Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-law student, kills an old pawnbroker and her sister, perhaps for money, perhaps to prove a theory about being above the law. He comes to police attention ... See full summary »
Film told in flashbacks of an older man's obsession for a woman who can belong to no-one but can frustrate everyone. The backdrop is SternbergÍs surreal and fantastic Carnaval in Spain. In ... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Edward Everett Horton
Roderick Raskolnikov, a brilliant criminology student and writer, becomes embittered by poverty and his inability to support his family. When he sees a desperate prostitute, Sonya, degraded by a vicious pawnbroker, Raskolnikov, a proponent of the idea that some people are imbued with such intelligence that the law cannot be applied to them as to other people, decides to rid the world of the pawnbroker and thus save his family and Sonya as well from the fate poverty forces on them. When Porphiry, the police detective investigating the murder, encounters Raskolnikov, he finds a man nearly crippled by the guilt and paranoia his deed has burdened him with. But Raskolnikov clings with as much coldness and calculation as he can muster to his guiding idea, that some crimes ought not to be punished. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[Mrs. Patrick Campbell on Josef von Sternberg] I grasped how foolish I had been to imagine for one moment that there was going to be any intelligent pleasure in working even with this man. He wanted only obedience and silence to get his own effects. Anything in my face and figure that wasn't ugly enough, he made into a camera distortion. The director and the cameraman together did the 'acting' of my short role, helped, I suppose, by the cutting room. When I saw the rushes, I knew beyond question that no director asks for imagination, gifts, or experience from the artist. I had myself wished to put the necessary horror and ugliness into my face, voice, and movements, but instead it was achieved through the exaggeration of every shadow on my face, and even of the pores of my skin. See more »
Good afternoon. We haven't seen much of you these past two days. Have you been praying or only fasting?
I've been contemplating life.
You better contemplate the rent! I haven't had a penny out of you in six months! How much longer do you expect me to wait?
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One of the credits reads "Story by Dostoievsky". There is an asterisk next to this credit, and at the bottom it says, "Feodor Dostoievsky, Russia's foremost author, wrote 'Crime and Punishment' in 1866'". See more »
I have spent my entire adult life reading and teaching the works of Dostoevsky, and as such I often approach film adaptations with a great deal of trepidation. Cinematic adaptations of ambitious Russian novels inherently involve a tremendous amount of compromise and reduction. At worst, they become embarrassing comic-book imitations of the original, and, at best, they become representative distillations, provocative fragments.
If one wants to see the best attempt at the latter, one should see the 1970 Kulidzhanov film version, which hews as close as possible to the original spirit and themes of the novel.
This 1935 von Sternberg version does not fall neatly into either category. It certainly makes some wrenching changes to the original-- not just in terms of plot details (such changes are inevitable for the cinematic form), but even to the thematic spirit of the original (Roderick receiving such high honors at the outset; Roderick entering a such a strident Napoleonic phase _after_ the crime; the momentary 180-degree reversal in Sonia's final speech), but what does come through successfully is a kind of gestalt rumination on the original novel. If Dostoevsky's novel was an exquisitely perfect, ambitious symphony, this film is a jazz rhapsody on the theme of the book; it borrows and rearranges motifs and creates its own new song, a song nothing like the original in particulars, but a worthwhile song on its own merits.
The film certainly seems to make full use of the serendipitous similarity in appearance between Lorre and Napoleon in his most famous portraits (Lorre even hams it up by sliding his hand under his vest at one point, which is the stereotypical Napoleonic gesture). And the decision to set the story in no particular city, it seems to me, was a judicious one, as it eliminates much of the painful artificiality that inevitably comes when Anglophone films attempt to portray Russian society.
In short, I do think this is a worthwhile film if it is judged as a creation unto its own-- not the novel per se, but a kind of Hollywood, proto-noir inspired by the great book.
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