The Danish silent film director Herr George Schnéevoigt had previous to his excellent oeuvre "Laila" (1929) a reputable career as a cinematographer, working in many early Herr Carl Theodor Dreyer silent films as well as in Herr Gunnar Sommerfeldt's "Markens Grode" (1921), another excellent Norwegian silent oeuvre. The latter is certainly very important in order to understand the magnificent and exquisite treatment of wild nature and the smooth dramatic intensity in "Laila".
Filmed in varied and beautiful Norwegian places ( interiors were shot at Nordisk Film Company's Studio ) Herr Schnéevoigt drew on his experience as a cinematographer to reflect the cinematic and dramatic potential of Norwegian landscapes for his adaptation of the eponymous novel by Herr J. A. Friis. Laila is a young fraulein who, when her parents take her to be baptized in a distant town from home, is lost after her family is chased by wolves. Herr Jampa, a Lapp and servant of a wealthy reindeer owner Herr Lagje, finds the baby and thus she is raised as a Lapp.
The tundra is the constant background in "Laila" determining the dramatic elements of the story as well the daily lives of the characters, combining thrilling sequences like the attack of the hungry wolves and the danger of deadly waterfalls. The Lapps live in a cold and hard environment but even there love thrives even though difficulties transpire when prejudice comes to the surface ( The Lapps are a racial and social minority within Norway ).
In spite of the realism of the setting and the accurate depiction of the idiosyncrasies of the locals Herr Schnéevoigt is not constructing a documentary. "Laila" is fiction and tells a universal story, a "common" one about true feelings and love against a harsh background and a brilliant depiction of ancient cultures in the tundra. Herr Schnéevoigt brilliantly combines nature, ethnography and social prejudices to make a film with terrific cinematic power wherein adventure, romance and melodrama are given equal weight. The actors are inspired and perfectly suited to their roles as Lapps or Norwegians, two different and divergent cultures.
At this point it is necessary to say this beautiful restored silent film was recently released in modernen disc format by the longhaired youngsters at "Flicker Alley" in collaboration with some Norwegian foundations. The disc includes a brand new piano score by Herr Robert Israel. Flicker Alley has made it possible for silent film fans around the world to enjoy what is one of the best Norwegian silent films ever made.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must defrost himself.
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