Britten was beguiled by Erich Kästner’s tale of a young boy’s heroics, and this screening of the critically acclaimed 1931 film version takes place in Aldeburgh’s century-old cinema.

Emil and the Detectives is in German with English subtitles.

We continue the long tradition of Festival film screenings with one that was surely close to being Britten’s favourite, and this is an opportunity to watch it in the charming surroundings of Aldeburgh Cinema, near contemporary of the film itself.

Britten’s copy of Erich Kästner’s classic 1929 novel, held in our Archive, contains Radio Times stills from this 1931 film version of Emil and the Detectives. Having just seen the film, Britten wrote in his diary (on 28 March 1932) that this was “the most perfect and satisfying film I have ever seen or ever hope to see. Acting as natural & fine as possible – magnificent & subtle photography – plot very amusing & imaginative – a colossal achievement”.

The Guardian film critic Philip French wrote in 2013: “It’s a lively, funny, exciting tale of a country mouse collaborating with streetwise city kids, and it creates a splendid picture of bustling life in the capital of Weimar Germany. One can now see its influence on two major British movies: The Lady Vanishes (1938) copies the hallucinatory sequence on a train that follows the villain giving Emil a drugged sweet, and Hue and Cry (1947) borrows the notion of smart, organised schoolkids chasing a criminal in the big city”.

Main image: Emil und die Detektive © BFI

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