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Carlos und Elisabeth (1924)

When Elisabeth of Valois becomes engaged, she believes her fiancé is the crown prince of Spain, Don Carlos, a poetic and liberal young man who is the hope of those who would like to see ... See full summary »





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Cast overview:
Don Carlos
Eugen Klöpfer ...
Prince, later King Philippe of Spain
Aud Egede-Nissen ...
Princess Eboli
Marquis Posa
Adolf Klein ...
Grand Inquisitor
Robert Taube ...
Duke of Alba
Friedrich Kühne ...
Don Perez, the Dukeäs Minister
Rudolf Biebrach ...
Duke of Valois
Dagny Servaes ...
Elisabeth von Valois
Martin Herzberg ...
Don Carlos as a boy


When Elisabeth of Valois becomes engaged, she believes her fiancé is the crown prince of Spain, Don Carlos, a poetic and liberal young man who is the hope of those who would like to see freedom of religion. Instead she gets King Philip, his father, who is a promoter of the Inquisition and oppression both in Spain and in Flanders. Carlos, however, remains in love with Elisabeth. Written by Judy Shoaf

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Release Date:

26 February 1924 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Carlos and Elisabeth  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

I love Elisabeth! I love her! I love her! I love her!
18 November 2005 | by See all my reviews

I watched a version of this about 2 hours long, with French intertitles. It kind of staggered visually but had a nice score that underlined the dramatic moments of the plot. At least a bit was missing, since it is announced as a drama in prologue and 5 acts, and the 5th act intertitle was missing.

The story is based on the Schiller play/Verdi opera Don Carlos, and it is abundantly operatic, with romantic passion and politics intertwining. The main character is King Philip of Spain, the one who married Mary Tudor Queen of England and wanted to marry her sister Elizabeth I. In fact, his second or third wife was it seems a French princess, Elisabeth de Valois, who had at one time been intended for his son Carlos. Carlos himself died young after being imprisoned, and this "triangle" became the nucleus for a plot about romantic and political generational strife.

I suspect that it would help one to follow the plot and issues to have the story and characters well in mind (as I certainly did not). There are presuppositions about their roles that are not clear from the film itself, I think. The result was that I watched 2 hours of actors in Velazquez costumes emoting in wonderful vast sets viewed at many dramatic angles.

The actor playing Philip, Eugen Klöpfer, was excellent. He went from bold, cruel youth to broken age quite impressively. Since he loves his wife Elisabeth and wants her to love him, and loves his son although he doesn't trust him one bit either with political office or with his wife (rightly), and loves the Inquisition, his motivation in any given scene often seems to come out of nowhere. You never know whether he will threaten someone with death, beg him/her for love, or be too busy to notice them; yet he always seemed convincing. The result was, for me anyway, a character as histrionic and self-contradictory as a real king might be.

The actress playing Elisabeth had to look good in the elaborate costumes, look unhappy, and swoon a lot. She did her part but lacked charm. It was not clear why anyone would fall madly and irrevocably in love with her.

Conrad Veidt as Don Carlos was a puzzle to me. I find in Wikipedia that it is assumed the historical Carlos was mad, and Veidt's performance would bear that out. He literally seems to be half a man--his buddy the Marquis Posa (William Dieterle) is a solid man of action and thought who keeps proposing that Carlos liberate somebody--Flanders, or the Spanish people, who love Carlos. The person from whom they need liberation is, of course, Philip and his Inquisition or domination. But every time Posa suggests that Carlos start a revolution Carlos replies, "But--I love Elisabeth!" The only variation is when Philip shoots Posa and Carlos draws a sword on his father--but then drops it, stunned by the realization that Posa loved him enough to die for him. He can't act, because again, love gets in the way. The force of love seems to twist and bend Carlos's frail body, making him incapable of action, magnetized by the objects of his love and oblivious to politics or honor.

At the last, Carlos is awaiting the Inquisitors, having been told that if he begs for mercy he will get it. It is not clear what his heresy is, but certainly it has something to do with coveting his father's wife. Unfortunately Elisabeth comes to visit him in his cell and they are glued together in an embrace when the Inquisitors arrive. Although the Grand Inquisitor has the document of clemency, Carlos forgets to ask for it.

Conrad Veidt is always the most interesting thing on screen in the film, yet his character is never one who can be understood or sympathized with. His makeup is somewhat grotesque (very white with very dark mouth, compared to the other men) and when he is on the scene (he also plays Charles V, Philip's father, in the prologue) his body pretty much defines the space in front of the camera--reaching arms, falls to the ground, creeping along hedges in the park or walls in the dungeon. I noticed several scenes in which everyone else is just standing in a row and he is moving in front of them. The result is that Carlos seems rather like a Cesare who has been mesmerized, not by a killer, but by Elisabeth. He has one long moment (when his father asks him if he loves E. and he leans his head back and slowly closes his eyes) that is downright Garboesque. His last scene, in which he caresses the block lightly before laying his neck on it to have his head chopped off, is marvelous too.

But rarely, in watching a film, have I been so aware that it is just shadows, images flickering and fooling one into thinking there is life there.

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