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Leo and Ulrich are life long friends. Home, on leave from their military training, Leo sees the beautiful Felicitas at the railroad station. Awed by her beauty, they meet again at the ball and quietly leave together. In her room, her husband, about whom she has neglected to inform Leo, comes in and challenges Leo to a duel. The duel is done, the Count is killed, and Felicitas is a widow. Leo, however, is 'requested' to serve 5 years in Africa and he tells Ulrich to watch over Felicitas while he is gone. After 3 years, Ulrich is able to get a pardon for Leo, and all that Leo thinks about on the way home is Felicitas. When he arrives, he learns that Felicitas has married Ulrich. Felicitas likes that Ulrich is rich and she never told Ulrich the truth about Leo and her. Leo is crushed and does not visit them which saddens Ulrich as he does not know the reason why. Leo tries to stay away from her, but Felicitas uses every opportunity to tempt him to return to her as her lover. She creating... Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Magnificent silent film! Marvelous cinematography, great performances, Garbo's alluring beauty
"Garbo multiplied the cinema's power of suggestion to infinity,
and the gaze so deep that every spectator there found what he sought
she spoke a different language to every man" Ado Kyrou, 1957
FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926), the first film that the director Clarence Brown made with "an immigrant actress" who Greta Garbo had been before its premiere occurred to be one of the very best films for its time. People flocked to see it, Garbo became so eminent that she could almost dictate the terms in film industry, her relationship with John Gilbert turned out to be no baseless gossip. However, since then, 80 years have passed, not many people know how important the premiere of the film was, how historic it turned out to be in Garbo's career. Yet, it seems never to be fading since there are STILL many people who watch this film in its recent DVD release. Let us look at some aspects that make it a real classic, not only for its time, but for the general history of cinema.
THE CINEMATOGRAPHY by William H. Daniels is magnificent. Probably, anyone who has seen the film will never forget its most famous lighting effect when Gilbert lightens Garbo's cigarette in the shadowy garden. Another stunning moment is the scene of Leo Von Harden and Count Von Rhaden's duel. It is played in silhouette against the vast sky and, as a result, we can see not so much people but rather their shadows. An excellent moment that remains in memory is the waltz of Felicitas and Leo on the ball at Stoltenhof. The scene is filmed so memorably that it is hard to be skipped. Yet, the image of the "Isle of Friendship" where two best friends swore eternal loyalty as children and then went to fight in a duel is presented in an unforgettable way. Such pictures never fade in memory.
THE CAST are very talented, real elite of the time.
GRETA GARBO and JOHN GILBERT: Gilbert, who was Hollywood's leading man after the death of Rudolph Valentino, does a great job here as Leo Von Harden. His love to Felicitas (and to Garbo in real life) is so natural that everybody will get an impression that it is real what they can find on the screen. The love scenes between the two are particularly natural, hardly to be found elsewhere in films! If there is chemistry between the stars in a film, it is, without any doubt, in FLESH AND THE DEVIL. Greta Garbo performs so well that no wonder people saw her (many for the first time) and very soon started to admire her as an actress. She is excellent in the role and her acting still does not appear to be dated whatsoever! The whole of Garbo's sequence is marvelous but if I were to choose which scenes are particularly memorable, I would pay attention to two brilliant moments: first, the one at the train station when Leo and Felicitas meet for the first time and Leo picks the flowers that fell onto the ground and gives them to her, and, second, the moment when Leo and Ulrich, two lifelong friends, go to fight in a duel. Viewer's attention is directed towards Hertha, Ulrich's virtuous sister. She does her best to persuade Felicitas to take steps to stop this madness that a duel between two best friends appeared to be. How beautifully Garbo shows a change of heart... I admit that I have never seen such a performance before! Therefore, the words by Kyrou about Garbo, entailed at the beginning of my review, appear to accurately fit here.
OTHER CAST: Besides Garbo and Gilbert, there is a great Swedish actor, Lars Hanson, with whom Garbo played in one film before FLESH AND THE DEVIL (this was Mauritz Stiller's THE SAGA OF GOSTA BERLING). He is memorable as Ulrich, particularly in the final sequence when friendship occurs to be, indeed, sacred. The fabulous acting of the three (Garbo, Gilbert and Hanson) is expressed in a brilliant scene of the three meeting after Leo's return from Africa and drinking a toast. Other cast give very good performances, too, including Barbara Kent as Hertha and Marc Mc Dermott as Count Von Rhaden.
OTHER MEMORABLE MOMENTS include a number of humorous scenes that are, in no way, dated. It is important to state that many silent films may seem "silly" because today's viewers laugh at the scenes that were not supposed to be funny. It is caused by the challenge in people's sense of humor. However, it does not appear to be in FLESH AND THE DEVIL. Humor is retained and still serves its purpose. Consider the pastor seeing twins and believing to be drunk (he sees one girl in double). Or the final shot ... "You won't bid me goodbye?"
FLESH AND THE DEVIL is a film that I would recommend to anyone to see. It is a real classic and, in this regard, it may be considered similar to other classics of the time, like SUNRISE (1927), BEN HUR (1925) and THE LAST LAUGH (1924). But there are three more aspects about it that make the movie a must see - William H. Daniels' cinematography, Clarence Brown's direction and Greta Garbo's magnificent silent performance together with her alluring beauty. See it so that the film can last forever in your most beautiful memories. 9/10!
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