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The melodrama we would love with Stahl's and Sirk's works was born with
Pabst .We are far from DW Griffith's "orphans in the storm" !Although
implausible,this film has realist accents and Pabst's directing takes
our breath away.And what a beautiful last line:"Nobody's lost when
there's a little love!"
Melodrama is par excellence a woman's story.An unfairly treated woman.Its construction is parabolic: happiness,downfall,redemption. But "Tagebuch" is much more complex;its first part already features tragedy:Elisabeth's suicide is a sinister omen.
The reformatory where two martinets (a shrew and a terrifying smiling bald man)treat their pupils like dogs.The scene when the girls eat their soup is unforgettable.
The scene at the notary's office where Thymiane returns good for evil ,which climaxes the movie.Pabst uses no (or so few) subtitles : his pictures have the strength of a Chaplin movie.The close-up on Meinert's hand after the girl has refused to shake it,sublimates her redemption.
The final scene when Thymiane meets again her former mate and her final rebellion:"I know the benefits of that house!"
Like very few silent movies,"Tagebuch" can grab today's audience at least as much as "Pandora's box" (aka "Loulou" aka "der büchse der Pandora").Both movies have a very dense screenplay full of twists and unexpected ends -Loulou's death in the former;Thymiane's rebellion in the latter).Both feature Louise Brooks ,who remains an attractive woman even by today's canons when so many silent screen actresses'charm -and actors' - seems outdated nowadays (think of Brigitte Helm -Maria in Lang's masterpiece "Metropolis").Her charisma was so strong that she did not have to speak to move us.That may account for her failure in the talkies.
Do not miss Pabst's anti-war "West front 1918" either.It compares favorably to Milestone's "All quiet on the western front" and Gance's "J'accuse".
This excellent drama accomplishes the difficult task of being quite
earthy, and often grim, in the ways that it depicts its characters and
their lives, yet at the same time being an ultimately uplifting story
about the possibilities of human understanding. It also features a fine
performance by Louise Brooks. Her performance in "Diary of a Lost Girl"
is on a par with that in "Pandora's Box", her other celebrated
collaboration with G.W. Pabst.
The story has Brooks as a pharmacist's daughter whose young life is drastically changed by events that she can only dimly understand. From then on, she must endure a variety of trials while gradually learning some important lessons, often with only the barest help from those around her. The role contrasts nicely with her role in "Pandora's Box". Both in that film and in "Diary of a Lost Girl", she has the same level of energy and appeal, but in the former movie, right from the beginning she was very much the catalyst for the other characters' actions, while here she begins as an innocent youth who is completely at the mercy of all of the others, and then grows as the movie proceeds.
The settings are well-chosen so as both to contrast with her character, and to develop it. Her experiences show many aspects of the seamier side of both human nature and human living, and yet this is by no means a mere gratuitous display of sordidness, but rather a growing experience for Brooks's character. It culminates in an uplifting finale that is all the more effective for having arisen from material that is by no means idealistic.
The expressionistic style in the photography, lighting, and sets enhances the atmosphere and also the effectiveness of the story and the characters. The slightly stylized nature of both works quite well, and all of this contributes significantly to the high quality of the movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Louise Brooks is luminous in this rather trite tale of a young girl's
ruination and regeneration. The plot line founders toward the end but,
as a whole, DIARY OF A LOST GIRL is notable for its arresting visuals
and set-piece sequences. Unfortunately, we'll never see G.W. Pabst's
"THE DIARY OF A LOST GIRL was based on the moralistic novel by Margarete Bohme... But the censors did not miss the point. They butchered DIARY more brutally than PANDORA. In the ending Pabst intended, Thymiane was to become the proprietress of her own high-class brothel, rejecting respectability in favor of the wealth and power that a rotten bourgeoisie could respect. But the censors insisted that Thymiane embrace precisely the kind of sentimental reformism that Pabst disdained, twisting the film into conformity with German middle-class values. Pabst capitulated because he had to coexist with them and because he would live to fight another day for such subsequent (and better) films as ...THE THREEPENNY OPERA... DOALG was a kind of sacrificial lamb, as its scenarist, Rudolf Leonhardt, affirms: 'Pabst's accommodating nature had already made him prepared to make two different endings -for vice, even involuntary vice, must not go rewarded. Where the censors had not forbidden passages beforehand, entire filmed sequences were cut without mercy later on...'"
I love what there is of it (especially the brothel & reformatory scenes), but I was never in the majority:
"But it was death, rather than immortality, that awaited DOALG at the box office upon its release... The influential critic Hans G. Lustig gave it a single withering paragraph in 'Der Tempel'... No serious criticism of DOALG could take place until three decades later...Lost on most critics was the fact that Pabst's technique in DOALG was different from that of PANDORA. Lotte Eisner, virtually alone, recognized a new, semi-documentary restraint: 'Pabst now seeks neither Expressionistic chiaroscuro nor Impressionistic glitter; and he seems less intoxicated than he was by the beauty of his actress."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are two things about this that make it essential viewing. The
first is obvious. Louise Brooks fills the camera like no one else in my
experience. And like no one else probably could now that movies have
filled out all the sensory space they can. And we have come to expect
information in those channels.
For instance, can you imagine a movie today just showing people dancing? No story information, no bizarre or comic behavior to amuse us, just people dancing. This has three or four such scenes.
I'll leave it for others to speculate on how such an on screen presence happened to be possible, except to say that much must come from the nuance of the eye, all the things associated with the camera and its context. I pay attention particularly to placement and movement, here not obviously novel but intimate nonetheless.
What a woman! Between she and Clara Bow these two women alone we changed.
But the other reason I put this on my "must watch" list is because of the sheer virtuosity of the film-making.
Realize that the hardest thing for a filmmaker is to start. How do you begin? You have to create a world, a feel, a system of mechanics and fate. You have to create a situation with context and characters. You have to have a story with events and pull. All this you need to build in a couple minutes and do it in such a way that the viewer is not only fully familiar and comfortable but swept along, she begs for more.
Pay attention to the first few moments of this. If you haven't seen it dear reader, remember that this is a *silent* movie, that there is no rolling text to tell you what is happening, and there haven't been several months of previews that tell you the whole darn story.
In just a few minutes you learn:
It is christening day for Thymiane (whose name we learn) and as a gift from a live-in aunt she gets the diary from which we know what we see later will be drawn.
We learn that she is the daughter of a successful chemist who lives in an opulent house above the pharmacy. That below lives an assistant chemist who is obsessed by sex. We discover that she has a bossy set of relatives who turn a blind eye to her father's dalliances.
And that one of those dalliances impregnates her governess who then kills herself. Meanwhile, the downstairs chemist has designs on the young girl and makes the first entry in her diary.
The story is off.
I dare say that there is no other movie in existence that conveys this much information so compactly and so directly. The way it is done today is by reference to other movies. You enter today's movies with all sorts of tacit knowledge about other movies that is recalled and activated by codes.
Here, it is all done the old fashioned way, cinematically.
Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.
The teenager Thymian Henning (Louise Brooks) lives with her father Karl
Friedrich Henning and her aunt in a comfortable house. When the
pregnant housekeeper Elisabeth (Sybille Schmitz) is fired, she commits
suicide and is found drowned. Her father brings the new housekeeper
Meta (Franziska Kinz) and sooner he flirts with her. Thymian is seduced
by the pharmacist Meinert (Fritz Rasp) that rents her father's pharmacy
downstairs. Thyamin gets pregnant and her father gives the baby Erika
for a nanny and puts his daughter in a reformatory. Meanwhile, the idle
Count Nicolas Osdorff (André Roanne) is left by his uncle to fend for
himself. Karl Henning gets married with Meta and Thymian decides to
escape from the boarding school helped by Count Osdorff.
During the night, Thymian runs away from the reformatory with a friend that gives an address to Thymian and the Count. Sooner she finds that the place is a brothel and without any alternative to survive, she works in the place. Years later, her father dies and Thymian inherits everything. But she needs a new identity and she gets married with the Count and becomes a Countess. However, when she sees her little sister leaving the house with her little brother and Meta, she gives her fortune to the child. When Count Osdorff discovers that she had given up the fortune, he commits suicide. Now the Elder Count Osdorff (Arnold Korff) feels responsible for the death of his cousin and promises to assist Thymian to have a better life. But she is still haunted by her past.
"Tagebuch einer Verlorenen", a.k.a. "Diary of a Lost Girl", is a masterpiece from Georg Wilhelm Pabst with a complex story of a teenager that has her life destroyed by the intolerance of her family after an irreparable mistake in the view of a 1929 society.
The plot has many twists and subtle scenes, like the debut of Thymian in the brothel with the client kissing her and turning off the lampshade. Louise Brooks is among the most beautiful faces of the cinema history and her acting is stunning as usual. The Count's last sentence "- with a little more love, no one on this Earth would ever be lost!" closes this film with golden key. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Diário de uma Garota Perdida" ("Diary of a Lost Girl")
I saw Pandora's Box several years ago. At the time, Diary of a Lost Girl was unavailable for viewing. I discovered it had been re- released on DVD, completely restored. It is far superior to Pandora's Box, in my opinion. Louise Brooks plays Thyamin, a young innocent who is raped by her lothario father's chemist assistant. Her pregnancy results in her banishment from the house, and she is placed in a reform school. Her escape from the institution leads her to a brothel, where she spends her life until her father's death...when her life changes. Unlike Pandora's Box, which is about an unredeemable nymphomaniac, Diary of A Lost Girl is a story about loss, redemption, forgiveness, sacrifice, and hope. It has a much richer plotline, sublime cinematography, and Louise Brooks shone like a star. This film itself is a rediscovered treasure. Highly, highly recommended.
I stumbled on this flick on a late-night Canadian French channel, and
became quite enamoured with it - partly due to the story, the way it
unfolded, but more so with Louise Brooks. She looks fantastic, her
smile (when it actually appears in this somewhat melodramatic film) so
captivating. But even the characters around her were fascinating too,
and the way they were filmed.
It seems to me that with current technology, we can watch a silent movie like this now adjusted to what we understand to be a movement of characters to a pace more like our own, not the slightly quickened pace that we're used to seeing in silent films. I haven't seen the film in its original form, so I can't make an accurate assessment as to whether it unspools a bit more quickly simply due to projectors of the era, or the way it was filmed - the point is this: watching a movie such as this Pabst classic now adjusted to a more realistic pace does seem to make one appreciate them more in a strangely contemporary context. Though we still note the differences in clothing and appearance of the people, they all seem more identifiable somehow. But I swear, I spent a few minutes wondering if I had stumbled onto a contemporary silent-film imitation of some type! Oops!
I experienced something similar recently when watching a screening of Murnau's "Sunrise" - the film and its characters somehow transcended their era. Though part of me wonders if that film also had its pacing adjusted technologically, there was a human dimension to it that made me push aside any preconceived notions of silent cinema and just enjoyed it as a tale well told, beautifully filmed, and amazingly acted. This film has the same effect - though I think it was actually I who transcended my era by experiencing it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The comments submitted are from Josh76's Dad, Dan47 I found this film to be deeply moving. Louise Brooks portrays the innocent Thymiane with such pathos that I wanted to reach out to the screen and rescue her. Unlike most films from this period there is no rescue in "the nick of time". Events follow an inexorable nightmare pattern as Thymiane, the victim, is condemned to imprisonment after being raped and impregnated by her father's employer. Abandoned financially and emotionally by her selfish father she can only fall into prostitution after she escapes the home for wayward girls. I couldn't help being reminded of "The Magdalene Sisters", another film where girls are blamed for the lustful acts of their attackers and seducers. Louise Brooks expresses more with her eyes then most actors do with paragraphs of dialogue. Even during the giddiest parties in the brothel she expresses desperation, despair and regret with rare subtlety. Despite its' age and the lack of sound the film stands up well. The presentation is not overly sentimentalized, though the enduring "goodness" of the Thymiane and her eventual "redemption" might stretch the imagination. In an age where "human trafficking" is running rampant we could use an actress of such beauty, charisma, and sympathy to portray the continuing plight of girls and women driven into the sordid life of prostitution.
Who would have guessed that these two collaborated in a film superior to Pandora's Box. Pabst and Brooks were a rare combination indeed, and must serve as another decisive exception to the auteur theory. Having just viewed both, I think a case can be made that the Lost Girl film is actually superior to the admittedly better known film. How Krackhaeur could have ignored the value of these two films in his "Caligari to Hitler" book is indeed baffling. The scenes in the "foster" home are fascinating and may indeed say something about the authoritarian mindset of 20s Germany. (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is another good example)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The is the best film that Louise Brooks made. It is far better than the
overlong "Pandora's Box", and the more I have thought about it the
stranger it seems that "Dairy of a Lost Girl" should not be more famous
than its overblown predecessor.
The fame of "Pandora's Box" is attributable to the image and presentation of Louise Brooks as an archetype - not unlike a mannequin or fashion plate for a generation of 'liberated' German girls. "Diary of a Lost Girl" is forgotten despite its artistic superiority and the revelation that Brooks was not just a sensational beauty but a very fine actress to boot. In most of her films Brooks was called upon to pose, and perhaps to smirk - and she did it very well, but she was not asked to do any more, which might have explained her mounting frustration with the American movie business.
After she completed "Pandora's Box" she sailed back to the U.S.A., perhaps expecting to be treated with greater consideration by the Paramount executives who had been driven to distraction by her uncompromising (selfish?) working methods. The long suffering managing executive B. P. Shulberg offered her a much higher salary in order to turn her last American silent, "The Canary Murder Case" (which I have not seen) into a talkie. Oddly, she viewed this as an insult and treated Shulberg with undeserved contempt. Having destroyed her relationship with Adolph Zukor's Paramount she returned to G. W. Pabst in 1929 - she presumably hoped that Hom-Film would be a more accommodating employer. Accommodating, that is, of her increasingly erratic and temperamental work habits, which were lubricated by a heroic consumption of alcohol.
Pabst obviously had a great affection for her (who wouldn't, even allowing for her often lamentable behaviour?), and he famously remarked on the last day of shooting that 'Your life is like Lulu's, and you will end the same way'. That was almost prophetic, and her failure to register (to Pabst) that she was in any way aware of the consequences of her folly, was discreditable. So when I look at a film as good as "Diary of a Lost Girl" I am as conscious of her striking ability, as I am appalled by what she threw away through sheer wilful arrogance.
The story, by Margarete Bohme, caused a great scandal in 1905. It replicated the tale of the baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, who committed suicide in 1927. It was not just the subject (a very candid treatment of prostitution that revealed a sordid and - worse still - undisciplined underbelly to Wilhelmine society), but the outspoken attack on the reformatory system, on the conditional and de haut en bas nature of charitable provision, and the strong suggestion of feminism that was highly offensive in a rigidly paternalistic social system.
Attitudes towards manners and morals changed emphatically with the establishment of the Weimar regime, and Bohme's novel was first filmed in 1919. A decade later, and having established herself as a poster child for sexual liberation, the role of Thymiane Henning seemed ripe for fresh treatment by Brooks.
Brooks performs the role of the wronged daughter who has suffered a 'fate worse than death' at the hands of a repellant apothecary's assistant (an excellent performance by the great Fritz Rasp); brutal treatment at a reformatory (more great stuff from Andrews Engelmann and a sadistic Valeska Gert - a differentiated reprise of the Sapphic character of Countess Geschwitz played by Alice Roberts in "Pandora's Box"), to further disappointments in the brothel, etc. The entire ensemble turns out a first class performance, and Pabst and Sepp Allgeier ensure that the photography complements the power of the story.
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