Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz is not really a soccer movie. This 1974 film from the East German director Konrad Wolf is about a sculptor (Kurt Böwe) in a small town, who gets a commission to create a monument for the local football stadium. Since the artist is fairly well known, the local authorities hope such a public artwork will help increase game attendance.
The rest of the film is really about the sculptor’s life and how he sculpts and finds ideas. He pretty much sculpts what he wants, but quite often, his works are not appreciated. A significant story in the film follows his pursuit of a particular former miner to model for a bust that has been commissioned. But once completed, the artist decides he doesn’t like how it turned out.
The actual statues, and I suspect much of the sculpting techniques shown in the film, are from real East German artists. In fact, because I hadn’t read up on this film (I found it by searching for the word football on Kanopy), I at first thought it was a documentary. I also at times wondered if the film would be an early version of Flitzer. So it took me awhile to realize that the naked man on the sports field was actually a statue.
The statue plays a humorous part of the story. The town had hoped for a statue of its recently deceased and greatest goalkeeper. The sculptor agrees to fashion an athlete, but he rejects his model’s athletic poses and instead creates a statue of a naked man standing erect with hands on hips. That the townspeople finally accept it seems to be a subtle punchline.
What I liked about the film was the depiction of 1970s East German life. Horse-drawn carts are still in use, but in contrast, teenage girls wear tiny mini-skirts and a crowded teenage dance floor looks like a subdued Shindig! dance party. Train travel is slow, so that people readily put up travelers for the night. And football in a small town is also quaint, right down to the white band that is seamed onto the top of the referee’s socks. It’s a good film for emptying your mind and asking yourself, what is the purpose of art?
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6