The last person to die on New Year’s Eve before the clock strikes twelve is doomed to take the reins of Death’s chariot and work tirelessly collecting fresh souls for the next year. So says the legend that drives The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström (The Wind), about an alcoholic, abusive ne’er-do-well (Sjöström himself) who is shown the error of his ways and the pure-of-heart Salvation Army sister who believes in his redemption. Based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, this extraordinarily rich and innovative silent classic (which inspired Ingmar Bergman to make movies) is a Dickensian ghost story and a deeply moving morality tale, as well as a showcase for groundbreaking special effects. Read More »
Scandinavian Silent Cinema
Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in modern Europe. Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath: Benjamin Christensen’s legendary silent film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages and early modern era suffered from the same ills as psychiatric patients diagnosed with hysteria in the film’s own time. Far from a dry dissertation on the topic, the film itself is a witches’ brew of the scary, the gross, and the darkly humorous. Christensen’s mix-and-match approach to genre anticipates gothic horror, documentary re-creation, and the essay film, making for an experience unlike anything else in the history of cinema. Read More »
There is very little information available online on this little gem, the first ‘feature-length’ film shot exclusively in Iceland by an Icelandic director, the pioneer Loftur Guðmundsson. Director and crew travelled all around the country with the ambitious goal of documenting all the aspects of the local life at the time. Fishing plays an important role (being then, by far, the number one national industry); one can also witness the humble beginnings of ‘city-life’ in the capital, one of the first (or was it the very first?) cars driving in Iceland, beautiful pastoral shots of farm-lands, ladies posing in the national costume, as well as fighters indulging in the national sport, ‘glyma’. The 21st century traveller will be able to recognize a number of landmarks. The images are often naive, genuine, and captivating. In my opinion one of the most valuable Icelandic films. –Ewolve Read More »
This is the 25FPS version with modern orchestral score.
A true classic of Norwegian cinema, Rasmus Breistein’s Bridal Procession in Hardanger (1926) is not only a high point of the nation’s body of silent film, but also stands as a vital piece in their visual and cultural history. Stunningly shot on location on the fjords of western Norway, the film recreates a rural idyll of 19th century Scandinavian life to tell a compelling melodrama of young love, marriage, class division, and the lure of emigration to brighter lands of new promise. Read More »
A farmer’s wife is seduced into running away from her stolid older husband by a city slicker, who enslaves her in a brothel.
Literature is full of triangle dramas, but very few of them can beat Juhani Aho’s “Juha” (1998) for deepness of emotions and understanding of all three parties. The story is straight and strong, yet full of detail, just waiting to be ruined by cinematic means.
I had planned to film “Juha” almost as long as we had planned to make a silent movie with composer Anssi Tikanmäki. One day we were clever enough to put the ideas together and the catastrophe was ready.
Afterwards I’m not surprised that all efforts (except Tati’s “Mon Oncle”) to make a silent film during the last decades have somehow failed; the easiness of explaining all by words has polluted our story telling to a pale shadow of original cinema.
We can never again make films like “Broken Blossoms”, “Sunrise” or “Queen Kelly” because since film started to gable with mumble and all that hoochie-coochie and fancy words, stories have lost their purity, cinema its essence: innocence.
(Aki Kaurismäki) Read More »
The last person to die on New Year’s Eve before the clock strikes twelve is doomed to take the reins of Death’s chariot and work tirelessly collecting fresh souls for the next year. So says the legend that drives The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), directed by the father of Swedish cinema, Victor Sjöström. The story, based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, concerns an alcoholic, abusive ne’er-do-well (Sjöström himself) who is shown the error of his ways, and the pure-of-heart Salvation Army sister who believes in his redemption. This extraordinarily rich and innovative silent classic (which inspired Ingmar Bergman to make movies) is a Dickensian ghost story and a deeply moving morality tale, as well as a showcase for groundbreaking special effects. (-Criterion) Read More »
The Gardener is a 1912 Swedish silent drama film directed by Victor Sjöström. It is mostly known for being the first film to ever be banned by the Swedish censor system. It was long thought to have been lost, but in 1979 a copy was found in an archive in the United States. The Swedish premiere followed on 14 October 1980 when it was shown at the cinematheque in Stockholm.
In Sweden, the film was banned in 1912. The director said, “To the best of my recollection, the wreched faith of my ‘maiden work’ was due to the final scene. The president of the studio was horrified by the grubby, brutal gardener (played by yours truly)-according to him, the public didn’t want to see me tromping around with a big moustache. But I insisted that it was indispensable from an artistic standpoint, and I finally got my way. This particular stubby, brutal gardener lusted after a young lady in his employ, and he seduced- well, he virtually raped- the innocent thing in a lovely greenhouse among beautiful roses and every other flower imaginable. In the final scene, the girl is found dead the next morning on the floor of the greenhouse, with red roses and exquisite blossoms delicately strewn all around her. The marriage of death and beauty, in other words. But the thick-headed censors didn’t understand a thing- they had no feeling for that kind of beauty- and the film was banned.” The official comments of the censors were, “A breach of respectability. The association of death and beauty poses a threat to public order.” Read More »