Film Data

Advertisement for the 1912 German film
In Nacht und Eis.
(Click image to enlarge)

German title: In Nacht und Eis
English title: In Night and Ice
Production country: Germany
Language: German
Year: 1912
Length: 35/41 minutes

Director: Mime Misu
Script: Mime Misu
Producer: Max Rittberger for Continental Art Film GmbH (Berlin)
Camera: Willy Hameister, Emil Schünemann, Viktor Zimmermann

Otto Rippert: The Captain
Ernst Rückert: The First Officer
Waldemar Hecker: The Telegraphist

In Nacht und Eis - "In Night and Ice" - 1912 German Titanic film

Only a few months after the sinking of the Titanic, an epic 40 minute recreation of the disaster was produced in Germany by 24 year old Romanian director Mime Misu, entitled "In Nacht und Eis" or "In Night and Ice". It is the earliest surviving Titanic film, which has now been remastered, translated into English and re-released with a new score by Swiss composer Christophe Sturzenegger.

Remastered Full Length version:

Note: I recommend watching the film in "Full Screen Mode," with speakers/headphones turned on for the full experience. To activate "Full Screen Mode," you need to click on the video title which will take you to YouTube and then click on the lower right hand box.

Quick access:

1. The Plot
2. Style and accuracy
3. Production
4. Cast
5. Release
6. Found and Remastered
7. New Film Score
8. English Remastered Version and the Missing Scene

1. The Plot

Unlike Titanic films to come (notably the 1943 'Nazi' German version) this film has no apparent political agenda and simply covers the known events in chronological order, with an emphasis on heroism and sacrifice.

The film is divided into three "acts" - likely to coincide with the three reels that make up the film. It begins with the embarkation of passengers and loading of luggage. The Captain and First Officer are introduced as main characters, played by Otto Rippert and Ernst Rückert respectively, and are seen observing other ships from the bridge. The ship's band ("chapel") plays "Home Sweet Home" on departure, passengers stroll the decks, play games and dine in the 'posh' Café Parisien to pass the time.

The Captain and First Officer played by Otto Rippert
and Ernst Rückert respectively (Click to enlarge)

The first officer is depicted as reacting wildly to the sighting of the iceberg (using binoculars) and the Captain orders 'full astern'. The collision is incorrectly portrayed, with the iceberg striking the port side of the ship. However, the effects of the collision are shown dramatically in the engine room, Café Parisien and first class cabin, with a crash and people and furniture falling over.

The focus on the film now changes to the wireless operators who send out emergency calls to other ships. Lifeboats are launched and the ship's band plays "Nearer my God to Thee." The flooded boiler room explodes and the Captain and wireless operator decide to go down with the ship. In the final scene, the Captain rescues a man drowning in the water, but then refuses a spot in the lifeboat and sacrifices himself by returning to the ship. The final shot is of his cap floating in the water, a poignant end to the film.

2. Style and accuracy

With a running time of 40 minutes, In Nacht und Eis was three times longer than the average film of 1912 (in a year when most films were a single reel, or about 10 minutes.). Shot in black and white, some scenes were tinted various colours to heighten their impact, such as night scenes which are in dark blue and the boiler room scenes in red.

The motion of being at sea was cleverly recreated with moving sets. Most films at the time were shot in studios that allowed controlled lighting conditions, but for realism, a large amount of the production was filmed on board the German liner Kaisern Auguste Victoria.

The allegedly eight meter long model used in the film
(Click to enlarge)

Special effects utilising models to recreate the sinking of the ship were considered quite advanced for the time. Although the allegedly eight meter long model is quite clearly a small scale model.

The most inaccurate part of the film is when the ship is shown striking the iceberg on the port side and also the boilers exploding. However, generally speaking the events are in line with what was being portrayed in the press at the time, especially in regard to the Captain who is shown shouting "Be British" to the remaining people on the ship, rescuing a man and ultimately going down with his ship.

In one scene, a title card reads: "The little inheritor of billions, who was rescued by his nanny to preserve the [family] name, since the whole family sacrificed themselves." This related to the true story of the Allison family who were traveling in First Class and whose baby Trevor escaped the Titanic with his nanny Alice, while his family perished in the sinking.

The Captain and wireless operators remain aboard the sinking ship (Click to enlarge)

3. Production

According to the book The Titanic and Silent Cinema by Stephen Bottomore "as early as the 1st of May, the Continental Kunstfilm company of Berlin announced that they would be releasing a film that month entitled, Der Untergang der titanic (The Sinking of the Titanic) which would depict the entire story including a scene of the collision with the iceberg."

The director was a 24-year-old Romanian, Mime Misu  (b. 21 January 1888 - 1953, born Mișu Rosescu) a ballet dancer, pantomime artist, film actor and director. He also possibly played the part of the wireless operator, although this cameo is presently unconfirmed. He named the film "In Nacht und Eis" which is a condensed form of the German phrase “Inmitten von Nacht und Eis” meaning “Amidst/Amongst night and ice.”

"In the event production only began on the film in June 1912. Due to the 'great technical difficulties in the artistic creation of the film' release was also delayed. It was eventually premiered, two months late, in August 1912 in Berlin, now entitled In Nacht und Eis (In Night and Ice). The director was Mime Misu, and this was his first film for Continental. One of the cameramen was Willy Hameister, wo went on to shoot the celebrated The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, and another was Emil Schünemann. Schünemann later recalled dismissively that Misu had been a barber before becoming a film director, and that he had written the script of the Titanic film in a school exercise book." (The Titanic and Silent Cinema, By Stephen Bottomore) (56.)

In Nacht und Eis was partly filmed at Cuxhaven and in Hamburg, and possibly some was also shot on the HAPAG liner, Kaiserin Auguste Victoria. According to other sources, such as the German wikipedia article, filming took place in the "Continental Film Atelier in Berlin's Chausseestraße 123 and on Krüpelsee near Königs Wusterhausen". 

The studio sets were designed by Siegfried Wroblewsky. The Berlin Fire Department provided water to use for the sinking scenes.

4. Cast

Actor Otto Rippert, by Jan Vilimek (1896)

The Captain: Otto Rippert

Born October 22, 1869 in Offenbach am Main, died January 18, 1940 in Berlin. A German theater actor and film director and a pioneer of German silent film. In Night and Ice is his only single acting credit (as Kapitän). According to some sources he appeares (complete with stick-on beard) as the millionaire Isidor Straus, however he is officially listed the Kapitän, which is a more substantial role than Straus. The film was made by Continental-Kunstfilm of Berlin, where Rippert continued to work as a director, making some ten motion pictures between 1912 and 1914.

His most notable accomplishments as a director and writer are his early German films, including the six-part series on the artificial human Homunculus of 1916 and the historical monumental film The Plague in Florence (1919), for which Fritz Lang wrote the screenplay. After 1925, Otto Rippert retired from directing and worked as a editor. He had a stroke in 1937 and died on January 15, 1940 in Berlin, Germany.

German actor Ernst Rückert

The First Officer: Ernst Rückert

A German stage and film actor, Ernst Rückert was born on December 20, 1892 in Berlin, Germany as Anton Ernst Rücker. In the Titanic film In Night and Ice he appears as the First officer ("Erste Offizier") and is listed in the credits as "Anton Ernst Rückert". As an actor he is mostly known for Luther (1928), Sein Rekordflug (1914) and Kaliber fünf Komma zwei(1920). He died January, 1950 in Germany.

5. Release

The 946 metre (3 reels) film was registered with the Berlin censor on the 6th of July 1912. It dropped the title Der Untergang der Titanic (The Sinking of the Titanic) and was simply "In Nacht und Eis" or "In Night and Ice".

The boiler room as depicted in the film
(Click to enlarge)

An initial review by Lichtbild-Bühne, a weekly film magazine, and published on July 28, 1912 was very positive:

"We must confess that the Continental Art Film, with commendable delicacy, has worked and performed the material, which is extremely difficult to handle for the film and which, due to its heavy tragedy, could easily seduce into its most sensational performance. The "Titanic" catastrophe in its cinematographic rendering is not the sensationalism of an effective, brutal director who works with cheap means, but even a very educational picture of the ship. With professional thoroughness, the individual scenes that took place on the deck and inside the huge hull were reproduced. In particular, we praise the brilliant photographic technique, the sharpness of the photograph and the atmospheric effect of the delicate tinting of the colour." (Lichtbild-Bühne (Cinematographic Review) of July 28, 1912. p. 12)

However the timing of the release, as it was the end of the season, was not favourable and it ended up being delayed for public release until the 17th of August 1912. Apparantly this did not lead to attracting large audiences:

"Its preview screening took place in the second week of July in Berlin. But this was the end of the season, so its release into cinemas had to be postponed until the beginning of the new season in August, and the public premiere was on the 17th August. The problem was that by then interest in the Titanic issue had waned. Though In Nacht und Eis was said to be a 'grand success' circumstances suggest otherwise. The film was distributed in the provinces less than two weeks after its original opening in Berlin, which suggests that it was not attracting large audiences." (The Titanic and Silent Cinema, By Stephen Bottomore) (56.)

6. Found and Remastered

The Captain (Otto Rippert) reacting to the iceberg
(Click to enlarge)

The 1912 film was presumed lost until February 1998. During the hype surrounding the release of the 1997 James Cameron film, German film archivist Horst Lange saw a newspaper article mentioning the disappearance of In Nacht und Eis, and informed the paper that he possessed a print of the film.

"Two film collectors reported that they owned a black-and-white Super-8mm copy of the film. Then the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathethk (SDK) added that they held in their archive a 35mm export copy of In Nacht und Eis with Swedish intertitles." (The Titanic and Silent Cinema, By Stephen Bottomore) (56.)

According to the Deutsche Kinemathek "The basis for the restoration was the original nitro copy from the Schwedsichen rental, which is archived in the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek. This was supplemented with matieral from other contemporary copies. The intermediate titles have been reset to the original templates."

Various scenes can be seen in the documentary Beyond Titanic released in 1998.


7. New Film Score

In 2014 the Regional Orchestra of Normandy commissioned Swiss musician (horn/piano) and composer Christophe Sturzenegger to write a score to serve as the soundtrack for In Nacht und Eis. Sturzenegger had conducted the Regional Orchestra of Normandy during a tour of France in 2011 and during which his original composition The Queen of the Snows (La reine des Neiges) was played. Sturzenegger thus wrote a suite for ten wind instruments and percussion for In Nacht und Eis (op. 19).

Christophe Sturzenegger and a concert suite he wrote for
In Nacht und Eis

The world premiere was in Caen in January 2015 and it was subsequently played throughout Normandy. In September 2016, Swiss Radio Espace 2 broadcasted it (along with the film) at the Schubertiade in Bienne, a festival organised every two years by Radio Television Suisse. After these performances Sturzenegger created a 'concert suite' from the musical material that was to be played without the film, which was recorded by Jan Nehring at the Studio Ansermet in Geneva on the 9th and 10th November 2015.

The version used in the English remastered video is a live performance that was recovered at the Great Hall of the Conservatory of Music of Geneva, on November 8th, 2015.

8. English Remastered Version and the Missing Scene

After discovering Christophe Sturzenegger's wonderful new score to the film I noticed that the German title cards had been translated into French and I wondered whether there was an English version. I searched but could not find anything and thus embarked on a project to translate the German film into English. It firstly involved compiling 3 different versions of the film: the original low resolution 1998 version as broadcast on TV (on the now non-existent B1 channel in Germany and what is mostly seen on YouTube), the remastered 2015 version in French and then the Deutsche Kinemathek kindly provided me with a copy of the current remastered German version as created by the French film restoration company L'Immagine Ritrovata.

The effect of the iceberg collision in a cabin
(Click to enlarge)

Comparing these films I instantly discovered, in addition to the complexity of translation, there were large discrepancies between all versions - in the number of title cards, the length of the title cards and most notably in one key missing scene from the film: the final shot of the Captain in the water, losing his cap and the cap floating on the sea. It is a very poignant moment and a fitting end to a film which had focused on the heroism of the crew. This idea of finishing the film with an object floating in the water was also used to dramatic effect at the end of the 1958 film "A Night to Remember." However the remastered version from Deutsche Kinemathek omits this final shot, instead ending on the shot of a lifeboat in the water and the Captain swimming away from it. It is a rather disappointing finale to the film, hinting that there is more. It is possible that the final scene was omitted from the film as it was considered shocking to see a depiction of the Captain drowning on screen and so removed from some versions of the film.

I decided to not only translate the German title cards but also reinstate the final shot of the Captain in the water. In the absence of a remastered version of this shot I had to use the only existing version which is from the low resolution 1998 B1 channel broadcast in Germany. In correspondence with Deutsche Kinemathek, they are investigating why this end shot is missing and hoping to also reinstate it at some point in the remastered film.

The missing final scene: the Captain struggling in the
water and losing his cap.

In regards to the English translation, I attempted this with the help of Google and then had it checked by two native German speakers, to ensure the original meaning was conveyed correctly. Some phrases did not necessarily translate accurately. For example in the original German it mentions the "Steward-Kapelle" which is directly translated "Steward Chapel" which makes little sense in English. In the French version this was translated "L'orchestre de bord " which in English is "ship's orchestra" which infers a march larger orchestra than the original German text. The word Kapelle also means "band" in German and hence I decided to translate this as "the ship's band." I then had an English speaker proof read the final film.

The title cards themselves were carefully reproduced to look like the rest of the film, with added film grain, movement and text. In the original version of the film, the title cards were on off-white colour, however the Swiss/French and German remastered versions were designed in bright green. I do not know the rationale behind that - perhaps some versions of the film also coloured the title cards? However, for simplicity, I decided not to follow with the green colour, but to instead return it to a similar colour to the original.

The translation of the title cards. Clockwise, from top left: The original German film, the Swiss/French version, the German remastered film, the English remastered version.

Ultimately, I think this film is a real gem for Titanic researchers and film enthusiasts alike. Made literally within months of the disaster and with a focus on the heroism and epic nature of the disaster, it would be another 31 years before another film was created with such ambition - the 1943 'Nazi' version also from Germany. Ironically, with a dramatic upheaval in history during the three decades that separate these two films, the focus changed from one of heroism to an overtly political agenda and strong anti-British propaganda.

With special thanks to:
Deutsche Kinemathek
Christophe Sturzenegger
Regional Orchestra of Normandy
Ioannis Georgiou
Petra Feyahn
Mia Fernandez