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|Index||42 reviews in total|
Definately one of Pabsts more enjoyable films. But why did he
have such a weakness for creating severely feeble men? It's taken
just a bit irritatingly too far for my taste, although not nearly so bad
in Tagebuch as in Pandora's Buchse.
Thymaine was a thoroughly likable character surrounded by a world of imbeciles. Maybe it was the silent aspect that debilitated this, but I thought it was sadly lacking in the relationship development department. I have noticed this in other Pabst films though. Very relieving end -9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A young, upperclass woman named Thymian is excised from her family when
a combination of incidents including her father's affair with the
housekeeper, the death of the governess, and her rape by her father's
business partner resulting in impregnation causes the family as a whole
to send her away (for various reasons, some of which are unknown) to a
reformatory. The draconian actions of the reformatory cause her to run
away with a young Count, but unfortunately he is penniless and they
have nowhere to go, so she gets stuck in a brothel of sorts where she
lives until circumstances bring her back to her family and eventually
lead her to a new life and new identity, from which she learns
compassion for the other "lost girls" of the world.
Technically, that's what it's about.
At least, that's what happens. The problem with this film is that Thymian is the only character with any motivation, and it's a slight and unfocused one at that. For the first half of the film, indeed, one at least can be forgiving to the film because the characters inherent (and physical) beauty at least provides some sort of motion to the storyline. Unfortunately, since the characters have no motivation, and since the director seems entirely unwilling to let anything tragic have its due in the world, the movie skips past what could possibly be a beautiful and tragic ending and continues for another hour or so on tangents without importance or design.
At first this discursiveness seems rather stunning and unexpected, but a quick look back over a few points of the first half of the film start revealing that indeed, it seems Pabst really didn't have a clear understanding of overaching tones, themes, motifs. He has a storyline and names for characters, but no personalities or plot. For instance, the name of this movie: DIARY of a Lost Girl. The beginning is quite clear and obvious the importance of the diary to the character of Thymian, but not only does it not sustain its direct duty to bring her some form of closure, revelation, or salvation, it also simply disappears after a certain point and is never heard of again.
Furthermore, the movie strives to close up all threads with an opportunistic idea that everything can work out, but it closes up threads that needn't be included or are even merely incidental in the story arch. I repeat: the characters lack motivation. Since the characters lack motivation, what are they supposed to do to win, or lose, or react to events? They have nowhere to go or expand, and thus the ending keeps getting further and further away.
Most distressing about watching this film is it's complete lack of understanding about tone. It goes to extremes that seem at first to show the incredible level of conformity, decadence, ignorance, or whatever, but eventually go to far and fail to make an organized statement. Little nods to lesbianism are included for no real reason whatsoever. And what about Thymian's tendency to pass out before being taken advantage of? If it's meant to show her lack of control over the situation, it's a very maudlin and over-indulgent attempt.
In fact, why does Thymian want to hide the identity of the father of her baby when she was quite clearly raped? Some rape victims tend to victimize themselves by claiming that they deserved it, but there's no hint, nod, or involvement of that dysfunction. Why does the mistress of the reformatory derive such pleasure at the exercise of the girls? There's no clear evidence to support that she's sadistic, lesbian, or any has any form of motivation besides the fact that showing her wild grinning face seems a good way to get a reaction from the audience. Why is the housekeeper turned stepmother so stern, and furthermore, why can't she seem to make any face other than her one stern one? Sometimes this film goes to lengths, also, to go further into depth about things that don't deserve such treatment. Most of the ending seems to be an attempt by the filmmakers to take control of the theme (which they don't have) by reintroducing arbitrary characters and involving them in entirely new plot lines that don't have any coherent or enthused meaning on the overall storyarch. Basically, as soon as the Count's son inexplicably kills himself, the movie becomes saturated with false pretensions towards positivity, endurance, and "love" without taking the time to admit that the entire movie has already ended.
From there, the whole thing begins to fall entirely out of control and gets worse and worse until roughly about the beach scene and beyond, which if by that point you're still paying attention and caring about where the characters are going, you're just going to be lead to one of the most antithetical climaxes in film history. Yes, the Count actually said that line, and yes, that's all you're left with.
1929 saw the release of Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, which traced the traumatic tale of a beautiful young girl named Thymaine, played by the enchanting Louise Brooks. She experienced a cruel life when her innocence was torn away and her naivete exposed by the brutality of the demanding world. Throughout the film the dominance and hypocrisy of the male culture was highlighted, but prior to the conclusion Thymaine was able to shame the people that had once shamed her, which provided the film with themes of anti-authoritarianism and hope. The cinematography was arguably more evolved than in other films directed by Pabst, and the acting was second to none. The camerawork consisted of mainly mid-shots and medium close-ups, which placed emphasis on the characters and recorded their interaction with each other. Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen was unquestionably one of the more sensual films of the Expressionist period, which was largely thanks to Louise Brooks, and despite being heavily influenced by Expressionism, it displayed realism unfamiliar to other films encompassing the movement.
This slow-paced film is beautifully shot, and enhanced by the luminous
presence of Louise Brooks (as Thymian), who makes a perfect cinematic
illustration of innocence under attack. But the direction is so
heavyhanded that much of the message is dulled.
The chemist who preys upon Thymian is shown to be an evil lout from his first closeup, so it's hard to understand why she would ever talk to him. The reformatory directors are sadistic caricatures, and Thymian's father and stepmother are exaggerated hypocrites.
The father's acting doesn't help, as it consists mainly of standing in symbolic poses. (Irritatingly, Thymian never blames her father for his awful actions, only her stepmother.) These choices make it hard to take much of the story seriously, although probably many of the events related are based on truth.
Thymian herself can be frustrating to watch. Unluckily, and a bit absurdly, she tends to faint whenever she's confronted with a sexual situation. I assume this was the director's way of making sure viewers didn't blame her for her "fall," but perhaps there's a more interesting Freudian explanation. Twenties-fashion fans will enjoy the scenes in the surprisingly benign whorehouse. But unless you're a Louise Brooks fan or a cinematography student, I can't recommend this melodramatic film.
Twice in DIARY OF A LOST GIRL naive young Thymian (Louise Brooks) is raped after passing out - that is, stone cold unconscious for a lonnnngggg time - while being held in the arms of a man (first while conversing and second on the dance floor after drinking one glass of beer). This is too much! Was it perhaps considered normal in those days for sweet young things to faint dead away while in men's arms? I doubt it - even in D.W. Griffith films. Brooks, a stunner if there ever there was one, looks as if she could chew up these men and spit them out, which she sort of does by the finale. Fritz Rasp, as the first rapist, plays a character similar to his White Russian agent in Pabst's THE LOVE OF JEANNE NEY (1927) - a man so repellent that no decent person would want to spend one minute in his presence. German cabaret artist Valeska Gert is memorable as the sadistic headmistress of the kind of reform school we would expect to encounter in "Our Gang" comedies, Oliver Twist dramatizations or Max Fleischer cartoons (the children are forced to lift spoonfuls of gruel to their mouths in time to a beating drum). The camera devours Gert's bald, brutish husband (Andrews Engelmann) at length as he curls his lips into a sickly smile, to make absolutely sure we see what an evil reptile he is. For a film about a "diary," one wishes that the screen time devoted to the heroine's actually writing in it were one tenth as long as villains' closeups.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had never seen a Louise Brooks or Valeska Gert film before. I thought this one was very good. The plot is basic but the atmosphere is what makes this movie--very slow, deliberate, lots of long close-ups, and a pairing of repression and hysteria, all in 1929. The print I saw was mostly a French one; perhaps no complete print now exists? I saw this film as part of a special series, which included a talk afterward. The speaker said that the ending was imposed by the censors--Pabst wanted one in which Thymiane returns to the brothel and takes it over. My favorite scene was the one in the reformatory, in which Valeska Gert bangs the gong.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wow. I just saw this tonight. The Kino DVD version. Very
excellent. I'm not incredibly bothered by some of the jumpiness
that happened during a scene where Thymian's family gathers. It
sort of adds to the feel. And the jumping is very little compared to
other silents. That scene is really the only one with a constant
problem of it. Now the way that the visual elements were linked together - the
diary and the recurring characters and what they symbolized - that
was very nicely done. This one is a classic of the silent era for me,
right up there with The Passion of Jeanne D'Arc and Pandora's
Box. The movie seemed to have way more of a point then
Pandora's box. It is surprising to me that this film stops halfway through the
screenplay? Is that true? To me the movie is so well concluded,
(SLIGHT SPOILER).............. unlike the oneiric conclusion of Pandora's Box. And there are
some scary looking characters in this movie. The "Madame", the
gruesome looking nun and obedience guy at the reform school,
and by far, the pharmacy clerk - they were all creepy. Well cast. This movie is SO shiny! Louise Brooks looks heavenly. So much
of the hypocrisy in life is showcased with meaning. The irony in
many scenes towards the end as the main character recovers and
grows stronger confronts the conflicts of the first two acts
wonderfully. SEEK THIS FILM OUT! PLEASE! It is lovely.
I saw a pristine print of this film at the Silent Movie theatre located on
Fairfax Avenue in West Hollywood, California about a year ago. It was
accompanied by a live organist there who is almost old enough to have
during the silent era.
One of the best films I've seen. The acting is superb and I understand the allure of the star. A year later I'm still haunted by her looks and charisma. Powerhouse performances all-around. Mature subject matter.
I have never seen an actress radiate as much screen presence as Louise Brooks does in "Diary of a Lost Girl". The brilliance she brings to this role makes this one of the greatest and most poignant silent films...right up there with City Lights and The Scarlet Letter.
While I have never understood all the attention Louise Brooks has
received for her films, I must admit that this one is better than most
and a major improvement over the sound version of MISS EUROPE--a film I
didn't particularly like and felt was highly overrated. A lot of this
might be because the sound version of MISS EUROPE was so sloppily made,
but regardless, I just can't see why Miss Brooks has attained god-like
status among some lovers of silent cinema. Perhaps it has to do with
the small number of films she made or her persona off screen.
On to the movie itself. This is a very adult movie for its time because much of the movie concerns sex and illegitimacy. Louise is the daughter of a very weak, hypocritical and immoral man who makes a habit of impregnating his maids (this is highly reminiscent of DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID). However, when Louise becomes pregnant, he throws her out of the house! Leonard Maltin indicated in one of his reviews that Louise's character had gotten pregnant after she was raped. I couldn't see that this was necessarily the case--she appeared to have been seduced by her father's assistant, not raped. Actually, had she been clearly raped in the film, I think this would have greatly improved the movie's impact and created a wonderful parallel with her father's sex life.
After she gives birth, Louise is sent to a home for "fallen women" and her baby is taken from her. This is a very interesting part of the film, though it was handled in a very, very heavy-handed fashion and seemed too unreal--particularly when she escaped and returned for her baby. But, regardless of these shortcomings, the film is entertaining in a very salacious way! She can't afford to live and her family has disowned her so she is forced to spend several years in a brothel! Ultimately, she is removed and cared for by the father of a dead friend. The film ends with her now being a respectable woman who is one of the board members at the same home for fallen women where she'd been incarcerated! Talk about a plot twist! The acting is, despite the raciness of the film, pretty restrained and the film is well-done. I just think that maybe there's too much in the film--too many sleazy and soap opera-like elements to ring 100 true. But, I must admit that it IS entertaining!
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