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) Continue reading
Sandra Brennan at allmovie.com wrote:
This compelling and exceptionally well-executed silent drama, from new MGM studio executives Irving Thalburg and producer Louis B. Mayer is based on a highly-regarded Russian play and features the studio’s biggest stars, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert and Norma Shearer. Directed by noted Swedish filmmmaker Victor Sjostrom, it is the story of a scientific genius who is humiliated by his philandering wife and a major career set-back. To express his pain, bitterness and anger he becomes a circus clown who seems to enjoy the frequently cruel slapstick antics of his new colleagues. While in the circus, he finds a chance at renewal when he falls for a lovely bareback rider. But will he at last find happiness? Or will tragedy continue to be his closest companion? Continue reading
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.” Continue reading
Lillian Gish’s reputation may have been established in several historic D.W. Griffith pictures, but she usually ended up playing a very talented second fiddle to Griffith’s legend as a film pioneer. Nevertheless, Gish’s genius is most readily apparent in Victor Seastrom’s The Wind (1928), a psychologically-charged character study that hinges on her arsenal of small, telling gestures. This is one of the classic performances of silent cinema, and it came at a time when talkies were on the verge of burying the silents forever.
One could argue that the true protagonist of The Wind is the wind itself, a mournful sandstorm that almost drives Gish’s character insane. She plays Letty Mason, a lonely Virginia woman who travels by train to the Texas ranch of her cousin, Cora (Dorothy Cumming.) While on the train, Letty strikes up a flirtation with Roddy (Montagu Love), a Fort Worth man who implies that he might want to marry her. Later, at the ranch, Cora grows jealous of Letty when she develops a friendship with her husband (Edward Earle.) She accuses Letty of trying to steal him away from her, and kicks her out of the house. Continue reading
Only Lillian Gish could have gotten The Scarlet Letter (1926) past the censors of the late ’20s and only she could have made it such an authentic American classic. Ironically, she did it with the help of two Swedes, director Victor Sjöström and leading man Lars Hanson. As she would say in her memoirs, however, “I have always believed that the Scandinavians are closer in feeling to New England Puritans than are present-day Americans.” Continue reading
Beautiful, 24 October 2003
Author: Bruce Karam (Bruce.Karam) from Tucson, Arizona 85710 USA
A beautiful story of love, that reminded me of Greta Garbo’s “Anna Christie”. I loved Vilma Bankee’s voice and accent. I felt that the film was charming in it’s “innocence” and simplicity, while dealing with a very complex issue. I hope that I may someday see it again. Continue reading