"The Bear Tamer" is the sequel to "The Flying Circus" (Den Flyvende circus), made the same year. Both are circus films, which was a popular genre in Danish cinema at the time. Denmark was then one of the world leaders in film production. Including this film, I've seen and commented on at least five Danish circus films from this early period. Unfortunately, I haven't liked any of them. They're all quite similar, including in their flaws. This one isn't quite as sensational as the others, but it's as melodramatic, if not more so. The interest in them is supposed to come from the stories of jealousy and temptations and the situations surrounding circus performers. In this one, there aren't circus acts, but there are several trained animals, plus a stage act. That's just not interesting to me, or to most modern audiences, I suspect, especially because of its dated execution.
In one scene on the stage, low-key lighting is prominent, with a spotlight, but the static camera detracts from it. Similar lighting effects were one of the more endearing traits of many of these early Danish films, along with their use of mirrors (absent in this film). As well, there are many slight pans here, and there's some intercutting, but, overall, the camera positioning is stagy. This becomes most obvious during the stage play sequence. Moreover, the filmmakers return to using the same camera position for every shot they film at that same location. It makes for a boring film experience. Don't think it's entirely because it was made all the way back in 1912, either. D.W. Griffith and others were making much better films before and around the same time as this. Fellow Dane August Blom made some more interesting films than this, and Benjamin Christensen and Carl Dreyer weren't that far around the corner. Just like today, they made good movies and bad movies back then. "The Bear Tamer" is one of the bad ones.
(Note: Deterioration has faded the DFI print, and there's a lot of mottling.)
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