As happened with the majority of silent film directors, Herr Mauritz Stiller's oeuvre has suffered many losses with the passage of time and only a dozen of his films have survived till today. Every once in awhile though a silent miracle happens and forgotten reels are found in humid vaults of distant countries. One such occasion occurred fifteen years ago when in Saragossa ( it seems that not only manuscripts are found in that Spanish city ) a fragment of "Balettprimadonnan" (1916) was discovered, much to the joy of silent connoisseurs.
So even though it is frustrating for a silent fan to watch a film that is incomplete, these mutilated editions are still welcome because of the careful and lovingly made restorations created for the purpose of giving the viewer some idea what the film was like in its original release.
Having in mind these limitations, watching "Balettprimadonnan" is still highly recommended. It tells the story of a gypsy dancer ( Frau Jenny Hasselquist ) who is discovered accidentally by a violin player ( Herr Lars Hanson ); fame and a good social status will be waiting for the two artists after they meet each other but also jealousy and sorrow, always the price of fame, certainly.
The reels found in Saragossa include the audition of Frau Anjuta, the gypsy dancer, to a ballet-dance academy and the final part of the film, the most interesting and beautiful one, genuine Stiller. This includes a duel ( that aristocratic pastime that this Herr Von likes so much )as well as a thrilling sequence with our heroine running wild through a snowy landscape trying to avoid a calamity between the men that are fighting for her love ( the ending sounds a bit like the climax to Herr Clarence Brown' "Flesh And The Devil ( 1926) , also with Lars Hanson and Herr Stiller's advanced pupil Frau Garbo ), a lyrical and beautiful ending wherein Nature (Swedish style) is also an important dramatic character. This is typical of the importance in Herr Stiller's later work where cold landscapes carry great artistic weight, evocative and dramatic.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must wear in a Teutonic way a ballet-skirt in tonight's soirée.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
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