Student Raskolnikow, who has written an article about laws and crime, proposing the thesis, that un-ordinary people can commit crimes if their actions are necessary for the benifit of ... See full summary »
Student Raskolnikow, who has written an article about laws and crime, proposing the thesis, that un-ordinary people can commit crimes if their actions are necessary for the benifit of mankind, murders an old woman, who operates a crooked loaning house, as well as her sister, who made the mistake of visiting her at the wrong time. He is suspected of the crime, but somebody else confesses to the murder. Meanwhile, he has fallen in love with Sonja, the street-walking daughter of an ex-official who was fired because of drinking. Raskolnikow's sister is engaged with an arrogant official, who dislikes him, because Raskolnikow gave Sonja 25 Rubel for her father's funeral. When Raskolnikow tells him his opinion of his behaviour against the poor, he tries to show he's a good guy also to the public and showing that Sonja is also a thief at the same time by framing her of a theft of 100 Rubels. But after this, Raskolnikow finds out that Sonja was a very close friend of his second victim... Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Fyodor Dostoyevsky's classic novel "Crime And Punsihment" (actually, the on-screen title here) has been filmed some 28 times over the years, but this is only the second adaptation I have watched after Josef von Sternberg's fine 1935 version (which I had checked out in 2009 in order to commemorate the 105th anniversary of star Peter Lorre's birth) and, in fact, this viewing is part of my ongoing Sternberg retrospective as I have opted to include a trio of titles (one of them yet another "Crime And Punishment" rendition!) that were based on source material he would tackle himself.
Being helmed by the director of that textbook film classic of German Expressionist technique THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920), this is very much in the same (remarkable and stimulating) vein of painted sets and distorted perspective. For the record, I am also familiar with Wiene's work via THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1924) another perennial whose U.S. remake would also feature Peter Lorre! and the surviving condensed version of GENUINE: THE TALE OF A VAMPIRE (1920). Incidentally, I had always been intrigued by a solitary still from RASKOLNIKOV in a movie-related (called, appropriately enough, "The Movie"!) British periodical from the early 1980s, but was more or less resigned to never being able to catch the real thing even if a long time afterwards, I am certainly happy now to have been proved wrong in this regard!
To begin with, the credits for this one are fairly hyperbolic: not only is the fact that the cast emanates from "The Moscow Arts Theater" mentioned twice (in hindsight, the protagonist registers as a satisfactorily brooding presence), but there is even a quite unique recommendation by the National Board Of Review stating that the feature presentation is "An Exceptional Film"! As was the case with the Sternberg picture, the most notable acting is done by the student assassin protagonist (the titular figure) and the Police official who hounds him (his suspicion borne from a passage in the former's own graduation thesis where he opines that an extraordinary person has the right to commit a crime and not be punished for it, especially if this would ultimately benefit mankind!). Again, too, Raskolnikov's confession occurs mainly due to the insistent pleas of the girl he loves (daughter of a bureaucrat-turned-drunkard whose constant squandering has driven her to prostitution and his wife, gradually, off-the-wall!) in this case, however, it is somewhat overstated as the hero attains what is best described as "religious mania" (though, interestingly enough, the same 'affliction' is attributed to the painter initially accused of the deed and who eventually takes his own life)!
The double slaying (of a vile female pawnbroker shown in hallucinations towering over a multitude of despairing clients and her sister who just happens upon the scene) itself is rather skimped, despite the fact that Wiene takes care beforehand to have Raskolnikov sew an extra pocket inside his jacket where he can hide the murder weapon (an axe) and even shows him first stealing and, subsequently, restoring it! At any rate, typically for a Silent of this vintage and style, the film is sluggishly-paced (by the way, the comprehensive green-tinting does occasionally obscure the detail from an already faded and battered print!) but, for various reasons, remains full of interest throughout its 87-minute duration (for what it is worth, this is essentially the same as Sternberg's version, whereas others would take the two-part or even TV mini-series route!).
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