A pre-Depression slice of proletarian life from Weimar Germany, Harbour Drift is unusually interesting for its indifferent pessimism, rejecting even the minor rays of hope which permeate the other low-life ‘street films’ of the period. A sordid tale of poverty and greed set within a quayside milieu of crime and prostitution, the narrative centres on the quest for a sparkling pearl necklace stolen by a beggar under the gaze of a prostitute, who persuades her unemployed friend to steal it back, with tragic consequences. The story unfolds in flashback, without irony or a hint of redemption: life simply goes on. The film is remarkable for the innovative camerawork of Friedl Behn-Grund, which manipulates light and shadow to create a nightmarish atmosphere of fear and premonition.
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