Vienna in the biggest depression, directly after WW1. In a slum, Lila Leid, the wife of lawyer Leid is murdered, Egon, secretary of one of Leid's clients is arrested. He was with her, and ... See full summary »
Vienna in the biggest depression, directly after WW1. In a slum, Lila Leid, the wife of lawyer Leid is murdered, Egon, secretary of one of Leid's clients is arrested. He was with her, and had her necklace, because he needed some money for his own stock exchange deals. The same deal brings poverty to ex-government official Rumfort, his daughter Greta, who also has lost her job, tries to get some money to get food. She rents a room of the flat she, her young sister and her father are living in to an American Red Cross official, who pays $60 rent, but the money is taken by some of her father's creditors. But their neighbour, shop owner Mrs Greifer knows how to "help", she and Mrs. Merkel are running a nightclub with a brothel... Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Although suspiciously short (I have viewed the truncated American release, at about an hour and a half long) Pabst's dour film is still fascinating to watch.
Young Greta (Greta Garbo) contemplates prostituting herself to save her family from starvation during WW1 Vienna.
Although woefully incomplete, Pabst is well-served by the best European silents cast. Werner Krauss is on lascivious best-form as the avaracious butcher. The great Danish actress Asta Nielsen might be improbable casting as the daughter of a middle-aged couple (she was 44 at the time), but exudes sympathy. There is also a lovely cameo from Valeska Gert as the coat-shop assistant, who tempts Garbo into buying a fur coat after stroking her face and body with it.
It's all eyes on Garbo however, who gives a soulful, world-weary intensity, shot in adoring close-up, as the troubled girl. Her transmission of feelings of angst and desperation are hard to compare in silent cinema and this ranks amongst her best ever. (Indeed, it was her favourite film).
There are improbable moments - Garbo as "Flaming Youth" doesnt work as she makes the most gawky flapper and Einar Hanson as the Yankee Lieutenant who saves her from despair is a hollywood happy ending out of kilter with 'The New Objectivity' that Pabst claimed to work under.
But his eye for a dank, semi-expressionistic Vienna is remarkable and the mobile camera he employs at several key moments (notably as it roves amongst the butcher's queue like an interrogating spot-light) are almost revelatory.
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