Ernst Lubitsch – Die Puppe AKA The Doll (1919)
The Baron of Chanterelle (Max Kronert) demands that his nephew Lancelot (Hermann Thimig) get married to preserve the family line. A skittish and effeminate fellow, Lancelot does not wish to marry, so when his uncle presents him with 40 enthusiastic brides, he hides out with a group of monks. The gluttonous monks learn about Lancelot’s potential cash reward for his nuptials, so they cook up a plan: he can marry a doll…
A sort of anti-“Pygmalion,” it’s the story of a puppetmaker who creates a life sized, wind-up replica of his daugther (the charming Ossi Oswalda, Lubitsch’s favorite comedienne during his German period) and is thrilled to find it working so wonderfully well — unaware that the puppet has been broken, and the daughter has taken its place. For the graciously cynical Lubitsch, art is not a life-giving miracle, but a convincing illusion.
Berlin Film Festival program notes:
The set is straight out of a winter wonderland, the comedy straight out of pantomime. The Doll conjures up the charm of childhood and amateurish helplessness using fake fairytale drapery and papier-mâché imagination. Lubitsch himself is seen building a doll’s house – only to have a real actor emerge from it. The scene isn’t a joke, rather a coup de theatre. The film is about boozing, gluttony, money, love and the fact that the most practical woman is a doll. This particular doll is neither soullessly evil or driven by fate, merely a little mischievous and ungainly. One mouse is all it takes to unmask her as a living, timorous girl. The main characters are a puppet-maker, his beautiful daughter, a doll who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter, an impudent apprentice who pesters both and breaks the doll while dancing with her, a mummy’s boy unfit for marriage and his rich uncle, who wants to buy his nephew’s bliss with a fat dowry. Whereupon the cissy – pursued by forty virgins – flees to a monastery, where bigoted monks out to fund their decadent life-styles with precisely this dowry suggest a fateful con-trick involving the doll. Lubitsch juggles with the ancient tools of the pantomime theatre: crude jokes, blunt sexual innuendo and surprise comedy. The result is a constant contrast between fairytale innocence and revealing comedy.
856MB | 1:03:39 | 704×512 | avi
Subtitles: German (intertitles) + English sub/idx