Marshall Neilan – The Little Princess (1917)

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Synopsis:Captain Richard Carewe, a wealthy British officer stationed in India, sends his daughter Sara to Miss Minchin’s school in London to be educated. Dubbed “the Little Princess,” because of her father’s vast wealth, Sara soon plunges to the position of scullery maid when news arrives of the captain’s death and the loss of her fortune. Mistreated by Miss Minchin, Sara comforts fellow slavey Becky with fairy stories. John Carrisford, an old friend of the captain’s, comes to live in the house next door. Unaware that Sara is there, Carrisford sympathizes with the lonely waifs and decides to provide them with a merry Christmas. Carrisford and his servant Ram Dass set a sumptuous feast for the girls in the attic, and Sara and Becky are about to dig in when Miss Minchin enters and punishes them. Carrisford interferes, and it develops that Crewe’s alleged worthless investment has become successful, and Sara is again an heiress. Carrisford takes charge of Sara and Becky and all ends happily. Continue reading

Robert Reinert – Nerven aka Nerves (1919)

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In Nerven, writer-director-producer Robert Reinert tried to capture the “nervous epidemic” caused by war and misery which “drives people mad”. This unique portrait of the life in 1919 Germany, filmed on location in Munich, describes the cases of different people from all levels of society: Factory owner Roloff who looses his mind in view of catastrophies and social disturbances, teacher John who is the hero of the masses and Marja who turns into a radical revolutionary. Using different fragments the Munich Film Museum could reconstruct this forgotten German classic which is a historic document and anticipates already elements of the Expressionist cinema of the 1920s. Continue reading

Giovanni Pastrone – Cabiria (1914)

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Standing out from all the stumbling efforts toward a new expression of cinema, Giovanni Pastrone’s story of the Second Punic War, Cabiria , demands special attention. Compared to the other colossal Italian spectacles of its time, it had an integrity and sense of purpose. From the beginning it was regarded as something special, and its premiere at the Teatro Vittorio Emmanuele, Turin, on 18 April 1914 was a great occasion. The film’s accompanying score by Ildebrando Pizzetti, performed by an orchestra of 80 and a choir of 70, added to the excitement. Viewed today, the film has lost little of its epic poetry to the zeitgeist, though the acting performances may seem dated. Continue reading

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Præsidenten AKA The President (1919)

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It perhaps comes as no surprise, given Carl Theodor Dreyer’s lifelong, idealized melancholy over his own unresolved parentage, that the scenario selected for his first film, The President would involve three generations of children conceived out of wedlock, and thematically crystallize on the legacy of their unreconciled paternity in the resolution of their own disparate lives. For Dreyer, this expurgation of such deep-seated trauma was not only manifested in the naïve idea of restoring the virtue and honor of a “fallen” woman (an archetypal surrogate for his own idealized, unwed, biological mother) through transcendence, but also in confronting the innate cruelty of the very institutions that socially (and inequitably) stigmatized such human transgressions through codified notions of morality and class division. It is within this framework that the film’s preface of the aging aristocrat, Franz Victor von Sendlinger (Elith Pio) offering a promissory relationship advice to his son Karl Victor (Halvard Hoff) on the folly of marrying outside (or more specifically, beneath) one’s social class while walking along the grounds of their forbiddingly isolated, dilapidated estate seems especially conducive to the figurative idea of empty, superficial, crumbling institutions and Dreyer’s own symbolic attempts to dismantle them. Continue reading

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Der var engang AKA Once Upon a Time (1922)

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Once upon a Time (a.k.a. Der var engang) is an atypical film for the Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, a departure from his more usual realistic dramas into the realm of fantasy and fairytale. It was the only film that Dreyer made for the independent film producer Sophus Madsen, a Danish film enthusiast whose only other production was Laurids Skands’s all but forgotten Livets Karneval (1923). The film was adapted from a play by Holger Drachmann, written in 1885, that was itself based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale Svinedrengen and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the
Shrew. From the outset, this was conceived as a lavish production, but it soon ran into financial difficulties. Even though some scenes were cut – including an extravagant market sequence – the film still ended up with a 150 per cent overspend on its 90,000
kroner budget. Continue reading

D.W. Griffith – The Painted Lady (1912)

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A lonely young woman lives with her strict father who forbids her to wear make-up. One day at an ice cream social, she meets a young man you seems interested in her. However, unknown to her, he is a burglar who is only interested in breaking into her father’s house. One night she is awakened by a noise. Grabbing a pistol, she enters her father’s downstairs office where she confronts a masked intruder . . . Continue reading