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Sealed Orders (1914)

Det hemmelighedsfulde X (original title)
On the brink of war, Lt. van Hauen is summoned to take command of the cruiser, but due to unforeseen events, he is wrongfully convicted as a traitor.

Writers:

Benjamin Christensen, Laurids Skands (manuscript)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Benjamin Christensen ... Løjtnant van Hauen
Karen Caspersen Karen Caspersen ... Fru van Hauen
Otto Reinwald Otto Reinwald ... Ældste søn
Fritz Lamprecht Fritz Lamprecht ... Kontreadmiral van Hauen
Amanda Lund Amanda Lund ... Gamle Jane, barnepige
Hermann Spiro Hermann Spiro ... Grev Spinelli
Bjørn Spiro Bjørn Spiro ... Yngste søn, Johnny
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Holger Bjerre Holger Bjerre
Otto Lagoni Otto Lagoni
Charles Løwaas Charles Løwaas ... Flådeofficer
Holger Rasmussen Holger Rasmussen ... Flådeofficer
Svend Rindom Svend Rindom ... Lærer
Robert Schmidt Robert Schmidt ... Sagfører
Finn Wennerwald Finn Wennerwald ... Flådeofficer
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Storyline

War is in the air. Relations between the two nations are strained to the breaking point. Count Spinelli is the secret agent of the foreign power, and it is his mission to find out what the plans of the government are. To assist in attaining his end, the count organizes a carrier pigeon service between his government's headquarters and an old mill on his own estate. Upon war being declared, Rear-Admiral Van Houven arranges his order of attack, and hands over the sealed orders referring to same, to his son, Lieutenant Van Houven. Through an extremely tragic train of events, these sealed orders are placed in the way of Spinelli, who, of course, is not slow to take advantage of his opportunity. Accordingly he copies the orders and sends them by carrier pigeon to his own chief. The pigeon, however, is shot by a government officer; the message is discovered and Rear-Admiral Van Houven learns of the treachery. Quite naturally he immediately suspects his son, and putting duty before paternal ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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Taglines:

En dansk Sensations-Film

Genres:

Drama | Mystery

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shot over the course of three months. See more »

Alternate Versions

For the film's release in Germany, all references to spies were eliminated, as any references to spies were expressly forbidden by the government censors. The spies in the film were turned, via the intertitles, into smugglers. See more »

User Reviews

 
Noticeably, Yet Promisingly a Début
14 June 2005 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

This looks like a first film, and, of course, it's the directorial début of Benjamin Christensen, whose place in film history rests mostly upon "Häxan" ("Witchcraft Through the Ages"), his third motion picture. This one does not have a distinctive style, not as "Häxan" or "Blind Justice" (Hævnens nat), his second picture, would. Yet, this is common; most filmmakers begin not with their own designs and ideas, but rather copy (to greater extent than usual and to less effect) from those who came before them. What Christensen copies, then, is where this shows promise.

At this time, in the early 1910s before "The Birth of a Nation", Danish cinema was perhaps the best in the world, so Christensen had much to work with. From what I've seen, mise-en-scène was especially developed. From a historical perspective, the lighting effects in Danish cinema were remarkable, influencing Weimar cinema and, thus, American film noir. There are such examples here. None of it seems especially original, but represents the best that others had previously used: low-key lighting for dramatic effect, stunning silhouettes and diegetic, or seemingly diegetic, lighting. Some scenes are only lit by the sunlight coming through a widow or door, or from a flashlight. Others seem as though they're lit by diegetic sources, such as a lamp or from turning on a light switch. Generally, this was done by stopping filming after a character flipped a switch, then the lighting scheme for the scene was setup and filming resumed, to later be touched up by editing. Objects often partially hide the characters, and the original darkness also helps to cover this effect, but if you look closely, you can sometimes notice the cut.

Furthermore, mirrors figure prominently in some scenes, as they do elsewhere in Danish pictures. Early on, Danish filmmakers weren't too concerned with narratives, but by the time of this one, they were becoming more complex. "Häxan" is something of a pinnacle. "Sealed Orders", or "Orders Under Seal", "The Mysterious X" (Det Hemmelighedsfulde X)--whatever you want to call this film--has a more-traditionally-engaging story. It takes from the sensational genre, a uniquely Scandinavian type of picture, with the cheating wife, scandals, being trapped in a cellar and the convoluted suspense. It was sold as such (see the tagline), but it's also simply a melodrama. The last-minute rescue might even owe something to the American director D.W. Griffith.

This isn't entirely promising stuff to work with, but it's a fine beginning, and Christensen would go on to demonstrate his skill. "Sealed Orders" contains plenty of errors: jump cuts, theatrical long shots and the obvious daytime photography near the end for what's supposed to be nighttime in the story. Perhaps the tinting or something was lost for the print I saw, but Griffith and Bitzer rectified this problem in "The Birth of a Nation" by filming at night, and Christensen would do the same for "Häxan". Still, this is a promising début.


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Details

Country:

Denmark

Language:

Danish

Release Date:

April 1914 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Mysterious X See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Dansk Biograf Compagni See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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