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José Leitão de Barros
María Dolores Pradera
A crippled mailman is in love with a maid who lives in the same building he does in one of the city's poor neighborhoods. She, however, is in love with a wealthy, handsome young man. Desperate to win her love, he begins to intercept love letters they send to each other and replaces them with his own messages, which each thinks is from the other. His plan seems to be succeeding, but then something happens that bring tragic results to them all. Written by
Due to his conservative nature, this Herr Graf often doesn't want to run the risk of re-watching some old nitrate that in past have not met with aristocratic favour just to check if finally the passage of time did it some good. So, in order to avoid so risky adventures, this Herr Graf prefers to give support to a winner, watching a German silent masterpiece.
Because "Hintertreppe" ( Backstairs ) (1921) is certainly that; it's an absolutely brilliant ( in spite of the darkness included in the whole picture ) masterpiece, an intimate oeuvre in where the most inner human feelings are at loose.
The film was directed by Herr Leopold Jessner as assisted by Herr Paul Leni (who in many German film encyclopaedias is credited as co-director of the film). Certainly, his work as set designer is magnificent although Herr Jessner as one of the most innovative stage directors of the time is the responsible of the many merits of the picture.
"Hintertreppe" is considered an early "Kammerspielfilm" (with echoes of "Expressionism" for this German count). Certainly the atmosphere achieved by Herr Leni's décors contribute enormously to this aspect and the artistic concept of such a brilliant film piece, created thanks also to Herr Jessner's stage techniques. The result is a perfect atmosphere in relation with the story of a housemaid ( Frau Henny Porten ), her lover ( Herr Wilhelm Dieterle ) and a partly paralyzed postman ( Herr Fritz Kortner ) who secretly loves the girl.
These décors exude genuineness depicting the common life and labour of the main characters in the film: the household in which the girl works, her private room and the postman's one contrast with the bourgeoisie sets of the girl's masters, or the courtyard connection between the girl and the postman which lead the postman to his secret love. They are décors in where simple life is showed in a natural and dark way and drama will appear using the same artistic resources.
Thanks to Herr Jessner instructions, in these décors the characters freed their most emotive, inner and bare human feelings. They are universal feelings that certainly have no need to be explained by any intertitle, an exemplary lesson of performing ( stage performing if we want to say in that way having in mind Herr Jessner's background ). The most simple but careful gesture is important, reflecting in that way the actors the hopes and sorrows of the characters in what it is one of the most moving actors performing of the silent era. Frau Henny Porten and Herr Fritz Kortner are simply superb. A the third, Herr Wilhelm Dieterle, disappeared at the beginning of the film appearing almost at the end. It certainly would have been better that he hadn't done so having keeping in mind the terrible consequences that this had for the other two
It is not very usual that this Herr Graf mention a modernen music score in a silent picture but in this occasion is necessary because such score is absolutely brilliant, rhythmically illustrate the happenings and creates the mood that the story needs. So, this Herr Graf would like to praise such beautiful score and even invite some longhaired youngsters to serve the tea if they will reveal who they are because there is no trace of the composers in the nitrate showed at the Schloss theatre.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must watch who use the Schloss backstairs.
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