The Arch-Duke Herr Sixtus especially cares for Arts and particularly for young ballet students. The same is true of the Arch-Duke A.D.C., Herr Count Paul Paladin who shares with the Arch-Duke a special affection for Frau Elisa Jenkins, a young ballet student. Unexpectedly and thanks to a misunderstanding involving Frau Elisa and the Arch-Duke, the young student will become the new Prima Ballerina of the "Wiener Staatsoper".
To say that this Herr Graf watched an Austrian silent operetta recently at the Schloss theatre, is certainly an evident and obvious remark, much as saying that a commoner watched an American silent western, a Bolshevist silent propaganda, a French silent romance or an Italian silent film full of divas.
In "Der Balletterzherzog: Ein Wiener Spiel von Tanz und Liebe" (1926), an Austrian silent romantic operetta in which you can watch -- besides luxurious indoor scenery featuring Palaces and the Vienna Opera -- a love triangle that involves an Arch-Duke, his adjutant and a young ballerina. Everything is filmed properly by Herr Max Neufeld ( e.g. his use of the travelling camera emphasizing the grandioseness of the Austrian scenery points out his inner artistic intentions ). He's an Austrian film director who had an early career as an actor and he possessed a special fondness for those typical Austrian subjects that commoners like so much ... and obviously aristocrats don't because they don't like documentaries.
Accordingly, such an Austrian operetta casts the three main characters of the film with performers that play their roles properly: Herr Albert Paulig as an old aristocrat satyr, an Arch-Duke with a particular interest in ballet primadonnas, Frau Dina Gralla as the lively ballerina girl who goes to and fro into the arms of the Arch-Duke and his adjutant, played by Herr Werner Pittschau as a bewildered young Austrian Count.
Unfortunately the film hasn't any rich and fat old heiress so necessary when aristocrats are around. There is only the presence of the Arch-Duke's aunt does not provide a good example of the fattening diet that Austrian aristocrats like so much, because eating schnitzels all day it is not, exactly, a piece of cake
Everyone is settled in elegant and astounding aristocratic indoor settings that are plentiful in Vienna, so in this film the art direction staff didn't have anything to improve ...or to do. So, meanwhile, during their vacation, the director simply put the camera in front of all of those decadent and majestic settings.
Certainly the Viennese atmosphere helps to develop a predictable and, at the same time, witty and charming story ( in spite of all, this is Austria and the warm essence of decadence is everywhere ). Probably in other wicked hands this would be a more interesting silent film and full of malice. That's mainly due to the characteristics of the story, the kind that commoners like very much to exaggerate, that is to say, the aristocrat's carefree and lustful way of life. However, Herr Neufeld displays many virtues with a mixture of irreverence and hilarity. For examples: the Opera divas' rivalry, the continual misunderstandings involving between the three main characters and the military /love manoeuvres at Mudwitz.
The classic and decadent operetta atmosphere that can be seen in the film is curiously intertwined with the modern 20's of the last century. That fact at first bewilders the audience watching those Austrian fellows wearing those impeccable uniforms or even the Arch-Duke in civvies in the streets of Vienna! That's not to forget the down to earth life of Frau Elisa who resides in a modest apartment. There's a very interesting combination of modest common real life with the luxury and aristocratic Palaces in a witty contrast that Herr Neufeld certainly uses in order to distinguish and mock properly the aristocratic world of decadence. He transmits to the audience a world of fantasy and idealized dreams that only in the silent films can come true. For this reason "Der Balletterzherzog: Ein Wiener Spiel von Tanz und Liebe" is an excellent paradigm of a film operetta.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must continue to rehearsal about dancing on the tips of his aristocratic toes.
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