It is a bit difficult to assess this 1921 Nordisk version of Charles Dickens' OUR MUTUAL FRIEND. The end notes from the Danish Film Institute note that about half the second part is missing, and that plays hob with continuity. My only recourse is to assume that the missing parts were much like the surviving parts.... and risk looking even more foolish than usual should the missing reels turn up.
Visually, this picture is a feast. Although the camera does not move much, the pace of cutting is excellent and the visuals are exquisite -- after ninety years of Dickens illustrations in magazines and books, this film's crew knew exactly how to make this look like a Dickens movie, from casting to makeup to set design to lighting. Aage Fønss looks so much like Frederic March that it makes you wonder what would have happened had MGM cast him as Sidney Carton instead of Ronald Colman.
What stops this movie from being great is the script. Like many movies made from long novels in this period, the script writers did not know how to cut, and so we are introduced to a great many characters who might have been cut to allow us to make of this movie more than a headlong, rushing melodrama. As a thought, Jenny Wren and her drunkard of a father -- two of my favorite characters in the novel -- serve no real purpose here. We might have been treated to more exposition of characters closer to the center of the story, to make more of them than stick figures.
Even with that big hole in movie-making, it's still a beautiful movie, with some very fine performances: well worth your time if you have the chance.
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