The Case of Hans Fischerkoesen
The same spirit of ambiguity and subversive subtext pervades Fischerkoesen's next film, 1943's The Snowman. The opening sequence, as in Weather-beaten Melody, establishes the filmmaker's bravura mastery of creating the illusion of three-dimensional space. Behind the credits, we see layers of snowflakes, with their elaborate abstract patterns (including pure geometrical circles--all of which justify "degenerate" abstract art as a natural phenomenon!), falling down through the frame. As the credits finish, the viewer flies down over a snow-covered twilight village, around the steeple of a church (a stereo-optical model), down to a snowman in an open space--just as if seen from a snowflake's point of view. This point of view is confirmed when snowflakes alight on the snowman in the pattern of a heart--suggesting that he is a creature of feelings, rather than a military/political figure (who would wear medals or insignia), or an ostracized victim (such as the Jews or gays who wore yellow stars and pink triangles). Unlike the opening of Weather-beaten Melody, which establishes the point of view as that of the protagonist bee, The Snowman's opening sets us up as a visitor/observer.
The snowman is a more complex and "humanly" equivocal character than the bee, and thereby makes us question the meanings behind the actions he is involved in--and ultimately the social context from which he comes. In his Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster discusses two principles of narrative organization which are particularly relevant to The Snowman. He points out that pattern, the audience's slow perception of an overall shape or direction to the story, can heighten our awareness of the inexorable conditions that produce the narrative "destiny," whether it be, for example, the traits of personality that cause a protagonist to succeed or fail, or the nexus of social conditions that bring together a diverse group of people to a particular time, place and incident. Forster also observes that rhythm, the regular recurrence of certain details, events or persons in a story, can cause us to reevaluate the meaning of both the repeating item and the narrative as a whole. Fischerkoesen employs both pattern and rhythm to make us consider seriously the plight and destiny of the snowman.
In the film's first episode, the snowman begins to play by juggling snowballs--a curiously appropriate pastime. His game angers a watchdog, and in his attempts to get away, squashes the dog into the snow and then laughs at its distress. When the dog then bites a chunk out of his rump, the snowman finally get rid of it by pelting it with snowballs.
The snowman tries to have fun again by skating on an icy pond (using icicles for skates), but finds the three snowballs of his body beginning to bounce apart. Soon, the ice breaks and the snowman is melted down to a skeleton of his former self, but restores himself by rolling down hill until he regains his former bulk, only to have his torso and head get mixed up again. A crow helps reassemble his body. A tree laughs at him as he had laughed at the dog, so the crow shakes its coat of snow away as revenge. While the snowman tries to nap, a rabbit attempts to steal his carrot-nose. He decides to go inside to sleep where it will be safer.