The Devil's Circus is a beautiful meditation on the vanity and futility of human existence. Its plot is involved and at times borders on the maudlin, but it was made at a time when sentiments such as love and passion could be depicted without the irony and distance that are so necessary for 'serious' movies today. It depicts an individual who loses everything but finds his heart. Many of the scenes are disturbing in their artistic intensity. I was particularly taken by the circus scenes, which remind me of the painting Ensor, a famous Belgian artist whose work predates the movie only by a few years. The movie struck me more as having the aura of nineteenth-century Romanticism, giving it an unreal, spectacular quality. A must for any fan of silent Hollywood, who will find many of the cinema's great traditions anticipated in this fine work. I believe this was MGM's first production, underlining the film's important place in movie history.
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