him. Disillusioned, she declares she no longer loves him. Soon after, Finsbury commits suicide while Hoyer finds Gloria and they get married in the Parramatta church. 


Critique:

To New Shores was part of a Nazi escapist cinema that managed to infuse entertainment with a propagandist twist. While the text made audiences long for exotic worlds, it was also saturated with Nazi Heimat values to bring them ideologically back to the Reich. The female protagonist Gloria Vane, portrayed by the major star of Nazi melodramas, Zarah Leander, embodies this tension between desire and reason. While performing on the London stage, she is the object of the male and female gaze alike. Yet her provocative manners are only a part of a stage persona that hides the real Gloria, a sensitive and faithful woman. Male lead Finsbury is presented as a rather dark character, while Hoyer, blond and robust, evokes the sturdy masculinity of Arnold Fanck’s mountain film characters. Hoyer’s attire resembles the traditional dress code of villagers in Alpine regions and seems ill-suited to the heat of the Australian outback. Hoyer’s character and his surroundings embody Heimat, a rural community where mankind is kind-hearted, nature-loving and, above all, honest; the very opposite of flamboyant Finsbury. Gloria is Hoyer’s perfect match, as she is kind to humans and animals alike. It is in the depiction of these characters as a couple that the ‘German’ homeland is invoked as the only feasible option. In the end, Gloria recognizes that her emotional wellbeing lies with Hoyer rather than Finsbury. Though Hoyer might not be the love of her life, she exchanges passion for prudency, or in the words of the pastor: ‘Let us prefer the soul to the flesh.’

Drawing colonial Australia as an inferior place,
To New Shores approaches the idea of Heimat by mapping it’s Other. Aside from the English expatriates who head the potpourri of ethnic groups, the film depicts the Australian population – whether Aboriginal, Asian or Caucasian – as uneducated and dirty. This dichotomy between civilized and uncivilized is highlighted further in the costumes and production design. The simply-cut dresses of the English ladies and the barrack-like living quarters cannot measure up to the conditions in Europe. Compared to London’s theatres, the Sydney Casino is small and shabby and its clients prefer gaudy entertainment, unable to appreciate Gloria’s artistry. On the other hand, the masterly use of lighting creates an enticing atmosphere and appealing images of seemingly appalling places. In one of his last projects before leaving Germany for the US, where he produced melodrama classics such as All That Heaven Allows (1955), Sierck creates a visual subtext that, despite its propagandistic tenor, keeps the escapist yearning alive. Released in Finland, Denmark, France and the US, the temporal and spatial location of the narrative secured To New Shores an audience beyond Germany. 

Author of this review: Claudia Sandberg