Michael Verhoeven's controversial film o.k. unseen for decades, transfers an authentic incident from the Vietnam War to a Bavarian setting with stark realism. Five American soldiers are bored in their trench and rape a passing young Vietnamese woman. In an attempt to cover up the act, they kill her. Producer Rob Houwer and director Michael Verhoeven discuss in an additional feature how the film, as a competition entry at the 1970 Berlin Film Festival, caused a scandal and led to the festival's collapse. Stefan Drössler chronicles the historical events in the booklet.
o.k. - West-Germany 1970 - Directed and written by: Michael Verhoeven, based on his stage play "Massaker" - Photographed by: Igor Luther - Edited by: Monika Pfefferle - Cast: Friedrich von Thun, Hartmut Becker, Wolfgang Fischer, Ewald Prechtl, Michael Verhoeven, Eva Mattes, Gustl Bayrhammer, Rolf Zacher - Produced by: Rob Houwer Film Produktion, Munich - Premiere: July 3, 1970 (International Berlin Film Festival)
Tische - West-Germany 1969 - Directed and written by: Michael Verhoeven - Photographed by: Frank Brühne - Edited by: Monika Pfefferle - Music: Jacques Loussier - Produced by: Sentana Filmproduktion, Munich - Premiere: February 21, 1969
Rob Houwer und Michael Verhoeven sprechen über o.k. - Germany 2020 - Directed and edited by: Stefan Drössler, Donald Houwer - Photographed by: Marian Engel - Produced by: Edison Film Produktion in collaboration with film&kunst GmbH - Premiere: First release
This young German director has been the center of political and aesthetic storms in recent months because of his newest film, o.k., the official entry at the Berlin Film Festival. When several members of the Jury labeled the film "anti-American" and thereupon excluded it from competition, a furor ensued on the part of the press, public and cinema colleagues. The controversy became so heated that the festival was closed when several directors withdrew their films in sympathy to Verhoeven's work. Michael Verhoeven (the son of noted stage and screen actor, Paul Verhoeven) first attracted attention two years ago with a brilliant film debut, Paarungen, based upon Strindberg's Dance of Death. It was apparent from this film that he is absorbed by psychological themes, where human beings behave unpredictably and the predatory impulses of man overcome his gentler sensibilities. In o.k., a troupe of young German filmmakers and their cast arrive on location in the Bavarian forests. They each introduce themselves to the audience, speaking to the camera, and explain that they intend to reenact a true incident that took place during the Vietnam war. Four bored soldiers at a remote outpost, more out of pique than lust, rape and murder a young Vietnamese girl. A fifth soldier, horrified, tries to convince the authorities about the atrocity, but he is all but ignored. The Brechtian distance given to this terrible tale, quite graphically and brutally presented, places o.k. in the category of great anti-war cinema. The Bavarian dialect illustrates the way in which native types, usually associated with the most charming customs of a country, can behave with incredible savagery within the inhumane landscape of war. The indictments are implicit here, speaking sharply behind the images, and if the film disturbs, it is because the guilt of unseen carnage lies heavily on the conscience for those too complacently distant from the screams.
George Stevens, director of such screen classics as A Place in the Sun, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Greatest Story Ever Told, after resigning as president of the jury for the 20th International Film Festival, told me that the hysteria of the German press and audience triggered back into his mind events of World War II and the atrocities committed by the Nazis just before he and his fellow soldiers of the Army Signal Corps entered the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald. "Those people in Berlin frightened methey will never learn," he said. The surface reason for the dissension, insinuations and uproar of the participants to the Film Festival was an independent entry from Germany, o.k., an anti-American quickie made by Michael Verhoeven in the vicinity of Munich and in which, as Stevens puts it, "a bunch of Bavarians portray G.I.'s" in union raping a Vietnamese woman by the conspicuous name of Mao, thereby branding the U.S. as the sole aggressor against world peace. Stevens says the jury had no objection to presentation of the film, though he personally felt that the hate-filled, cheaply-made thriller was no material for a festival selection. Yet, before he and his fellow-jurors could make a decision, the Yugoslav member, Dusan Makavejev, had leaked information that the U.S. director was trying to disqualify the German entry. A wave of terror against the jury finally forced all to resign, thereby leaving the festival committee no other choice but to cancel screenings of those films entered in competition that had not been shown to the press.
- o.k. 1970, 78'
- Rob Houwer und Michael Verhoeven sprechen über o.k. 2020, 34'
- Trailer o.k. 1970, 3'
- Tische 1969, 10'
- 30 stills from the shooting of o.k.
- 20-pages booklet with essays Stefan Droessler and Michael Verhoeven
Edited by: Filmmuseum München and Goethe-Institut München
DVD authoring: Gunther Bittmann, Tobias Dressel
DVD supervision: Stefan Droessler
First edition December 2020, Second edition July 2021