Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Germany, 1924. Universum Film. Screenplay by Thea von Harbou, Carl Theodor Dreyer, based on the novel by Herman Bang. Cinematography by Karl Freund, Rudolph Mate. Produced by Erich Pommer. Music by Hans Joseph Vieth. Production Design by Hugo Haring. Costume Design by Hugo Haring.
A famous artist (Benjamin Christensen) has a young protégé (Walter Slezak) living with him who has modeled for many of his greatest paintings. The painter has also made Michael his adopted son in order to eventually bequeath him his estate, but when the younger man meets a beautiful aristocrat (Nora Gregor,later to become the delightful heroine of Renoir’s The Rules of the Game) at a portrait session, he leaves his benefactor’s home and sets up shop with her. Michael goes into debt to live the sweet life with her, while back home the older man pines for what is easily and heavily implied his lover, keeping up a brave front for onlookers and debt-collectors. This sexy, gorgeously filmed work of art by Carl Theodor Dreyer puts as much style and gravity into the thinly-veiled sexual impulses that the master filmmaker usually puts into philosophical explorations of faith and spirituality. The masterful, innovative close-ups that mark a great deal of Dreyer’s early career add touches of emotional pathos to what would otherwise be simple melodrama, while the rich set design helps it come off with more gleam than the soap opera storyline would suggest. A deeply powerful work that is still emotionally affecting after so many decades.