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Gösta Berling is a young and attractive minister. Because he is an alcoholic and his preaches are far too daring, he is finally defrocked. He leaves the town in disgrace and arrives at countess Marta's manor. His new job there is to be a tutor to countess' beautiful stepdaughter. They eventually fall in love with each other. But they don't know that countess hired him only because she has some secret plans of her own... Written by
Aljaz Ciber, Slovenia
Together with Stroheim and Murnau, Mauritz Stiller is one of the great directors in cinema history who solely directed silent films during his whole career. Even though the majority of his work has been lost forever, some titles have survived: Herr Arnes Pengar (1919), Sangen Om Dem Eldröda Blomman (1919), "Erotikon" (1920) and "Gunnar Hedes Saga" (1923). These famous films are enough to confirm that Mauritz Stiller has been and are one of the best directors of the seventh art through its long history. He has been able to elevate the "silent art" to that great level that we can still now enjoy and appreciate.
One important turn in his work was his last movie made in Sweden: "Gösta Berlings Saga". This film had disastrous consequences for his career, as this Germanic count will narrate later on.
Stiller, together with Victor Sjöström, were the "father founders" of the Swedish cinema. Together with Sjöström, he is the most famous film director of the 20's. This notoriety was not only in his country because his film "Sangen On Den Eldröda Blomman"(1918) made him world famous, a status confirmed definitively with that masterpiece "Herr Arnes Pengar" (1919).
It is very difficult to write about Stiller, even in Germanic, because it is not easy to find all the adjectives to define his great career; his work had the beauty of a great stylist able to make master pieces in such different genres as "saga" (those great stories of the Swedish literature) or that most sophisticated comedy ("Erotikon" (1920) ). He was a director who had a big influence, even on German directors as Herr Lubitsch who was then defining his unmistakable "touch".
The legend of Gösta Berling is related to the "epic" part of his work. There are big stories replete with character with different backgrounds in several situations that the Nordic director manages very well.
The film is an adaptation of a book written by the famous Swedish author Selma Lagerloff, who by the way, had many disagreements with Stiller's adaptation (ah ., the eternal "auteur" ego problems, almost as classic among the aristocrats'!). Changes were made due to Stiller's lack of respect for the text, who changed it according to the necessity of the film, more specifically, according to the "visual needs" of it. As this Germanic count mentioned before, Stiller is a great stylist, always looking for visual beauty (although it is important to mention that he does not look for hollow images or simple postcards). His interest is very different. In a way, he is delighted on the aesthetics of certain scenarios to show us the most miserable side, the squalor of the whole surroundings.
In spite of those stylistics disagreements between author and director, this Teutonic count asserts that the cinematographic adaptation is excellent. Keeping in mind the fact that it is a very dense and complicated novel, filled with characters.
The Leyend of Gösta Berling tells us the story of Gösta, a drunkard minister who is expelled from the priesthood for his "habit" (weird Nordic tradition, those expellings ). But the bigger problem with his parish is his truthfulness. Jobless, Gösta finishes in Värmland, a state managed by the people of Ekeby.
Gösta's strong personality and his special charm with women will bring him many problems. Two powerful families full of hypocrisy, lies and adultery; rule two estates in Värmland and they will surround Gösta with plenty of intrigue, confusing him and costing him a lot of problems to which he was a stranger to begin with.
Only at the end of the movie, will our hero will get his redemption from the hand of Elisabeth, performed by the fascinating Greta Garbo.
It has to be mentioned that for many long-haired, Stiller is still "only" known as the finder and creator of the divine Greta Garbo; which it is true because thanks to Stiller, Ms Garbo got her first great film performance due to her appearance in this movie. This is a great injustice because reduces Stiller's creations to a second place.
It is compulsory to praise all the actor's great interpretations in this movie. They were really memorable, not forced at all if we take into consideration that around that time it was something very difficult to obtain with certain adaptations or argumentative plots that tended to excesses. It is a movie where also big natural spaces predominate, another of recurrent theme of Stiller. This movie combines the beauty of the frozen landscapes with the danger in them.
As this Germanic count said before, the success that "The legend of Gösta Berling" brought to Stiller and Ms Garbo had a different repercussion in their future careers: for her, the beginning of a mythic career, a cinematographic icon that prevails and still impresses us. For him, the beginning of the end as a director when he started a new phase in the United States that lasted for four unhappy years.
Watching the formal and stylist beauty of "The legend of Gösta Berling", one realises, even the oblivious Germanic aristocracy, the great loss for the cinema that occurred with Stiller's premature death. He was a fundamental director for both the Nordic and global cinema. His great work has been timeless.
And now, if you allow me, I have to leave you momentarily because this Germanic count has an appointment with a Swedish sweetie.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
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