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In a Swiss Village in 1806, the fiery Marcus and the local clergyman's niece Ciglia are passionately in love. Unfortunately, after getting drunk during a celebration, Marcus is seduced by his aggressive admirer Pia, who uses the encounter to force him into marrying her. Heart-broken, Ciglia tries to forget him by marrying her own persistent admirer, Lorenz. Able to be faithful in deed but not thought, the two pine for each other, inspiring jealousy in their respective spouses. And once Lorenz decides to find a way to force Marcus out of town for good, it seems the relationship between Marcus and Ciglia can only end in tragedy. Written by
I'm pretty familiar with Barrymore's silent work, but other than "Lady Windemere's Fan" I had never seen a silent Lubitsch film before. It was not what I was expecting and that does not mean I was unpleasantly surprised. Lubitsch is well known for his unique "touch", and in my experience of watching his sound films that meant incorporating clever dialogue with insinuation. Without the power of speech, this Lubitsch silent film has all of the power of one of his talking films by using facial expression and some well-placed props.
Barrymore plays a hunter who is basically a loner who is in love with Ciglia, the niece of the town priest. How two such different people could fall in love is not shown in the film, but early on they do declare their love to one another, the occupying French army is driven from the area, and all seems to be well. The problem is that there is a wild girl of the village that has her heart set on capturing Barrymore by any means. Compounding difficulties is a respectable but bland fellow who also loves Ciglia and wants to marry her. These two rivals can't seem to understand that love can't be bought and it can't be trapped. The French being driven from the town is the cause of a great celebration that involves a masked ball and a great deal of liquor. It is this celebration that sets off a series of catastrophes for the young lovers.
What really stood out for me in this film were the very few intertitles used. The film really doesn't need them. Remember that 1929 was the last year that silent films were being made in the U.S. with the exception of a few holdouts like Murnau and Chaplin. It's interesting to look at this film and then compare it to "The Love Parade", a Lubitsch sound film made at the end of the same year - 1929. It is so sophisticated in its technique you'd think Lubitsch had been making sound films for ten years. His special touch was not hindered by the coming of sound - he didn't miss a step.
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