Sometimes-though not often-you find an aristocrat who behaves improperly and in a bizarre way not in keeping their privileged condition. It would seem that strange conduct among aristocrats is not uncommon in Denmark as some English playwright wrote some centuries back. Such odd behaviour can also be found in the film "Der Var Engang" (Once Upon A Time) directed by Herr Carl Theodor Dreyer in the silent year of 1922.
The film depicts the case of the Prince of Denmark who travels to the land of Illyria where lives a princess who knows pretty well her exalted role and acts accordingly, a capricious and spoiled royal who rejects one by one all her suitors and certainly the Prince of Denmark wouldn't be an exception for her.
Annoyed by this and smitten with the royal brat, the Prince of Denmark decides to teach her a lesson with the help of his assistant, called "Smokehat". The Prince will disguise himself as a commoner in his plan to win the princess' heart.
"Der Var Engang" was an adaptation of a play by Herr Holger Drachmann that was very popular in Denmark and the film captures the fairytale atmosphere, especially during the first half of the picture in which there is much subtle humour that makes good use of Danish folklore and is supported by astonishing art direction and beautiful bucolic scenery.
In the second half of the film things take a new turn with the luxurious fairytale setting and the easy life at the palace disappearing as the Princess learns of real life and must endure the perils and hardships of commoners. Far from the safety of the palace, she learns humility, forgets her pride and finally falls in love.
Although almost half of the film is lost, the surviving footage is well supported by still photos to make up a complete narrative, a great restoration by the Danish Film Institute giving the opportunity to silent film fans around the world to see a very different type of Herr Dreyer work in which a fairy tale is combined with a serious moral, the latter being more characteristic of the Dreyer films that were to come.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must continue to behave as a true Teutonic aristocrat.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com
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