Sometimes it pays off to stay up late and watch whatever artsy movie public broadcasting coughs up.

Die Sünderin

Like this morning, when ORF showed 1951’s “Die Sünderin” (“The Sinner”), starring Hildegard Knef. It’s probably one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen in a long time, and definitely the weirdest post-war flick I’ve ever seen.

Telling the story of Marina, a german girl struggling as a prostitute, it’s not so much what is being told, but how. There is very little dialogue, with Hildegard Knef narrating every move and story-twist from beginning to end.

And Jesus Christ, her voice and technique are just amazing! After ten minutes, I was hooked. Hildegard could probably tell me about nuts and bolts and the inner workings of a Diesel engine, but it would still be the saddest thing I’d have ever heard.

“Die Sünderin” raised quite a stir back in the 50’s, featuring one of the first nude scenes plus a kind of lax moral stance on suicide and euthanasia. The catholic church went mental, crying foul over the movies lack of “proper” morals, and demanded its boycott. Well… it became a huge hit. Guess I didn’t see that one coming.

Today, “Die Sünderin” looks like some kind of proto-Fassbender. With its protagonist’s life doomed from the start, it combines intimate story-telling with innovative cinematic techniques. And of course Hildegard Knef, whose voice transforms the whole experience into something - I dare say - timeless.