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Russia was in the silent year of 1905, at the dawn of its first
revolution; the historic upheavals to come were already beginning but
in the meantime, the population was still full of resentments, in
particular towards the Jewish minority. That is why the Jewish
youngster Dame Hanna Segal leaves her village hoping to find refuge
with her brother Jakow, a rich lawyer who was converted to
Christianity, in the city Saint-Petersburg.
In that city Dame Hanna will find an old friend of hers, Sascha, who has joined a group of revolutionaries; among the radicals is Herr Rylowitsch, who later denounces his companions to the Russian authorities and who, dressed as an itinerant monk, begins making anti-Semitic speeches. Herr Rylowitsch with the support of Herr Fedja, once Dame Hanna's childhood playmate, will provoke a pogrom against the Jewish population in Dame Hanna's village.
"Die Gezeichneten" was the fourth film directed by the Danish Herr Carl Theodor Dreyer in the silent year of 1922; it is not a well-known film but has survived in different prints in four different silent archives around the silent world. The film was a German production and had the participation of many international actors ( including the Polish film director Herr Richard Boleslawski who would later have a career in Amerika ) although Herr Dreyer preferred Russian actors for the main characters of the film because he thought that they were better than the German actors ( this is one of the reasons for the eternal enmity among those countries ).
This Herr Von would like to highlight overall two interesting aspects about this film; the first one is that the oeuvre was based in a successful novel written by Herr Dreyer's countryman, Herr Aage Madelund, a writer who lived through the horrors of the Russian pogrom. This background is evident during the first part of the film because Herr Dreyer gives much importance to the details of the social facts and the origins of the pogrom ( discrimination, prejudices, defamation ) and how this affected our heroine's daily life and her surroundings, first in her village town and then in Saint Petersburg . The consequences are carefully depicted in the film.
The other striking element of the film is at the end when the tension towards the Jews finally explodes during the pogrom sequences, astonishing the audience with the vitality of the images ( excellent montage ),and the realism of the violence and brutality where the fury of the masses toward the Jews is shown mercilessly; a powerful meeting of film and history.
And what's in the middle??... well, the usual tempered pace typical of Dreyer probably due to Herr Dreyer's interest in being faithful to the novel but the film seems excessively literary during that part, and there are too many intertitles explaining those complicated social and political facts. Still, the action picks up as the narrative proceeds.
Obviously "Die Gezeichneten" is not a perfect Dreyer film for this German count it seems too ambitious, uneven, wandering in a monotonous way, especially in the middle of the film, as this Herr Graf mentioned above. In spite of these flaws, it is, after all, an interesting early oeuvre of the Danish director with many remarkable moments that any silent film fan around the world would appreciate to watch.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must dance the horah with a Jewish heiress.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Die Gezeichneten" or "Love One Another" is a German from 1922, so this one will soon have its 100th anniversary. Looking at the year, you should not be surprised that it is a black-and-white silent film. The writer and director is Carl Theodor Dreyer, a Danish filmmaker who is still somewhat known today. He was in his 30s when he shot this movie and it is with German subtitles in the original. This is somewhat unusual as Dreyer almost exclusively shot Danish films back in the day. And even if he was still fairly young, this is far from one of his early efforts as another reviewer wrote. In the early 1920s, he was extremely prolific and experienced already for such an age. I must say that I have not really seen a lot of Dreyer's work and watching this one here does not get me curious about him either. Many silent films had the problem that there were simply not enough intertitles to understand the very basic plot story, but this is not the problem here. Intertitles are frequent and explain nicely. It's just another problem of a complete lack of a convincing story and the actors also add extremely little. No surprise I am not familiar with any of them from the great silent film classics and it's overacting from start to finish, which made it not only dragging but sometimes almost painful to watch. This one is only for the most hardcore silent film lovers. i give it a thumbs-down. Not recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This may not be a great film but it is certainly interesting, both as a
work of Dreyer and as a history piece. As the honorable Graf Ferdinand
has explained the plot in his usual excellent manner, I will here look
into some thematic material and (film)historical background.
Being the first of three German productions by Dreyer, Die Gezeichneten was an important step towards international acceptance for him. The Germans needed a big and exotic theme suitable for the Anglo-American market, and Dreyer suggested the Danish novel Elsker hverandre about Russian pogroms. Also, developing his own theme of love in times of revolution, which he had started with the Finnish episode of Blade af Satans bog, Dreyer needed the resources of a big studio and the extra help of Russian expatriates, and particularly the Jews among them, in Germany to add local colour to the story set in Russia during the 1905 upheavals. He could also use members of Moscow Art Theatre schooled in the art by Stanislavsky himself.
In the notes accompanying the DVD/blue-ray from the Danish Film Institute, Caspar Tyberg tells that the sets are based on housings in the Jewish community of Lublin, Poland, to where Dreyer and his set designer traveled for research. The results are striking, as what makes this film improve on Dreyer's previous efforts are exactly its sense of authentic characters, and perhaps even more so among the plentiful extras than among the principal characters, who after all also includes theatre actors from Germany, Denmark and Norway. As this film is literally crowded with people, it may be Dreyer's achievement in directing and editing the riotous crowd scenes in the latter half of the film that makes for the most exiting viewing. He had surely learned from the Finnish episode mentioned above how to whip up a storm by cross cutting in the Griffith way between closely framed studies of faces in terror and the distanced shots of the masses which threatens to destroy them. There is a feeling here of how a riot gets out of hand that, if not exactly with the same masterful expertise as later provided by Eisenstein and Pudovkin, provides a truly cinematic way of inciting terror.
A big advancement also over the Finnish episode, is how Dreyer in Die Gezeichneten manages not to take any sides on behalf of a group: Even when the followers of the Czar are murdering the Jews it is clear that they are ordinary, simpleminded people led astray by a single political provocateur. The three parties involved, Jews, revolutionaries and czarists, all provide a mixed crowd of the good, the bad and the indifferent. Not forgetting the spies which mingle among the three. If there is any fault among these people, it is that they can all be led astray. This gives the film, for its time, a rare realistic feeling, even if the love interests, the fleeing Hanna and her revolutionary lover Sascha, are certainly catered for in the usually romantic, and at times overacted, manner.
Since the book was published well before the 1917 revolution and the film of course after, we also get a complex issue concerning how the revolutionaries are portrayed. As they are young and idealistic, they immediately cause our positive interest (I assume). But we know what happened later. And, what is worse, so does the film: An intertitle actually, and critically, refers to "the present situation", which must mean 1922. The reds we see, however, act with enthusiasm, naive perhaps ("Let me throw the first bomb!") but all in all in a realistic, understandable manner considering the way the czarist police acts: After all it is the police that gives the film its only real villain in the spy and provocateur Rylowitsch; the mastermind and executor of the pogrom. The police also provides the necessary suspense in making the romance prove fateful: The troubled heroine and her revolutionary lover are betrayed and imprisoned. The reds on the other hand, are successful: They even manage to make the regime allow freedom for all political prisoners, even if this means a forced return of our heroine to her community.
Alas these contrasting elements also provide the greatest obstacle for the first time viewer, as there is quite a lot to follow at the same time. There is at first also an abundance of long intertitles almost swamping the (often very) short scenes completely, perhaps due to missing picture material. The result is confusing, and not exactly great cinema. But the first half, once it gets going, still has a lot of nice touches as it takes its time to show the Russian Jews in their homes crowded with gossiping and designing relatives, especially when there is marriage in the air. Dreyer is certainly learning here how to use facial close ups to illustrate character more than to set the plot going; he dwells on several persons that are not strictly necessary for the story. They do instead give us a feeling of how claustrophobic a Jewish community, or any community for that matter, can feel for young lovers who will not follow the law of the elders. Indeed the first half almost states the case that it is the secularized brother of the heroine that has made the right move, as he has escaped from the community to become a lawyer in the czarist city of St. Petersburg. However, and the film shows this in a convincing manner, even a secularized Jew remains a Jew when a pogrom is on the way. So at the end we are left with the sort of homegrown moral that may be depressing to some: Follow the elders anyway, for you cannot escape your destiny. You are branded (gezeichnet). Having this theme played out by people who just about got away from the 1917 revolution alive, gives Die Gezeichneten an extra touch that is, well, touching.
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