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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A complex avant-garde love story

Author: briantaves from Washington, DC
1 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Following the success of Robert Florey's THE LIFE AND DEATH OF 9413--A Hollywood EXTRA, he and designer William Cameron Menzies coauthored the scenario of a new avant-garde work, THE LOVE OF ZERO (often mistakenly called THE LOVES OF ZERO), Florey directed, with Nate Stein assisting, and Menzies designing sets. Made on a single day in March 1928 on a budget of $200, it had a twelve-minute length. Two Russians were given the leads, Joseph Marievsky, a pantomime dancer, and Tamara Shavrova; Anielka and Marco Elter and Arthur Hurni completed the cast. (Note to IMDb credit department: Slavko Vorkapich had nothing whatever to do with THE LOVE OF ZERO.) Noticing the nearly universal accessibility of the story and style of A Hollywood EXTRA to audiences, Florey and Menzies decided to film in a in a more abstract manner, using a far less tangible plot. Taking advantage of the cast's background in ballet, patterns of rhythmic movement exaggerate nearly every step, emphasizing Zero's contortions and jerky gestures as a way to express his internal emotions. These movements of players are not only synchronized within the frame, but with other players or movements appearing in split screens.

Like the satirical, numbered Hollywood extra, Zero is an aspiring artist, but his ornate appearance makes him even more of a caricature. As a member of the elite of art, Zero is high above the world, safely viewing it from his balcony. To his surprise and delight, the demure Beatrix admires his music from the courtyard below. While heart shaped silhouettes mask the screen, Zero offers Beatrix his heart--a literal valentine cutout--and she responds in kind as the two hearts become one.

After months of happiness, she is summoned back to the palace, and ordered never to see Zero again. Split screens then unite the two grief-stricken faces and project their mutual sadness. Just as the two hearts had literally become one, this conjunction of their two faces indicates the couple now think and feel as one. They slowly walk past the giant wheel of the machine street to the railroad, their two small figures occupying the bottom half of the screen. The mechanical realm proceeds busily above them without interruption in a cold, uncaring world.

Despairing, Zero returns to his home via "Di Stasse Blotz," where his figure dwarfs the residences. He pauses to read his future in a mammoth book of destiny filled with grotesque and discouraging words. Outside, an organ-grinder begins to play the inexorable tune of fate to which Zero must dance. The organ-grinder is also Zero's musical opposite, representing art at its lowest, most commercial point.

The grandeur of the palace is shown through a simple trick shot of candlestick-type objects placed over three sides of the frame, with sound implied through brief shots of a drum beating. However, the heartbroken Beatrix cannot bear to dance with the other concubines.

When the despairing Zero sees another woman loitering invitingly in the street below his balcony, he calculatingly hopes she is another Beatrix, but this time she merely laughs, her derision amplified by rapid cutting back and forth to closeups of each, then multiple exposures of her sneering face, eyes, and mouth. (The similar effect during Zero's first meeting with Beatrix gave her an angelic look by multiplying the images of her face.) No longer do the grief-stricken halves of Zero's face match or coincide in size. Then, as candles are extinguished and drums punctuate the final palace scene, Beatrix appears on a catafalque. Her death is announced by the only major intertitle, in order to emphasize the shock of the news.

Zero is despondent. The insistent organ-grinder returns with ever more labored effort, now switching 90 degrees from a normal, upright appearance to a nearly horizontal angle. The camera moves to a closer, darker shot, as the noise becomes deafening to Zero. Having once experienced love, he cannot live without it, and he begins to foresee death. His mingling with the outside world is not only a failure, but fatal. Indeed, Zero is a wraith-like being, rather than fully human, entering a room by passing through a door, not needing to open it. Zero's life becomes a perpetual nightmare, surrounded by monstrous ghouls, whose giant, deformed faces leer, laugh, mutter, and point as they surround and overwhelm him. Zero sees them filing past him, as if he were already in a coffin; finally a huge hand closes around him, ending his wretched existence. In the end, as Zero's name implies, his music, life, and love count for a sum of nothing.

In addition to expressionistic lighting and decor, THE LOVE OF ZERO is actually more impressionistic, as a title description correctly announces. For instance, the railroad station is simply expressed by puffs of smoke emerging from an overhead train model, accompanied by the initials RR and a conductor's repeated arm gestures. Nearly every shot or scene takes advantage of an oblique angle, a split screen, or distortion created through superimpositions. Often the inmost thoughts of the characters are revealed through multiple, prismatic, and revolving exposures of their face. Many times, different size portions of the faces of Zero and Beatrix are grafted together in a single shot. Despite using variations on these effects again and again, the intricacy of their arrangement and combination avoids the impression of repetition.

While A Hollywood EXTRA has a straightforward narrative, with the expressionism serving the plot, THE LOVE OF ZERO is less concerned about the clarity of the effects and the story. By comparison with EXTRA, critics found ZERO confusing, but nonetheless reacted with interest and encouragement. Yet at the same time, in many ways the narrative of THE LOVE OF ZERO, especially during its first half, utilizes the format of the love story, a favorite genre of Florey.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Semi-amateur impressionistic film prepared with paper scenery arrayed in different perspectives.

Author: Spent Bullets from Chinatown, California
13 April 2008

A fifteen-minute Impressionist film somewhat in the manner of Expressionism, The Love of Zero (1928) tells the tale of Zero (pantomime artist Joseph Marievski) who falls in love with Beatrix (Tamar Shavrova).

They live a blissful life upon a stage of abstract furniture & trapazoid windows & doors, with Zero periodically serenading Beatrix with a trumbone while perched on his highchair.

Gloomily parted by fate when Beatrix is recalled to the castle, Zero falls into a forlorn pose.

After long loneliness he finally falls for another woman (Anielka Elter), but she mistreats him with laughter & disdain, leaving him for two other men.

News arrives of the death of Beatrix. Thus there is no chance of Zero ever recovering his lost happiness. The world has become dark, ugly, irksome. Demons surround him, & he is finally destroyed, like a doll snatched away from a toy stage by the hand of a child.

This little film was famously made for only $200, pretty cheap even for 1928. The filmmakers got plenty for their money, too, as this is visually a masterwork, thanks in the main to the gorgeous set design by William Cameron Menzies.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Pretty amazing

Author: zetes from Saint Paul, MN
20 April 2002

Robert Florey's Loves of Zero is, as we are told by an opening placard, "an impressionist film made for less than $200.00." And that it is! Great-Grandpappy was right, though. You used to get a heck of a lot for your money back in the good old days. This is mostly just a few friends having a ball on film, playing with the potentialities. It's reminiscent of Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou in that way, except it's not meant to piss us off. The film is goofy, and it knows it, but it is also very beautiful and, ultimately, very poetic. It's certainly a short film that deserves to be more widely known. Just think of how many small masterpieces - or even large ones - from this time period have been lost. Loves of Zero has not been lost, but it might as well be. 10/10.

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Surrealism meets German Expressionism.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
4 November 2011

This is perhaps the first and last film I've seen that tells in the opening credits how much it cost to make! According to these credits, it's impressionistic and cost $200! How interesting.

The film begins with an oddly costumed man playing a trombone. When he sees a lovely girl, he begins dancing about in a Caligari-inspired set. They then fall in love and time passes--during which time be continues to play his trombone for her. The look of this film is like merging the German Expressionism of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" with Surrealism--and it makes for a film that the average Joe would NOT enjoy in the least! Although, I am sure, Salvador Dali would have adored the film-as well as people under the influence of LSD! Pretty weird but amazing for only $200! Worth seeing if you are an artsy sort of person of it you are dying for something different--and it IS different!

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

"You will never return, nor see Zero again"

Author: ackstasis from Australia
21 January 2010

Robert Florey broke into the mainstream with films like 'Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932),' but even then remained strongly indebted to the stylisation of German Expressionism, particularly 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920).' His silent short 'The Love of Zero (1927)' references Wiene's classic horror film extensively, even down to the grotesquely- distorted geometric windows, doors and walls. The plot of the film can be reduced to a single sentence – "man meets and loses the love of his life" – yet it's how the film narrates this story that is most fascinating. Just as 'Dr Caligari' used its set design to recreate the twisted annals of a deluded mind, Florey here uses similar architecture (as well a number of creative optical tricks) to reproduce the euphoria of true love, and the wretched heartbreak of romantic tragedy.

A musician named Zero (Joseph Marievsky), while playing the trombone from his balcony, falls for a beautiful woman (Tamara Shavrova) who is entranced by his music. The pair fall in love: Zero presents Beatrix with the paper cutout of a heart, a literal representation of his love, and she unites it with an identical cutout of her own. This fusion of shapes is a prominent visual motif for Florey, who often uses split- screens to emphasise that, through their love, Zero and Beatrix have become one {in a particularly breathtaking shot, Florey fuses the two faces into one, an image that must have inspired Ingmar Bergman's 'Persona (1966)'}. Later, Zero presents this same cutout to another woman (Anielka Elter), who simply laughs at his earnestness. The humiliated musician discards the heart, now flimsy and two-dimensional in its solitariness, onto the dirt.

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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

THE LOVE OF ZERO (Robert Florey and William Cameron Menzies, 1927) ***

Author: MARIO GAUCI ( from Naxxar, Malta
7 November 2008

The experimental nature of this fairytale-style short (by a couple of notable craftsmen) means that the technique on display swamps what little plot there is – in fact, it was part of a DVD collection of American avant-garde films.

In any case, we get a dapper-looking artist in love with a girl: she returns his affections, but is promised to someone else; undaunted, he tries to impress another woman but she just laughs in his face…after which he breaks down and is haunted by demons!

The film is actually intrinsically bizarre: not just in its marvelous CALIGARI-inspired Expressionist look, but the appearance and mannerisms of the lead character (which are no less stylized – particularly the speeded-up dance routine he occasionally engages in). The rest is made up of clever camera tricks which, though having little point in themselves, still manage to delight.

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