Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tuula Leinonen: 100 vuotta suomalaista animaatiota / [100 Years of Finnish Animation] (a book)

Tuula Leinonen: 100 vuotta suomalaista animaatiota / [100 Years of Finnish Animation]. A book. Helsinki: Aalto-yliopisto / Aalto ARTS Books, 2014. Graphic design: Camilla Pentti, Jani Pulkka. Editor of illustrations: Kyösti Mankamo. Hard cover, 245 x 215, almost a thousand illustrations, 510 pages.
    Link to Aalto ARTS Books web store

The supreme highlight and a lasting achievement of the centenary of Finnish animation, Tuula Leinonen's book 100 Years of Finnish Animation, was published today by Aalto ARTS Books at Restaurant Adams at Erottaja in Helsinki.

Dozens of key animation artists and producers from several generations were celebrating, many of them appearing as major players in the book for which Tuula Leinonen conducted about a hundred extended interviews. The book is based on first hand research. Juho Gartz and Lauri Tykkyläinen have conducted indispensable research on the pioneers, some of whom they managed to get on record for their priceless documentaries. Tuula Leinonen has now brought the history up to date.

The chapters: - 1: The early development - 2: Commercials - 3: Cut-out animation - 4: Puppet and wax animation - 5: The living drawing - 6: Animation on the tube - 7: Experimental animation - 8: Sound in animation - 9: Professional education at animation schools - 10: The conquest of the computers - Keywords - Register of persons - Glossary.

Tuula Leinonen's book on Finnish animation is as large as the best general histories of world animation. It is in Finnish but thanks to the almost one thousand wonderful illustrations it makes sense also to a non-Finnish reader. The visual quality of the book is high, the colour register is refined, and the book itself is a work of art. It can be recommended to film schools everywhere.

This year I have been learning a lot of new things from the rich heritage of Finnish animation. From this book I realize that there is still much more that I need to see.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Suomi-animaatio 100 vuotta 4: Tietokoneanimaation alku / Centenary of Finnish Animation 4: The Dawn of Computer Animation

Heikki Paakkanen: 19084 (1985)
Curated by Tuula Leinonen. Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of Finnish Animation), 15 Oct 2014.
Total duration 75 min.

Programme note by Tuula Leinonen: "Näytös valaisee tietokoneanimaation alkutaipaletta Suomessa. Usein animaationtekijät ovat olleet keksijöitä, jotka ovat myös soveltaneet uutta teknologiaa nopeasti tuotantoihinsa. Mediakulttuurin pioneeri Erkki Kurenniemi loi jo 1960-luvulla analogista tietokonegrafiikkaa elokuvaan Spindrift (1966, Mika Taanilan rekonstruktio 2013). Kun teollisuuspiireissä ryhdyttiin käyttämään 3D-mallinnusohjelmia piirtimineen, helsinkiläinen Tööt-Filmi kehitti laitteiston pohjalta valopiirturin animoinnin avuksi. Pieni taiteilijakollektiivi nousi tietokoneanimaation kehityksen kärkeen 1980-luvun alussa jopa maailmanlaajuisesti arvioituna. Juho Gartzin ja Lauri Tykkyläisen dokumenttisarjan viimeinen osa esittelee näiden tietokoneanimaation pioneerien lisäksi parisenkymmentä animaatiotaiteilijaa sekä runsaan kirjon esine-, pala-, piirros-, siluetti- ja nukkeanimaatiota. Näytöksen alussa pyöräytetään värikäs kimara lyhyitä mainosanimaatioita."

Mainoskimara / A commercial mix
Antti Peränne: Nokia Musta Retu, FA-animaatio: "Potkulauta" Setterit, Onni Rivakka: Esso kesätie cartoon, FA-animaatio: Fazer-Ikäneito.

Vielä pikkuisen piirrettyä elokuvaa
Still More Animated Film
FI 1983. PC: Työryhmä Juho Gartz & Lauri Tykkyläinen. P+SC+D: Juho Gartz, Lauri Tykkyläinen. DP: Kari Kekkonen, colour / b&w. S, animation reconstructions: Erkki Salmela. ED: Juho Gartz. FX: Eero Jaakkola, Antero Honkanen. Sound mixing: Tuomo Kattilakoski. Narrator: Lauri Tykkyläinen. VET 24867 – S – 1020 m / 37 min
    Juho Gartzin ja Lauri Tykkyläisen sarjan viimeisessä osassa suomalainen animaatio näyttäytyy monipuolisempana kuin koskaan aiemmin. Riitta Nelimarkka ja Jaakko Seeck valmistivat ensimmäisen täyspitkän ani-maatioelokuvan Seitsemän veljestä (87’, 1979) palatekniikalla. Yleisradio tuotti nukke-elokuvia omassa studiossaan, ja sen lastenohjelmissa nähtiin liperiläisen Ateljé Seppo Putkisen mittavia kalvoanimaatiosarjoja. Heikki Prepula ahkeroi tahollaan mm. Kössi Kengurun parissa. Dokumenttisarja on ansiokkaasti tavoittanut sittemmin pitkän uran tehneet taiteilijat heidän kultaisina nuoruusvuosinaan.
    AA: Screened in 2K DCP. A delightful, masterful documentary survey of the then latest period of Finnish animation. Interviews with Marja Seilola, Riitta Nelimarkka, Jaakko Seeck, Riikka Tuomari, Camilla Mickwitz, Elina Katainen, Marjut Rimminen, Reino Niiniranta, Seppo Putkinen, Mirja Skarp, Hannu Virtanen, Tarmo Koivisto, Jan-Eric Nyström, Jukka Ruohomäki, and Antti Kari, among others. Its value keeps growing. Full, warm colour.

Mennyt manner
The Lost Land / The Lost World / Le Continent perdu / Izgubljeni svijet
FI 1982. PC: Tööt-Filmi Oy, Helkavirsi-työryhmä. D: Antti Kari, Jukka Ruohomäki. SC: Harri Kaasinen, Antti Kari, Kyösti Mankamo, Heikki Paakkanen, Jukka Ruohomäki - based on the epic poem "Mennyt manner" in Helkavirsiä: Toinen sarja (1916) by Eino Leino. DP: Antti Kari, Kyösti Mankamo, Ville Mäkela, colour. AN: Harri Kaasinen. Antti Kari. Heikki Paakkanen. Jukka Ruohomäki. M: Jukka Ruohomäki. Reader: Harri Manner. Trick photography: Antti Lahtinen. VET 24368 – K8 – 345 m / 13 min
     Helkavirsityöryhmä toteutti Eino Leinon runojen pohjalta kokeellisen elokuvatrilogian Orjan poika (1979), Mennyt manner (1982) ja Ukonlintu ja virvaliekki (1982). Tekijöitä kiehtoi runojen kaksijakoisuus: ”Kerronnallisen loistokkuuden lävitse pureudutaan johonkin syvään, pimeään ja kiellettyyn johon runoilija kehottaa totuudenetsijää astumaan." Elokuva yhdistelee animaatiota, still-kuvaa ja tietokonegrafiikkaa. Linnasalikohtauksen kamera-ajo teki vaikutuksen yleisöön. Mennyt manner voitti tietokoneanimaatiosarjan (elokuvat yli 12 min) Zagrebissa 1983.
    AA: Screened in 16 mm. A poem cycle from Eino Leino's Kalevala-inspired magnum opus, the epic poem Helkavirsiä is read aloud, giving inspiration to dark imagery, also using computer graphics. A used print with colour slightly fading.

19084
FI 1985. PC: Tööt-Filmi Oy. D: Heikki Paakkanen. SC: Harri Kaasinen, Heikki Paakkanen. DP: Pekka Aine, Antti Kari, colour. AN: Harri Kaasinen, Kari Paakkanen, Jukka Ruohomäki - computer graphics: Antti Kari, Jukka Ruohomäki. ED: Antti Kari. M: Jukka Ruohomäki. Actor: Tommi Kitti. VET 25233 – S – 16 mm, colour – 200 m / 9 min
    Heikki Paakkasen abstrakti tieteiselokuva sisälsi tajunta-avaruuden maisemia, jotka haastoivat Tööt-Filmin työryhmän. He yhdistelivät kekseliäästi perinteistä selluloiditekniikkaa ja savianimaatioita kuvamanipulaatioihin. Tietokonegrafiikka valopiirtimineen otettiin myös käyttöön, mutta graafikot Kaasinen ja Paakkanen jäljittelivät myös käsin tietokonemaista viivaa. Syntyi painajaisunen kaltainen kuva miesnäkökulmasta, pakoyritys psyykkisestä kahlevankeudesta. 19084 sai Tampereen elokuvajuhlilla sekä Risto Jarva -palkinnon että Kotimaisen kilpailun erikoispalkinnon 1985.
    AA: Screened in 35 mm. An adventure in consciousness, expressed in abstract and figurative imagery - light dots, light contours, grids, an actor model. The music is persuasive. Print ok.

"43"
FI 1997. PC: Taideteollinen korkeakoulu / Medialaboratorio, Taideteollinen korkeakoulu / Elokuvataiteen ja Lavastustaiteen osasto ETO. D+SC+DP+AN+ED: Kai Lappalainen. M, sound rec: Kepa Lehtinen. Colour, sound – 2 min 
    Kai Lappalaisen ”43” on ensimmäisiä 3D-tietokoneanimaatioita Suomessa. Tekniikkaa oli käytetty jo mainoksissa ja ohjelmatunnuksissakin. Lappalaisen pariminuuttisessa animaatiossa Jänis kokeilee painonostoa. Se sai kunniamaininnan Tampereen elokuvajuhlien kotimaisessa kilpailussa 1998.
    AA: Screened in 2K DCP (from a Beta cassette from Kai Lappalainen, for the moment as good as it gets). A pioneering Finnish 3D computer animation; the technique had already been in use in commercials and tv channel idents. A rabbit, a soulmate of Bugs Bunny, weightlifting.

Spindrift
FI/SE 1966. PC: SVT (Sweden). P+D+S+M: Jan Bark. AN: Erkki Kurenniemi. DP: Måns Reuterswärd, Wulf Meseke. ED: Thomas Öhrström. Sound technology: Bengt Nyqvist. Musicians: Bengt Berger (tabla), Jan Bark, Bengt Ernryd (tambura).
    Reconstruction and editing: Mika Taanila 2013. PC: Kiasma. Coordination: Perttu Rastas. Sound mastering: Petri Kuljuntausta. 16 mm, b&w – 14 min
    Analogiset tietokoneet olivat digitaalisten laitteiden rinnalla toinen ja oma kehityslinjansa, joka usein unohtuu tietokoneanimaatiosta puhuttaessa. Analogitekniikalla toteutettu Spindrift on Suomen ja todennäköisesti Pohjoismaiden varhaisin tietokoneanimaatio. Erkki Kurenniemi ohjelmoi animaatiot, jotka on kuvattu suoraan tietokoneen monitorilta 16 mm:n mustavalkofilmille. Osa animaatiosta päätyi elokuvaan sellaisenaan, osa käsiteltiin rasterimaiseksi tekstuuriksi optisella printterillä. Säveltäjä Jan Bark tähtäsi teoksessaan musiikin ja liikkuvan kuvan tasavertaiseen liittoon. Alkuperäinen esityskopio on tuhoutunut, mutta rekonstruktio pyrkii olemaan sille mahdollisimman uskollinen.
    AA: Screened in 35 mm. See my Spindrift blog remarks of 2013. It keeps getting better. This time I thought about the tension between the computer-generated quality of the movie and the organic feeling it still manages to convey. There is a cosmic and oceanic feeling, of natural forms of eggs, jellyfish and spiders. There is a psychedelic affinity. There is also an undercurrent of feminine sexuality: the oceanic, opening, swelling, pulsating, vibrating, gyrating, and contracting quality, like in intercourse or childbirth. - After the show at Corona Bar Mika Taanila pointed out the friction between the image and the music which is intentional: the music is not accompanying the image but creating a tension, too. There is an epic grandeur in the score. - There is no full black. Mika told me that this was the original visual concept as the film was photographed from a computer monitor and the concern was to sustain the grayscale. - Spindrift is an early assured accomplishment in the international development of computer animation.

Programme notes in italics by Tuula Leinonen 15.10.2014

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Bells (1926)

THE BELLS / [Not released in Finland] (Chadwick Pictures Corporation – US 1926) D: James Young; P: I. E. Chadwick; SC: James Young, based on the stage play Le Juif polonais (1869) by Émile Erckmann, Alexandre Chatrian; DP: L. William O’Connell; lighting: Perry Harris; tech. dir: Earl Sibley; C: Lionel Barrymore (Mathias), Caroline Frances Cooke (Catharine), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Jerome Frantz), Lorimer Johnston (Hans), Lola Todd (Annette), Edward Phillips (Christian), Laura Lavarnie (chiromante / fortune-teller), Boris Karloff (mesmerist), E. Alyn Warren (Jethro Koweski; Baruch Koweski), George Austin, John George, Otto Lederer; orig. l: 6300 ft; 35 mm, 5679 ft, 63' (24 fps); titles: ENG; print source: The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Compliments of the John E. Allen Archive.
    With e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Philip C. Carli, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 9 Oct 2014

Philip C. Carli (GCM catalog and website): "Plot: Mathias, an innkeeper in an Alsatian village, seeking to ingratiate himself with locals who may elect him as burgomaster, falls in debt to Jerome Frantz, who hopes to seize the inn when Mathias defaults on his debts. Frantz also has his eye on Mathias’ daughter Annette, and offers Mathias the option of cancelling the debt in exchange for permission to marry her. Mathias angrily refuses, and is already in a precarious state when the village holds its annual fair. There he witnesses a mesmerist, who, as a part of a conjuring act, hypnotizes bystanders while claiming that he has the power to force people to disclose their innermost secrets. A fairground fortune-teller, beginning to read his palm, recoils in horror at what she foresees. With the December snows, the inn is visited by Baruch Koweski, an itinerant Polish Jewish merchant. Mathias realizes that Koweski has a money belt full of gold coins. When Koweski leaves in his sleigh – sleigh bells jingling – Mathias follows him, murders him, and burns his body in a lime-kiln. Mathias, now rich and explaining his wealth as an inheritance, becomes burgomaster, and appears to secure his position by betrothing Annette to Christian, the local gendarme. Later, the mesmerist arrives at the inn in company with Jethro Koweski, who announces himself as Koweski’s brother and seeks to apprehend his killer. Mathias, taking Annette’s dowry from the hoard of gold coins, is visited by an apparition of Koweski and imagines that he hears the bells on Koweski’s sleigh. The wedding of Annette and Christian is celebrated. Exhausted from the festivities and nursing his guilt, Mathias falls into a deep dream in which he is on trial for murder, with Frantz as the prosecuting judge. When Mathias denies guilt, Frantz summons the mesmerist, who compels Mathias to re-enact his crime. Sentenced to death in his dream, Mathias seeks forgiveness but suffers a fatal heart attack."

"American director James Young, freeing himself from the constrictions and closed-in darkness of a stage drama that held the international stage from the 1870s into the beginning of the 20th century, has devised a narrative that, unlike the original, actually dramatizes the backstories of the characters who peopled the earlier play and, in the traditional manner of those who bring a stage piece to the screen, “opened out” the setting and action to include a village, a fair, and an on-screen murder."

"Lionel Barrymore, in the central role of Mathias, follows British stage legend Henry Irving (1838-1905) in a part that grew out of the Victorians’ increasing investigation into neuroscience and a consequent public awareness of the human unconscious. Gradually, it was admitted that individuals possessed a secret inner life often at odds, but controlling and interfering, with their outer selves. A side effect of the reports of Anton Mesmer’s hypnotic cures and Jean-Martin Charcot’s psychiatric treatment of hospital patients was from the 1870s observable in the theatres of Europe and America. Dramatic authors, whose stage melodramas had formerly clearly differentiated between heroes and villains, were encouraged by accounts of mental slippages and fractures in identity to fuse the two antithetical roles into a single character: the hero-villain, a character whose inner self erupts and threatens personal stability and whose consuming guilt for hidden crimes cannot be appeased or adequately expiated."

"Barrymore’s interpretation is in the tradition of Irving as a hero-villain – outwardly charming, attractive, powerful, and effective. However, inwardly – and revealed only to appalled audiences – he was a transgressor of moral and social boundaries, secretly devoured and debilitated by festering guilt, in short, a criminal and sociopath. An external cue, a real or imagined jingle of sleigh bells, for instance, triggers a response from the unconscious, overpowering rational behaviour and inducing hallucinations and hideous dreams."

"Six years earlier, in the character of Milt Shanks in the film version of Augustus Thomas’ The Copperhead (1920), reprising a role he had performed to acclaim on Broadway, Barrymore showed both the inner torture and mental fortitude of the silent sufferer, who in this case is erroneously labeled a traitor. This film, now rarely seen, matches the depth of the stage drama and shows Lionel Barrymore at his intellectual and emotional best. Again, in The Bells, Barrymore takes up a similar role, here requiring deviousness, cunning, a calculating intellect, stress-displacing stage business, and occasional jocular just-one-of-the-boys glad-handing. He performs desperation and guilt and unmastered fear in response to terrifying hallucinations. Notably, his scene counting the Jew’s money, an act which drenches his hands in imagined blood, reveals the mind of a murderer who has borne and disguised months of silent corrosive inner torment."

"James Young takes the narrative’s beginning to a village, not snowbound, but in full leaf, and introduces and makes specific the causes of Mathias’ financial peril: an inn where free drink is given to buy votes and a mill where milled flour serves the same purpose. Whereas the Leopold Lewis-Henry Irving stage text offers a Mathias who is secure and universally beloved, Young adds the character of Frantz, a constant local antagonist uncomfortably present at all events, who will feature as prosecutor in the final dream episode but who, earlier, seeks both possession of the inn and Mathias’ daughter Annette. The village fair sequence is added to make what was formerly just the memory of a fairground charlatan into a menacing presence, dangerous because, much like the gratuitous fortune-teller, he has already read Mathias’ potential murderous criminality."

"In partial compensation for this narrative cul-de-sac, Boris Karloff as the mesmerist reveals more menace and danger in his slow rictus smile than Gustav von Seyffertitz as Frantz offers in his numerous scowls, grimaces, and thin-lipped contempt. Young also makes visible the actual visit of Baruch Koweski, the heavy money belt, and the murder itself. All play to cinema’s ability to widen focus and escape the confining stage set."

"Unfortunately, Young misses a trick when Mathias is installed as burgomaster. Hitherto, in the immediate aftermath of the murder, Mathias has instinctively shied away from a looped rope dangling from a beam in his stable. Now, as the mayoral chain of office is placed about his neck, it is merely the reward for years of effective bribery. Young fails to see that the chain of office also foreshadows the hangman’s noose, and allows the moment to pass unremarked. Further, on the evidence of many snowy American winters, sleigh bells were actually a part of a horse’s harness, never held by the sleigh’s driver and never jingled separately, the equivalent of an auto horn to warn of a sleigh’s approach. Here, Young turns harness bells into a hand-prop that he displays in the superimposed visions which harass Mathias. A film audience in 1926 would have known better."

"In all, the film is a mixed blessing. Young has traded the compression, overpowering darkness, and black emotional palette of the stage Bells for the spectacle of jolly rural life with ingénues on hay wagons, a mounted posse of Alsatian cops, Christmas festivities, and a sinister village fair, but has also achieved a tale of excessive ambition, crime, and debilitating guilt, repentance, and unpurged sorrow."

"The stage play of The Bells (1871), in which Henry Irving first realized the role of Mathias in an English-language production, was altogether a different drama. In an era when four-act melodramas were the norm, The Bells required no more than two tense acts. Its plot was similar – but not identical – to the film’s. All that had happened in that Alsatian inn before Mathias began hallucinating the sound of sleigh-bells was explained in exposition, and the stage drama focused upon the last 48 hours of Mathias’ life. In consequence, the play was dark, austere, oppressive, compact, and effectively a one-man show."

"Other actors were on stage, but the play was Irving’s, and with this drama Irving rose to national prominence. It was the brevity of this claustrophobic drama and the weight of the past on the immediate present, as well as Mathias’ welling guilt and his frantic efforts to conceal his criminal past and suppress his rising fear, that give the play its undeniable power."

"The stage history of the text is somewhat complicated. Originally a drama, Le Juif polonais, by the collaborators Émile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian and performed at the Théâtre Cluny in Paris in 1869, the play was pirated by a shorthand writer in the audience who copied every word. Three separate translations quickly found their way to London. One of these English translations reached the hands of the alcoholic journalist Leopold Lewis, who brought the script to Irving at London’s Lyceum Theatre, where Lewis and Irving set about adapting it for a British audience and to exploit Irving’s developing acting skills."

"Irving, on his final American tour, performed in The Bells in New York in 1899-1900. Lionel, 21 years old at the time, is likely to have seen Irving in repertory in at least one of his favoured roles: Mathias, Robespierre, and Shylock. So, too, must some or all of the Barrymores caught Irving’s performances. It is interesting to speculate whether Lionel was influenced at all by seeing Irving as Mathias. A further Barrymore link is that Ethel, briefly in England, toured with Irving in 1897, playing Annette in The Bells. Well before his death in 1905, Irving had sold the play publisher Samuel French a deliberately altered version of his script, changing dialogue and reversing stage directions so that other actors could not copy his productions. His own version was later toured by his son, H. B. Irving, in a “replica production”, and still later passed, by personal gift, into the possession of other English actors. This measure ensured that Irving’s version became a legend."

"The Bells was filmed on at least four occasions before this version: in Australia (1911), with Arthur Styan as Mathias, followed by two American screen versions, with George Siegmann (1913) and Frank Keenan (1918), and in Britain (1923) with Russell Thorndike. Further versions followed on sound film and on television, including an early British talkie with Donald Calthrop, a 1931 French film of the original source, Le Juif polonais, starring Harry Baur, and a 1950s BBC television production with Bransby Williams, an actor whose music hall turn had included impersonations of Henry Irving. David Mayer"

"Isaac E. Chadwick (1884-1952) founded Chadwick Pictures Corporation in 1924 with the idea of rising above the majority of independent Hollywood studios and becoming at least a “minor major” turning out high-quality features on modest but not picayune budgets. Notable stars who made films at Chadwick – who were perhaps “between engagements” at the majors, but did good work for the company – included Pauline Frederick, Theda Bara (her last film), Betty Blythe, Betty Compson, George Walsh (after his Ben-Hur debacle), and Lionel Barrymore. Chadwick took trouble to make its films look good, renting out space at Universal and using their standing sets, and employed directors who, if not upper-tier, were good craftsmen, like James Young, Robert F. Hill, Wilfred Noy, B. Reeves Eason, and William James Craft. At first Chadwick was successful and its films were well-received and reviewed, but there was a fatal flaw: I.E. Chadwick’s main business partner was Larry Semon, fresh from being fired at Vitagraph for riotous overexpenditure. Semon’s features – including his infamous 1925 The Wizard of Oz, for which the L. Frank Baum estate was paid an enormous sum for rights – drained Chadwick’s limited capital and did poorly at the box-office. Semon’s return to shorts wasn’t enough to save the company, which ceased production in 1928." Philip C. Carli

AA: A tragedy of murder and an avenging conscience, with touches of horror.

An effective and compact drama has been stylized into the direction of a fairy-tale and a horror story. The characters are drawn strongly, without too much subtle nuance, but the ensemble playing is effective.

This film is relevant from the Jewish angle. It is an inspired idea to have the same actor play the murdered Jewish merchant Jethro and his brother Baruch, both noted by their greeting "peace be with you".

The imagery. After Mathias has strangled Jethro he keeps seeing hallucinations of a noose and hearing hallucinations of the bells of Jethro's horse carriage. The love story of Mathias's daughter with a dashing officer is brought to a happy end, but the wedding bells blend in Mathias's mind with the murdered Jethro's horse carriage bells, and he descends into a final madness and suicide.

Lionel Barrymore and Gustav von Seyffertitz ham it up as the antagonists Mathias and Jerome. It seems to irk Jerome endlessly that Mathias manages to pay his debt.

The most unforgettable performance is undoubtledly that of Boris Karloff as the mesmerist. He is already at his best here, completely modern. He is the scariest figure in the tale, not because he is evil but because he sees through the lies of everybody.

A good print.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Die Nibelungen. 2. Teil: Kriemhilds Rache (FWMS restoration in colour 2010)

DIE NIBELUNGEN. 2. TEIL: KRIEMHILDS RACHE (La vendetta di Crimilde / Kriemhild’s Revenge) (Decla-Bioscop AG - DE 1924) D: Fritz Lang; P: Erich Pommer; SC: Thea von Harbou; ED: Paul Falkenberg; DP: Carl Hoffmann, Günther Rittau; AD: Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht; M: Gottfried Huppertz (1924); C: Frida Richard (serva runica / the maiden of runes), Margarethe Schön (Kriemhild), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (King Etzel), Theodor Loos (King Gunther), Hans Carl Müller (Gerenot), Erwin Biswanger (Giselher), Hans Adalbert Schlettow (Hagen Tronje), Rudolf Rittner (margravio / Margrave Rüdiger von Bechlarn), Aenne Röttgen (his daughter Dietlind), Bernhard Goetzke (Volker von Alzey), Fritz Alberti (Dietrich von Bern), Gertrud Arnold (Queen Ute), Georg John (Blaodel, King Etzel’s brother), Hubert Heinrich (giullare / minstrel Werbel), Georg August Koch (Hildebrand), Grete Berger (donna unna / Hun), Paul Richter (Siegfried), Hardy von François (Dankwart), Georg Jurowski (sacerdote / Priest), Iris Roberts (armigero / squire), Hanna Ralph (Brunhild); filmed: 1922-11.1923 (Ufa-Freigelände Neubabelsberg); première: 26.4.1924, Ufa-Palast am Zoo (Berlin); 35 mm, 3255 m, 128' (22 fps); titles: GER; print source: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung, Wiesbaden. Restoration: 2010. [142'? Maybe I did not clock this right.]
    With e-subtitles in English and Italian, live music by: Maud Nelissen (piano) with Frank Bockius (percussions), Romano Todesco (contrabbasso, fisarmonica), Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (harp), at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 8 Oct 2014

AA: The long night in Pordenone included a 45 minute break for a Die Nibelungen dinner. It was not a medieval theme dinner, just a regular buffet at Hotel Moderno in reliable good Italian fashion.

Yesterday we saw Sir Arne's Treasure, in my opinion an influence on Die Nibelungen. Mauritz Stiller's mise-en-scène of the final funeral procession has directly influenced Fritz Lang and Sergei Eisenstein. There is also the treasure theme in both Sir Arne's Treasure and Die Nibelungen (der Nibelungenhort = the Nibelungen Treasure). Most importantly, there is the approach to history as a living myth. In both Sir Arne's Treasure and Die Nibelungen there is psychological complexity and credibility in the characters. At the same time, Sir Arne's Treasure is "a winter ballad", and die Nibelungen is a German foundation myth.

The stunning surprise of Kriemhild's Revenge is that Kriemhild's hate is stronger than the rampaging fury of the Huns. Kriemhild marries Attila the King of the Huns only to wreak revenge on the Nibelungen. Attila is a strong and ruthless ruler, but Kriemhild's hate is even stronger. The men in general are often at loss with the formidable women of Die Nibelungen, and Attila is no exception. "Keinem andern Manne gehörte sie je" - "She never belonged to another man", states Attila after Kriemhild's death (another stab in the back, another Dolchstosslegende), although Kriemhild has given birth to his baby.

Die Nibelungen was filmed and edited to the score of Gottfried Huppertz, which I always expect to hear ever since I heard it for the first time.

Maud Nelissen's quartet did a great job in the two parts of the movie, each of them divided into seven cantos. Yes, even the chapters of Die Nibelungen and Metropolis have musical titles. The music was inspired, versatile, and experimental, and built to a tremendous crescendo in the catastrophic destruction of the finale.

I saw Die Nibelungen for the first time in colour, and I liked the beautiful sepia toning simulation.

Die Nibelungen. 1. Teil: Siegfried (FWMS restoration in colour 2010)

DIE NIBELUNGEN. 1. TEIL: SIEGFRIED (La canzone dei Nibelunghi: Sigfrido / Siegfried) (Decla-Bioscop AG - DE 1924) D: Fritz Lang; P: Erich Pommer; SC: Thea von Harbou; ED: Paul Falkenberg; DP: Carl Hoffmann, Günther Rittau; AD: Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht; AN: Walther Ruttmann; M: Gottfried Huppertz (1924); C: Paul Richter (Siegfried), Margarethe Schön (Kriemhild), Hanna Ralph (Brunhild), Theodor Loos (King Gunther), Hans Adalbert Schlettow (Hagen Tronje), Bernhard Goetzke (Volker von Alzey), Erwin Biswanger (Giselher), Georg John (il fabbro/blacksmith Mime; Nibelung Alberich), Gertrud Arnold (Queen Ute), Hans Carl Müller (Gerenot), Hardy von François (Dankwart), Frida Richard (serva runica/the maiden of runes), Georg Jurowski (sacerdote/Priest), Iris Roberts (armigero/squire), Rudolf Rittner (margravio / Margrave Rüdiger von Bechlarn); filmed: 1922-11.1923 (Ufa-Freigelände Neubabelsberg); première: 14.2.1924, Ufa-Palast am Zoo (Berlin); 35 mm, 3388 m, 147' (20 fps); titles: GER; print source: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung, Wiesbaden. Restoration: 2010.
    With e-subtitles in English and Italian, live music by: Maud Nelissen (piano) with Frank Bockius (percussions), Romano Todesco (contrabbasso, fisarmonica), Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (harp), at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 8 Oct 2014

Nicholas Baer (GCM catalog and website): "In an article published shortly before the premiere of Siegfried, Part One of Die Nibelungen (1924), Fritz Lang celebrated the medium of film for its independence from categories of space and time. For Lang, this flexibility allowed film not only to overcome national boundaries and linguistic barriers, but also to transcend its immediate historical context. Much as the German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey had invoked “the substratum of a general human nature” as a common ground for historical understanding, Lang contended that certain emotions and themes – “love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, friendship and revenge” – remain constant over time, changing in manifest form rather than in principle. Directing Die Nibelungen, according to Lang, thus involved the reanimation of people from a bygone era through adherence to inviolable stylistic laws. By evincing eternally valid dramatic elements, his work would revive the 13th-century epic poem through film, “the liveliest art form of our time”."

"Lang’s artistic pretense to timelessness had its own historical determinants, of course, and his emphasis on mankind’s fundamental constancy came into tension with his critical diagnosis of the present age. In a likely allusion to the world war, sociopolitical upheavals, and hyperinflation of recent years, Lang asked: “Who, in the chaos of our time, has the leisure and calmness (Nervenruhe) to read the Nibelungenlied?” Attributing a pedagogical function to cinema, Lang
identified the objective of his work as that of presenting a “new form of the old epic” to working masses. As Lang wrote in the program distributed at Siegfried’s premiere, his adaptation of the
medieval saga was intended to reinvigorate “the world of myth” for the 20th century, rendering it “vivid and, at the same time, believable.” Through the technical possibilities of film, Lang would
enable modern audiences to see – to “visually experience” (sehend miterleben) – the legendary actions of an epic from which they had ostensibly become alienated."

"While Lang hailed the pure internationalism of filmic language, his work emerged from a more dialectical interaction of global and national forces, issuing a challenge to the hegemony of Hollywood cinema through a distinctly German cultural source. Indeed, the Nibelungenlied had served as a central point of identification in the formation of a German national identity beginning in the early 19th century, and Lang’s film continued this tradition through both textual and extra-filmic strategies. Dedicated “to the German people as their own” (like Franz Keim’s 1909 retelling of the epic and, as of 1916, the Reichstag building), Lang’s work – two years in the making and the costliest European film to date – garnered national political attention upon its two-part release in 1924. At a gala following the premiere of Siegfried at Berlin’s Ufa-Palast am Zoo on 14 February, Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann underscored the “quintessentially German” (so grunddeutschen) subject matter of Lang’s monumental work."

"In its avowed devotion to a national community, Lang’s film followed the aesthetic ideal of Richard Wagner, who had imagined “the artwork of the future” as one that would fulfill the “common and collective need” (gemeinschaftliche Noth) of a unified Volk. Similar to Wagner, who composed his four-opera Ring cycle between 1848 and 1874, Lang and screenwriter Thea von Harbou reworked the Nibelungen saga in the disillusioning aftermath of a failed revolution, seeking to provide an integrating myth for a fragmented modern society. Wagner’s heirs in fact denied Ufa the rights to the composer’s music, and the studio hence commissioned Gottfried Huppertz to write an original score, performed by a 60-piece orchestra at the film’s premiere. While Lang praised Huppertz for “transferring the Nibelungen idea into its own world, entirely remote from Wagner”, this means of distancing was futile in obscuring the influence exerted by Wagner’s musical techniques and aesthetic project on Lang’s “total work of art”."

"Due to its status as “the spiritual sanctuary of a nation”, according to Lang, Die Nibelungen demanded a visual style distinct from that of prevailing historical spectacles. Working with set designers Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, and Karl Vollbrecht, as well as cinematographers Carl Hoffmann and Günther Rittau, the director conceived “four fully self¬-contained, almost mutually adverse worlds” at Ufa’s Neu-Babelsberg studios: the realm of young Siegfried, with its mythical forest, dusky meadows, and subterranean treasures; the Burgundian court in Worms, noted for its noble simplicity and stark spaces; Brunhild’s Iceland, typified by glassy countenances and harsh natural elements; and, finally, Etzel’s unmerciful empire in the Asian steppes. In tracing characters’ intersecting paths through these four worlds, Lang sought to lend their journeys a sense of fateful inexorability. The film’s mise-en-scène is thus extremely controlled and purposeful, reflecting a “will
to style” allegedly lacking from Hollywood pageantry. However discriminating in his set design, Lang drew generously from a broad repertoire of visual sources. The director studied architecture
and painting before commencing his film career in Weimar Germany, and – like the Ringstraße in his native Vienna – Die Nibelungen reveals a remarkable pluralism of architectural styles, from massive Gothic to art nouveau. The film’s compositions quote from a vast range of aesthetic traditions, extending from Greek statues, Byzantine mosaics, and medieval sculptures to the works of the Romantics (Caspar David Friedrich, Ludwig Richter, Moritz von Schwind), Symbolists (Arnold Böcklin, Fidus, Max Klinger), and Jugendstil artists (Carl Otto Czeschka, Franz Stuck, Heinrich Vogeler). This heterogeneity is also evident in the primitivist, medieval, and modernist elements of the film’s costumes (contributed by Paul Gerd Guderian, Heinrich Umlauff, and Änne Willkomm), which correspond in their designs with the film’s patterned textiles and ornamental décor."

"Running counter to the historical sweep of Lang’s film is an Expressionist drive towards total abstraction. As Wilhelm Worringer argued in Abstraktion und Einfühlung (1907), abstract art locates beauty not in a contingent natural world, but rather in “the lifedenying inorganic, in the crystalline or, in general terms, in all abstract lawfulness and necessity”. Such an abstract aesthetic manifests itself in Die Nibelungen through a wholly constructed, hermetically framed environment; fully coordinated designs and compositions; ossified figures and a slowness of action; and, finally, a symmetrical dramaturgy, geometrical order, and strict color scheme. In a sequence animated by Walther Ruttmann, the film’s “urge to abstraction” leads to a near rejection  of material reference altogether; Kriemhild’s “dream of a falcon” is envisioned through what Rudolf Kurtz, in Expressionismus und Film (1926), described as “very simple, pure forms” with “only a weak formal similarity” to the organic life-world."

"The film’s deliberate symmetry extends to its highly self-conscious narrative form. Lang’s work adopts the bipartite structure of the Nibelungenlied, its two parts likewise tracing Kriemhild’s marriage to Siegfried and her revenge of the hero’s death. Each half of the film is itself divided into seven “cantos” (Gesänge), which – like the âventiuren of the epic poem – are labelled according to the protagonists’ fortunes or deeds. The intertitles, written in an archaic script, also mimic the style of Middle High German poetry, and the film’s original subtitle, “A German Heroic Song” (Ein deutsches Heldenlied), evokes a bardic tradition represented in the story by Volker von Alzey of the
Burgundian court. Harbou’s screenplay, published in prose form as Das Nibelungenbuch (1923), drew from a plethora of sources and followed an extensive history of dramatizations – most famously, Friedrich Hebbel’s 1861 trilogy, which, alongside Wagner’s Ring cycle, was revived on German stages in 1924."

"Lang’s film was indeed one among many appropriations of the Nibelungen during the interwar years, the most notorious of which came from National Socialist ideologues. Writing for the Völkischer Beobachter in 1923, Adolf Hitler referenced the saga in conjunction with the “stab-in-the-back legend” (Dolchstoßlegende), which attributed the Armistice and German Revolution of November 1918 to current leaders of the Weimar Republic: “With the November Criminals behind us, every new outward struggle would immediately thrust the spear into the back of the German Siegfried once again.” A decade later, Joseph Goebbels noted the political resonances of Lang’s Die Nibelungen in particular, praising the film for being “so modern, so close to the times, so topical that it left even the militants of the National Socialist movement shaken inside”. An abridged version of Part One, retitled Siegfrieds Tod, was released on 29 May 1933, now accompanied by a recorded soundtrack incorporating excerpts from Wagner’s operas."

"Whereas critics including Béla Balázs and Herbert Ihering questioned some of Lang’s stylistic choices upon Die Nibelungen’s initial release, Siegfried Kracauer would later castigate the film in its entirety, describing its aesthetic patterns as precursors to Leni Riefenstahl’s ornamental masses. Lang’s work certainly betrays elements of the völkisch, blood-and-soil, and anti-Semitic ideologies propagated by the Nazi Party, but it also resists Kracauer’s analysis in many regards. However rigid or static the film’s dramaturgy may appear, it also reveals a remarkable dynamism of characterization, most explicitly in Kriemhild’s transformation from a pale, sympathetic naïf into a dark-clad, calculating anti-heroine. Furthermore, while the film seems to flee from the contingent plane of history into a realm of fateful myth, its narrative arguably tracks the destruction of metaphysical forces, and its eclectic array of aesthetic and historiographical models indicates the disintegration of a unified, cohesive worldview."

"From a contemporary vantage point, the very historical overdetermination of Die Nibelungen undermines Lang’s utopian claim to the filmic medium’s spatial and temporal autonomy. Nevertheless, if his work may be seen as anticipating Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935) or Olympia (1938), it might just as well be placed in an aesthetic trajectory that includes Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958) or Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) and The Hobbit (2012-2014). The legacy of Lang’s film indeed remains open, and the work – with its manifold ambivalences and contradictions – is rich and ambiguous, able to stimulate a variety of distinct interpretations. A pioneering and influential effort to envision the world of myth through a modern medium, Die Nibelungen offers not only a multifaceted film-historical document, but also a complex view of history (Geschichtsbild) – one well worth rediscovering in the “chaos” of our own time." Nicholas Baer

AA: I saw for the first time this newest restoration of Die Nibelungen, by Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung from 2010, in colour. My first encounter with the classic epic was in the 1970s in a 16 mm print distributed by Goethe-Institute. The second encounter was in the 1980s in 35 mm in West Berlin. I'll never forget the frisson felt already at the dedication: "dem deutschen Volke zu eigen" - "dedicated to the German people", a frisson repeated towards the final conflagration, in Kriemhild's remark to Attila: "you don't know the German soul yet". Today I was also thinking about the film Der Untergang. The third Die Nibelungen revelation for me was experiencing the original Gottfried Huppertz score - the music was composed first, and the film made afterwards, as was the procedure in Metropolis. We produced the film concert in the early 1990s at the Finlandia Hall with a symphony orchestra conducted by Berndt Heller.

This all-night screening was the fourth Die Nibelungen revelation for me - thanks to the good quality of the image, and thanks to the good taste in the decisions about the colour.

Fritz Lang and his team are in full command of their art in this film. The structure is assured, there is always a strong sense of the general arch of the story. At the same time, there is a fine touch in the meaningful detail (the linden leaf, the magic helmet, the snake bracelet, the sewn cross). And a sense of the irrational power of jealousy that drives Kriemhild to expose Siegfried's secret to Brunhilde which sets forth the entire destructive chain of events that leads to the demise of the Nibelungen.

More remarks in the entry on Kriemhilds Rache.

Tonbilder from the Neumayer Collection

Tonbilder mit Oskar Messter. Photo: Bundesarchiv N1275 Bild-184. Just an illustration, not shown in the programme.
I Tonbilder della collezione Neumayer
Tonbilder from the Neumayer Collection

    English subtitles on the DCP, e-subtitles in Italian, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 8 Oct 2014

GCM catalogue and website: Anke Mebold: "In the early 20th century, Berlin’s Metropol Theater was one of the hot spots of popular music theatre in Germany. It specialized in revue, and its annual Jahresrevue was considered a highlight of the season, with tickets selling at exorbitant prices. The song and dance numbers were composed by Victor Hollaender, the Metropol’s music director, while the witty and frequently saucy libretti and lyrics were written by Julius Freund. Revue in imperial Germany provided entertainment paired with satirical commentary on the daily life, society, and political events of the period."

"Revue numbers were short and self-contained, making them perfect material for the young recording industry. Many numbers were “canned” for exploitation to a growing consumer market eager for recordings issued on shellac gramophone discs."

"The nascent German film industry naturally eyed a share of this market, and film production companies joined into collaboration with disc manufacturers and record labels. Numbers from highly popular shows, for example the Metropol’s Jahresrevue of 1906, Der Teufel lacht dazu! [It Makes the Devil Laugh!], and Das muss man seh’n! [You’ve Got to See This!] from 1907, as well as opera, operetta, and spoken comedy performances, were re-enacted on a film studio stage in front of a backdrop. The camera recorded a performance acted in playback to a pre-existing disc recording, to produce moving images made for projection with synchronous sound."

"These early audiovisual works were marketed in Germany as Tonbilder – literally, “sound pictures”. After a slow start around 1903, spearheaded by Oskar Messter, Tonbilder sound films became “the rage” for a very brief period; between 1907 and 1909 they practically dominated German film production. Tonbilder enabled audiences in urban centres, as well as rural areas (thanks to Wanderkinos, travelling cinemas), to enjoy the latest smart delights of the musical stage at affordable prices. The majority of these early sound films were produced by two companies, Deutsche Bioscop and Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph, with smaller output by Messter, Duskes, Vitascope, and Internationale Kinematograph- und Lichtbild-Gesellschaft. The discs expressly made for cinema performance were called Filmbegleitplatten (film accompaniment records), and are easily recognizable by the film companies’ credentials on their labels. The sound recordings themselves were usually not produced exclusively for the cinema market, but were issued (and re-issued) commercially under different labels."

"Cinemas specializing in Tonbild presentations were known as Tonbildkinos, which required special equipment for these synchronous sound screenings. Several different sound systems were used: Biophone by Messter, Cinephone by Duskes, Synchroscope by Deutsche Bioscop, Vitaphon by Deutsche Vitascope, and Ton-Biograph by Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph. Depending on the system employed, the projector and gramophone were either linked mechanically, or had to be synchronized by the projectionist, usually with the aid of an indicator system monitoring the speed alignment of the gramophone and the projector. To achieve precise synchronization of sound and image, the projector speed was adjusted; in most cinemas of the time this required cranking either
slower or faster."

"Opera and operetta, stage genres of longer standing and higher reputation in Germany, reigned supreme in the Tonbilder repertoire, and represent the highest percentage of such material that survives in archives today. Opera predominates in the extraordinary Tonbild collection at the Deutsches Filminstitut–DIF. Our programme begins with the duet Wenn ich im Kampf für dich siege from Wagner’s Lohengrin, and continues with arias from Verdi’s Rigoletto and Il Trovatore, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, and Gounod’s Faust, as well as lesser-known operas like Otto Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor) and Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha."

"The on-screen actors of Deutsche Bioscop’s stock company for Tonbild opera still await identification. But it is evident that Martha and Lucia, as well as Leonore (Il Trovatore), are played by the same actress; and that the male leads in these films, as well as other cast members, are also the same. Further research is needed to establish whether the on-screen actors are identical to the vocal performers. The suspicion seems justified that more affordable talent was often hired for the image shoot. Lead singers usually received credit only on commercially issued shellac discs, not on the Filmbegleitplatten. This definitely complicates our efforts to trace the image and sound performers."

"The preoccupation of pre-war imperial German society with patriotism and militarism is also evident in the Tonbild repertoire, in selections like the Soldatenchor (Déposons les armes) from Gounod’s Faust, or Weiß nicht die Welt (Chacun le sait) from Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment. The strong German tradition of military marches is represented by the rousing Flottenmarsch by Ottomar Schwiecker, performed by the Kapelle des 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß (Band of the 2nd Foot Guards) under the direction of Max Graf."
 

"We round off our programme with selections from operetta and revue. Quite a few operetta numbers from the DIF’s collection still await digitization and successful track-matching, but we are able to present the Grisettenlied (Grisettes Song) from Franz Lehár’s Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow). We conclude with four Metropol revue numbers, two of which have their original matching track. The other two have been partnered with “illicit” tracks: Unterm Paraplui [Under the Umbrella], an elusive song in need of further research, and Der Bummel-Compagnon [The Season’s Companion], a number from the 1907 revue Das muss man seh’n!, are both examples of decidedly daring track-matching and synchronization work on our part. Without the matching shellac discs, we chose to simulate an impression of the original cinema performance, using recordings of the same musical number, albeit with obvious discrepancies between sound and onscreen action. Abends nach Neune and Roland und Viktoria close the programme, each smoothly matched with their original recordings, digitized from commercial Zonophone records in the absence of the original Deutsche Bioscop Filmbegleitplatten."

"Of the Tonbild films conserved in the collection of the DIF – our current count is 40 in total – 34 are from the Neumayer Collection, which was sold to the DIF in 1970 by a Mrs. Neumayer from Icking, near Munich. Virtually no contextual information about this collection exists. The vintage nitrate positive prints are predominantly Deutsche Bioscop productions, without main titles. Fortunately most of them survive with handwritten leader information, usually indicating the title of the film or the piece of music, although sometimes cryptically abbreviated. Also frequently found on the leaders is a printed-in punch mark, indicating what may be the film’s catalogue number, as well as a synch-marked frame, which presumably served to facilitate synchronization of the start of the film and the shellac disc. The films’ average length ranges between 50 to 70 metres, which makes for a running time of 3 to 4 minutes at a projection speed of 16 fps. The timings naturally correspond between shellac disc and moving image, provided the sound track is an exact match. The synch-marked frame, usually displaying a number followed by a fraction, has been helpful in identifying the matching track from commercially issued records, as it indicates the length of the lead-in groove, i.e., the number of disc revolutions before the sound actually begins. The playback or digitization speed for the shellac discs has to be determined with care and a trained ear, since shellac records from the first decade of the 1900s pre-date standardization at 78 rpm. In the course of our project we discovered that recording speeds at this period ranged from 72 to 82 rpm."

"The Tonbild digitization project at the DIF began in the second half of 2013, thanks to funding provided by the German Federal Government’s Commissioner for Culture and Media (Der Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien). A close partnership was established with the Deutsches Musikarchiv (DMA) at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek in Leipzig, where most of the research was conducted on the soundtracks, and the digitization of the shellac discs took place. Film scanning in 2K resolution, cautious sound and image restoration work, and – where necessary – speed manipulation of the image to match the soundtrack, were carried out at Arri in Munich, starting in late 2013."

"The soundtracks for two Tonbilder were kindly provided by Rainer Lotz from Bonn, sourced from a music cassette recorded years ago by the California-based “Antique Audio” dealer Tom Hawthorne, from shellac Filmbegleitplatten (presumably by Messter) no longer available. Deutsche Bioscop Filmbegleitplatten of three of the Tonbilder in this programme have just surfaced at auction, and were successfully acquired by the DIF. In the case of the FAUST. Soldatenchor (Soldiers’ Chorus), this will enable a complete exchange of the sound recording in the near future, with a proper match in all likelihood resulting. With MARTHA. Mag der Himmel dir vergeben and DER TROUBADOUR. Terzett (Il Trovatore trio), this will make possible a direct comparison between the commercial recordings on the Gramophone Concert Record label and Deutsche Bioscop’s original Filmbegleitplatten, to verify that both discs feature the identical recording."

"Of the 14 Tonbilder presented, 6 are paired with the matching music recording. In 2 cases the nature of the match is somewhat unclear. For another 6, the proper match has not yet been found; in these cases the presentation is an attempt at reconstructive simulation."

"We would like to advise viewers (and listeners!) that since these sound recordings date back to the infancy of recording technologies, prior to electric amplification, their sound quality varies, and many surviving shellac discs exhibit signs of wear. It was therefore decided to add subtitles to aid the audience’s comprehension."
– Anke Mebold

"All films in this programme are from the Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF, Frankfurt. The film listings below include DIF catalogue numbers and 35mm lengths, plus gramophone disc information and call numbers from the Deutsches Musikarchiv (DMA). The archivally supplied title card on each film displays an image of the shellac disc digitized for presentation, and also includes an assigned “matching symbol” which rates the quality of each soundtrack match: = (true match); ≈ (unclear, somewhat approximate match); ≠ (not matching)."

"The assigned numerals included in several of the film titles are not music opus numbers, but film numbers found on the original leaders on the nitrate prints. In a number of cases these have been verified by checking them against Herbert Birett’s 1991 reference work Das Filmangebot in Deutschland 1895-1911. The numbers presumably correspond to those in actual vintage catalogues of the production companies involved, unfortunately no longer extant or accessible."

"All the soundtracks feature performances in the German language. All films will be shown as DCPs, with English subtitles. The individual film timings include the opening archival titles (each of c.10 seconds duration).
"

AA: The Tonbilder are straight records of opera or music hall performances, usually in plan-séquence, in long takes in long shots, almost all in painted or constructed sets in interiors.

LOHENGRIN. Wenn ich im Kampf für dich siege (Deutsche Bioscop – DE c.1908) Mus., libretto: Richard Wagner; cast: ?; vocals: Emmy Destinn, Ernst Kraus; conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; 3'59”. Duet from Act 1 of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin: “Wenn im Kampf für dich siege” (“If in Thy Cause Today I Conquer”). Image: DIF 50_105: 35mm nitrate print, c.71.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 80 m.). ≈ Sound: DMA HU 36136: Gramophone Monarch 044056 VI, 543i, 1906 (3:47 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: Wonderful. 14 performers in costume. Slightly low contrast but a fine record of the grayscale.

RIGOLETTO. O wie so trügerisch (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1909) Mus: Giuseppe Verdi; libretto: Francesco Maria Piave; cast, vocal: Werner Alberti; 2'40”. Aria from Act 3 of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto: “La donna è mobile” (common German title, “Ach, wie so trügerisch”). Image: DIF_50_104: 35mm nitrate print, c.47.5 m. (orig. censorship length 50 m.). ≠ Sound: DMA T2011 HB 01379: Polyphon 2299, 1910 (2:25 min. @ 78rpm) - AA: A humoristic performance by Werner Alberti.

DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER. Buffo-Duett (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1908) Mus: Otto Nicolai; libretto: Salomon Hermann Mosenthal; cast: ?; vocals: Paul Knüpfer, Hermann Bachmann; conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; 3'44”. Comedy duet from Act 2 of Nicolai’s opera Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor): “In einem Waschkorb” (In a laundry basket); also known as “Wie freu ich mich” (So delighted am I). Image: DIF_50_109: 35mm nitrate print, c.65 m. = Sound: DMA HU 026246 (Monarch Record Gramophone 044058 .O, 190?, 3:36 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: A humoristic interpretation of the comedy duet by Paul Knüpfer and Hermann Bachmann.

MARTHA. Mag der Himmel dir vergeben (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1908) Mus: Friedrich von Flotow; libretto: “W. Friedrich” [Friedrich Wilhelm Riese]; cast: ?; vocals: Grete Forst, Hermine Kittel, Arthur Preuss, Wilhelm Hesch, Chor der k. k. Hofoper Wien [Chorus of the Vienna Court Opera]; 3'19”. Aria from Act 3 of Flotow’s opera Martha (Martha oder der Markt zu Richmond / Martha, or the Fair at Richmond): “Mag der Himmel dir vergeben” (“Lyonel’s Prayer: May Heaven Forgive You”), quartet with chorus. Image: DIF_50_120: 35mm nitrate print, c.59.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 65 m.). = Sound: DMA HU 005648 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-2-44225, 190?, 3:14 min. @74rpm). - AA: An engrossing record of the quartet with chorus. With some 20 performers in costume.

LUCIA VON LAMMERMOOR. Sextett (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1908) Mus: Gaetano Donizetti; libretto: Salvatore Cammarano; cast: ?; vocals: Erik Schmedes, Friedrich Weidemann, Arthur Preuss, Richard Mayr, Elise Elizza, Luise Lukschic, Chor der Hofoper Wien [Chorus of the Vienna Court Opera]; 3'27”. Sextet from Act 2 of Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor: “Wer vermag’s den Zorn zu hemmen” (“Chi mi frena in tal momento”). Image: DIF_50_102: 35mm nitrate print, c.59.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 65 m.). = Sound: DMA HU 012553 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-44432 XII, 1907, 3:17 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: "Chi mi frena in tal momento" was almost an emblem for high culture in the cinema until WWII (Renoir's Madame Bovary, Cukor's Little Women, animated cartoons...). Here it is in German. The singing is beautiful, Lucia's suffering is moving.

DER TROUBADOUR. Terzett. Nr. 71 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1909) Mus: Giuseppe Verdi; libretto: Salvatore Cammarano; cast: ?; vocals: Friedrich Weidemann, Erik Schmedes, Elise Elizza; 3'00”. Trio from Act 1 of Verdi’s opera Il trovatore: “O mein Geliebter” (“Qual voce”). Image: DIF_50_107: 35mm nitrate print, c.52 m. (orig. censorship length: 60 m.). = Sound: DMA HU 015290 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-2-44026, 190?, 2:54 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: Again music by Giuseppe Verdi in Pordenone's Teatro Verdi. Friedrich Weidemann, Erik Schmedes, and Elise Elizza perform the trio with feeling.

FAUST. Soldatenchor. Nr. 79 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1909) Mus: Charles Gounod; libretto: Jules Barbier, Michel Carré; cast: ?; vocals: Chor der Kgl. Hofoper Berlin [Chorus of the Berlin Court Opera]; conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; 4'21”. “Soldiers’ Chorus” from Act 4 of Gounod’s opera Faust: “Legt die Waffen nieder” (“Déposons les armes”) [Lay Down Your Arms]. Image: DIF_50_103: 35mm nitrate print, c.57 m. (orig. censorship length: 65 m.). ≠ Sound: DMA T2012 HC 01168 (Gramophone Monarch 044502, 1906, 4:11 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: This Tonbild starts with the music without an image, which appears a bit later.

FLOTTENMARSCH (Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph – DE 1908) Mus: Otto Schwiecker; cast: Kapelle 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß, conductor: Max Graf (?); musicians: Kapelle 2. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß, conducted by Max Graf; 2'43”. Flottenmarsch (Navy March) by Ottomar Schwiecker, played by the Band of the 2nd Foot Guards, conducted by Max Graf. Image: DIF_50_136: 35mm nitrate print, c.49 m. (orig. censorship length: 54 m.). ≈ Sound: DMA T2010 HB 01185 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-3- 40288 III, 1906, 2:37 min. @78rpm). - AA: A switch to German military music.

DIE REGIMENTSTOCHTER. Weiß nicht die Welt (Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph – DE 1909) Mus: Gaetano Donizetti; libretto: Jean-François-Alfred Bayard, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges; cast: ?; vocals: Erika Wedekind, Chor der Kgl. Hofoper Dresden [Chorus of the Dresden Court Opera]; conductor: Bruno Seidler-Winkler; cartello titolo imbibito/tinted title card; 3'30”.
Aria from Act 1 of Donizetti’s opera La fille du régiment: “Weiß nicht die Welt” (“Chacun le sait”); also known in German as “Regimentslied der Marie”. Image: DIF_50_131: 35mm nitrate print, c.61 m. (orig. censorship length: 63 m.). ≠ Sound: DMA HU 02319 (Gramophone Concert G.C.-43948, 1907, 3:12 min. @ 74rpm). - AA: This exhilarating Tonbild has been shot outdoors, and the music track is not in synch but serves very well all the same.

DIE LUSTIGE WITWE. Die Grisetten (? – DE?, 190?) Mus: Franz Lehár; libretto: Victor Léon, Leo Stein; cast: ?; vocals: ?; cartello titolo imbibito/tinted title card; 3'10”. Grisettenlied (“Grisettes Song”; also known as “Ja, wir sind es, die Grisetten” or “Das Trippel-Trappel Lied”) from Act 3 of Lehár’s operetta Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow). Unfortunately, some portions of this film are affected by nitrate decomposition. Image: DIF_50_130: 35mm nitrate print, c.63 m. (orig. censorship length: ?). ≠ Sound: DMA (digitization from audiocassette, Rainer Lotz Collection; 2:52 min. @ ? rpm). - AA: Thinking about the film adaptations of Stroheim (beautifully re-scored by Maud Nelissen) and Lubitsch this less glamorous visualization is completely different but perhaps even more full of life. The image turns abstract via a damage in the source.

UNTERM PARAPLUI (Nr. 78) (Duskes – DE, c. 1908) Cast: ?; vocals: ?; tinted title card; 3'12”. Duet, “Unterm Paraplui” (variant spelling “Unter’m Parapluie”) [Under the Umbrella]. Show source unknown. Image: DIF_50_114: 35mm nitrate print, c.57 m. (orig. censorship length: ?). ≠ Sound: DMA (digitization from audiocassette, Rainer Lotz Collection; 2:54 min. @ ? rpm). - AA: A nice popular song.

DER BUMMEL-COMPAGNON. Duett aus DAS MUSS MAN SEH’N! Nr. 26 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1908) Mus: Victor Hollaender; lyrics: Julius Freund; cast: ?; vocals: Walter Steiner; 3'25”. Duet, “Der Bummel-Compagnon” (The Season’s Companion), from the 1907 Metropol-Theater revue Das muss man seh’n! (You’ve Got to See This!). Image: DIF_50_111: 35mm nitrate print, c.61.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 65 m.). ≠ Sound: DMA T2014 HB 00041 (Zonophone X2-22256, 11000 l, 190?, 3:13 min. @74rpm). - AA: Victor Hollaender and Julius Freund had a more earthy approach in their popular songs in the three last Tonbilder of this programme. They are full of life.

ABENDS NACH NEUNE. Duett aus DURCHLAUCHT RADIESCHEN. Nr. 11 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1907) Mus: Victor Hollaender; lyrics: Julius Freund; cast: Anna Müller-Lincke, Leonhard Haskel; vocals: Alfred Müller [Henry Bender], Fräulein Schulz; 3'09”. Duet, “Abends nach Neune” (After Nine in the Moonshine), from the 1903 Metropol-Theater Austtatungsposse (costume farce) Durchlaucht Radieschen (His Highness Radish). This saucy song and dance number recounts the seedy dangers threatening an unwitting country bumpkin in Berlin after 9 p.m. Image: DIF_50_117: 35mm nitrate print, c.56.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 60 m.). = Sound: DMA T2013 HB 00108 (Zonophone X-24046, 190 l, 190?, 2:32 min. @ 76rpm). - AA: See above. There is a wonderful extended final comedy kiss shot.

ROLAND UND VIKTORIA. Duett aus NEUSTES! ALLERNEUSTES! Nr. 10 (Deutsche Bioscop – DE 1907) Mus: Victor Hollaender; lyrics: Julius Freund; cast: Anna Müller-Lincke, Leonhard Haskel; vocals: Alfred Müller [Henry Bender], Fräulein Schulz; 3'19”. Duet, “Roland und Victoria”, from the 1904 Metropol-Theater revue Neustes! Allerneustes! (The Latest! All the Very Latest!). This number expresses the growing affection between the figures atop two well-known Berlin monuments, the Rolandsbrunnen, a fountain featuring a granite statue of a legendary medieval warrior, given by Kaiser Wilhelm II to the citizens of Berlin in 1902, and the grand gilded winged goddess of the Siegessäule victory column. Viktoria initially rebukes Roland’s advances, but then yields. All this is sung in Berlin dialect, in front of a wind-swept backdrop identical to that used in Abends nach Neune. Image: DIF_50_118: 35mm nitrate print, c.59.5 m. (orig. censorship length: 63 m.). = Sound: DMA T2013 HB 00108 (Zonophone X-24045 II, 189 l, 190?, 2:59 min. @ 76rpm) - AA: Anna Müller-Lincke plays the Siegessäule and Leonhard Haskel is the Rolandsbrunnen. See above.

AA: A well edited and enjoyable programme, complete with photographs of the original phonograms with their label information. The synch in most of the numbers is fine, and the not matching soundtracks work well, too.

The whole is more than a sum of its parts. It conveys a special feeling of a joy of life expressed in these songs, high and low, from Richard Wagner till Victor Hollaender.

This DCP can be recommended both for pleasure and for serious study in the history of music and performing arts.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Pan si dong / The Spider Cave

盘丝洞 / [The film was not released in Finland] / Edderkoppene / The Cave of the Silken Web / [La caverna del ragno] - Alternate title: 西游记-盘丝洞 / Xiyu ji - Pan si dong / The Journey to the West - The Spider Cave (Shanghai Photoplay Co. / [Shanghai Shadow Play] - CN 1927). D: Darwin Dan [Dan Duyu]; asst. dir: Chen Baoqi. SC: Guan Jian - based on Part Three of the novel  西遊記 / Xiyu ji / The Journey to the West (1505-1582) by Wu Chengen. DP: Dan Ganting; ED: Guan Ji’an; AD: Xia Weixian; drawings: Fang Xuegu; C: Yin Mingzhu (the Spider Queen, the first spider spirit), He Ronghzu (The Man in White), Jiang Meikang (Tang Xuanzang, the pilgrim, or Tripitaka), Wu Wenchao (Wukong, the monkey), Zhou Hongquan (Zhu Wuneng, the pig / Pigsy), Zhan Jiali (Sha Wujing, the shark / Sha Heshang), Dan Erchun (Sandy), Xia Peizhen (second spider spirit), Chen Baoqi (Yellow Flower Daoist spirit); orig. l:  ca 1900 m; 35 mm, 1214 m, 59' (18 fps); col. (tinted, Desmet method); titles: CHN, NOR; print source: Nasjonalbiblioteket, Oslo.
    With e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Mie Yamashita, also playing Oriental percussion instruments, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 7 Oct 2014

Tina Anckarman (GCM catalog and website): "Pan si dong is a rare and very early example of the magic-spirit film, a genre that was extremely popular in Shanghai in the late 1920s, very few examples of which have survived. It helped to create the genre, and its mystical theme, nudity, and depiction of desire were all new to Chinese audiences. The film’s story is derived from “The Visit to the Western World”, one of the classic masterpieces of Chinese literature. It relates one of the many adventures of Tang Hiuen Tsiang, a pilgrim monk who is sent by the Emperor to seek Buddhist literature in the Western World. Accompanying Tang on this quest are three followers, a monkey, a pig, and a shark spirit. The pilgrim meets six adorable young women when he is begging for alms. The women invite the unsuspecting pilgrim to their cave, and try to convince him to remain. The cave’s inhabitants are ruled by the Spider Queen, who tries her best to seduce the pilgrim and make him marry her, but he resists. Meanwhile, Tang’s followers fight the spider sisters to save their holy monk, but their efforts are in vain, until they learn how to use the art of spitting fire from the White Goddess, and finally succeed in rescuing the pilgrim from the burning cave."

"The film was a huge success in China in 1927. Although there is no documentation of ticket sales, Pan si dong is known to have set a new box-office record at the time."

"This preservation copy is from a Norwegian print from 1929, bearing the title Edderkoppene (The Spiders), which was found at the National Library of Norway in 2011. It was previously regarded as a lost film. The material is incomplete, missing the first reel and some sequences in the middle portion of the narrative. The original length was approximately 1900 metres, of which 1200 have survived. There are no documents confirming the film’s distribution in Norway or other European countries. So far Pan si dong is the only production by the Shanghai Photoplay Company to be rediscovered."

"The Norwegian print had been given Norwegian intertitles, but also retained the original ones in Chinese characters. Probably the original version had both Chinese and English intertitles, a practice common in Shanghai in the 1920s. Most likely the Norwegian intertitles are translations of the original English ones, which were credited to Xu Weihan. There is a considerable difference between the Chinese intertitles and the Norwegian ones, and Norwegian newspapers in 1929 were critical of the translations. It is possible that the mistakes in the Norwegian titles might derive from the poor interpretation of the original English translations; however, since there is no documentation, such as an original title list, we may never know. The electronic subtitles prepared for this Desmettinted copy, made at the Haghefilm laboratories in Amsterdam, are new English translations of the original Norwegian intertitles." Tina Anckarman

AA: Like the masterpiece of Chinese animation, The Monkey King / Da nao tian gong / 大闹天宫 / 大鬧天宮 (1961, by Wan Lai-ming and his brothers), Pan si dong / The Spider Cave is based on The Journey to the West, the classic novel on the pilgrimage of the monk Xuanzang to India during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). He has three disciples, Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy, plus a fourth character, the Dragon prince, who has taken the form of a white horse and carries Zuanzang. (Formulations adapted from The Chinese Mirror. A Journal of Chinese Film History).

This film is based on events in chapters 23-86 of the novel, including the land of women and spider spirits.

Memorable images include views of a banquet being prepared in the cave, metamorphoses into spiders, the web of love, the cleansing fire, and "all threads of love burned - such is life". Nude bath scenes of the original film have been cut.

I have seen Chinese silent films before, including ones starring the legendary Ruan Lingyu, but this one is different.

The Spider Cave is a religious film, a fantasy film, a fairy-tale film, perhaps an erotic film, but not in the cut print we saw, and a film with affinities with Shanghai Opera. It is often charming, at times amateurish, even resembling a home movie or a student romp. There is a sense of filmed theatre, yet also of true inspiration. We are at the origins of a film tradition which continued later with the Shaw Brothers (who remade this as The Cave of the Silken Web) and others but in the 1930s the budding tradition was cut short with the tightening of censorship.

Visual quality: from their unique nitrate print Nasjonalbiblioteket has reconstructed and restored the film with loving care. The film now makes as much sense as can possibly be expected. When the image is good we can enjoy the beautiful visual quality and the fine toning. There is at times a digital look, but the film has been redeemed from footage sometimes on the verge of destruction.

A great treasure has been brought back to life.

Herr Arnes pengar / Sir Arne's Treasure

Herr Arnes pengar (1919). Photo: Svenska Filminstitutet
Albert Edelfelt: Herr Arnes pengar (1904). Gösta Werner paid attention to how Mauritz Stiller did hommage to this ink wash and others in the well-known first illustrated edition of Selma Lagerlöf's tale. Click to enlarge.
Sergei Eisenstein: Ivan Groznyi / Ivan the Terrible. Mauritz Stiller inspired Fritz Lang in Die Nibelungen, and Eisenstein was inspired by both Lang and Stiller.
Herr Arnes pengar. En vinterballad i 5 akter / Aarne-herran rahat (Il tesoro di Arne / Sir Arne’s Treasure) (AB Svenska Biografteatern; dist: Svensk Filmindustri, SE 1919) D: Mauritz Stiller; SC: Mauritz Stiller, Gustaf Molander - based on the tale Herr Arnes penningar (1903) by Selma Lagerlöf - and the stage adaptation Winterballade (1917) by Gerhart Hauptmann; DP: J. Julius [Julius Jaenzon]; C: Richard Lund (Sir Archie), Mary Johnson (Elsalill), Erik Stocklassa (Sir Filip), Bror Berger (Sir Donald), Axel Nilsson (Torarin), Hjalmar Selander (Sir Arne, the parson), Concordia Selander (his wife), Wanda Rothgardt (Berghild, his niece), Gustav Aronson (skipper); 35 mm, 2062 m, 106' (17 fps), col. (tinted, Desmet method);titles: SWE; print source: Filmarkivet vid Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm.
    With e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Philip C. Carli, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 7 Oct 2014

Jon Wengström (GCM catalogue and website): "Mauritz Stiller’s Herr Arnes pengar (Sir Arne’s Treasure, 1919) was made at the height of the so-called “Golden Age” of Swedish silent cinema, when fewer but more prestigious films were made. It has all the traits of the famous films of the era: it is based on a famous literary work, with location shooting used not only as a spectacular backdrop for the unfolding drama, but also showing Man’s interaction with Nature. Herr Arnes pengar is an adaptation of a short novel by Selma Lagerlöf, published in 1903. The script is also partly based on an adaptation by Gerhart Hauptmann of Lagerlöf’s story for the stage (first performed in Berlin in 1917, under the title Winterballade)."

"The main part of the action is set during a severe winter in the 17th century, during the reign of Johan III, on the Swedish west coast (then a Danish province), where Scottish mercenaries in the Swedish army seek refuge after having turned against the king. In this tale of ominous premonitions, legends, greed, and cold-blooded murder, the wrath of Nature is bestowed on human ill-doers, and only loosens its grip when the sins committed are atoned for. The tormented soul of the leader of the mercenaries, as well as the agony of the main female protagonist Elsalill, torn between love and grief, is evidence of the impossibility of escaping from one’s past."

"Stiller creates stunning compositions with elaborate geometrical patterns. Swedish scholar Bo Florin has interestingly pointed out how the film’s visuals display affinities with drawings and illustrations that accompanied early publications of Lagerlöf’s text. Stiller found cinematic expressions for the author’s typical mélange of realism and an other-worldly eeriness, beautifully captured by the ingenious camerawork of cinematographer Julius Jaenzon, most notably in the multiple exposures depicting how Elsalill’s foster sister comes back to haunt the living. Some of the film’s set-pieces are among the highlights of Swedish silent cinema, such as the fire at the vicarage, and the endless line of grieving women on the ice. The latter shot bears a strong resemblance to how Eisenstein would stage similar compositions in Alexander Nevsky (1938)."

"Herr Arnes pengar was Stiller’s first work based on Lagerlöf’s writings, and it is arguably more faithful to the original story than Stiller’s later Lagerlöf adaptations Gunnar Hedes saga (1923; screened in the 2009 edition of the Giornate) and Gösta Berlings saga (1924). Stiller co-wrote the script of Herr Arnes pengar with Gustaf Molander, who returned to the story in 1954, directing his own sound and Gevacolor version."

"In 1978, a downsized, Academy ratio, black & white duplicate negative of Herr Arnes pengar was made from a nitrate print held by the film’s producer and rights-holder, AB Svensk Filmindustri. A tinted nitrate print from the collections of the BFI National Archive in London was accessed in 1986, and used as a reference for the colours, later confirmed by a tinted print at the Národní filmový archiv in Prague. The Czech print was also used as a guide to re-insert the original intertitles, which had been removed when the film was shortened for distribution to schools in the late 1920s. Additional shots were inserted into the negative in 2001 and 2003, originating from elements held at the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen and the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin. The Desmet colour print screened in this year’s edition of the Giornate del Cinema Muto was struck from this negative in 2004." – Jon Wengström

AA: Sir Arne's Treasure was for many a / the highlight of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto.

Mauritz Stiller's masterpiece keeps growing in impact, and the final cathartic sequence is tremendously powerful, a consistent climax to the tragic, often surprising and unpredictable tale. There is psychological complexity in the main characters of Elsalill (Mary Johnson) and Sir Archie (Richard Lund). There is a sense of rugged authenticity even in the smallest roles.

John III reigned in 1568-1592, one of the sons of Gustav Vasa, who brought Reformation to Sweden-Finland, one of the original Lutheran countries of the world. Consequently the properties of the rich Catholic monasteries and nunneries were confiscated - like Sir Arne's treasure.

A contemporary of John III on Sweden-Finland's Eastern border was Ivan the Terrible who reigned in 1547-1584.

In France after the Reformation were raging the Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots). St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre took place in 1572.

One could imagine a historical film evening starting with L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise (1908) and proceeding with Sir Arne's Treasure and Ivan the Terrible, all covering the same tragic decades.

Stiller had an instinctive talent in visual composition; he seemed incapable of filming a dull shot. In Sir Arne's Treasure he brings history alive and gives us people with genuine feelings. The sense of emotional truth grows into an engrossing tragic grandeur.

The Swedish Film Institute has done a magnificent job in reconstructing and restoring the great heritage of classic Swedish cinema. The feat is all the more remarkable as they have had to conquer the catastrophe of 1941 when negatives and best prints of almost all Swedish classic films burned in a fire. Fortunately there were other prints in Sweden and in many other countries. As there is no negative and Sir Arne's Treasure is a winter film - a film largely without sunlight - tinting is risky business. The Desmet tinting has been conducted with the best professional talent and knowhow, but in the Teatro Verdi circumstances I had the feeling that the result was too dark. Mauritz Stiller was a poet of light, and I would prefer Sir Arne's Treasure toned or even in black and white.

Protsess o tryokh millionakh / The Case of the Three Million

Poster by Georgi and Vladimir Stenberg
Процесс о трёх миллионах / Protsess o trjoh millionah / Prosessi kolmesta miljoonasta (US: Three Thieves) [Il processo dei tre milioni / The Trial Concerning Three Million] (Mezhrabpom-Rus, Moscow – USSR 1926) D: Yakov Protazanov; SC: Yakov Protazanov, Valentin Turkin, Oleg Leonidov; freely adapted from the 3-act play I tre ladri by Umberto Notari, based on his 1907 novel; DP: Pyotr Yermolov; AD: Isaac Rabinovich; ass D: Yuli Raizman; second ass D: Jakov Urinov; SFX: Nikolai Sorokin; C: Igor Iliinsky (Tapioca, ragged thief), Anatoli Ktorov (Cascariglia, gentleman thief), Mikhail Klimov (Ornano, the third thief: the banker), Olga Zhizneva (Noris, his wife), Nikolai Prozorovsky (Guido, her lover), Vladimir Fogel (man with binoculars), Daniil Vvedensky (burglar), Alexander Glinsky (innkeeper), Vladimir Mikhailov, Marc Zibulsky (priests), Boris Schlikhting (Chief of Police), Mikhail Jarov (policeman), Serafima Birman (woman with rose seated at table), Olga Bobrova, Gulbike Scerbatova; rel: 23.8.1926; 35 mm, 1816 m, 79' (20 fps); titles: RUS; print source: Gosfilmofond of Russia.
    With e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: John Sweeney, with Frank Bockius in percussions, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 7 Oct 2014

Natalia Noussinova (GCM catalogue and website): "According to his biographer Mikhail Arlazorov, Protazanov was so keen to make another comedy after the success of The Tailor from Torzhok that he refused the historical drama Stenka Razin, planned for him by Mezhrabpom, preferring to wait until a new comedy script could be found. However, he quickly recognized the Soviet public’s enthusiasm for the stage play I tre ladri (The Three Thieves) by the Italian Futurist writer Umberto Notari (1878-1950), which had played with success in several theatres, including Moscow’s Aquarium summer theatre and then at the Komissarzhevskaya Theatre. Both these productions featured, in the role of Tapioca, Igor Iliinsky, whom Protazanov regarded as his own personal star."

"Protazanov was untroubled that Notari’s play had already been adapted for the cinema three times. The first version, Vor (The Thief, with alternative titles The Benefactor Thief and The Ideal Thief, 1917), directed by Mikhail Bonch-Tomachevsky, could already be considered outdated in terms of ideology, since the thief is also a great philanthropist. Another obscure early version, of which the director is unknown, had Amo Bek Nazarov in the role of Cascariglia, and must also have seemed overtaken by time. However, Pyotr Chardynin’s 1924 adaptation, Nie Poiman – Nie Vor / Kandidat v Presidenty (Not Caught – Not a Thief / The Presidential Candidate), being so recent, might logically have appeared an obstacle. Nevertheless, on the contrary, Protazanov turned to Valentin Turkin, who had written the scenario for Chardynin’s film and was unhappy with its treatment. Protazanov took advantage of this, giving Turkin the chance to retrieve ideas that had been lost in the previous adaptation."

"In both cases, the films were shot in picturesque southern locations. Chardynin’s film was shot in the VUFKU studios of Odessa, and Protazanov’s at Yalta in the Crimea. For both directors these two cities had been their point of departure, the places where they had worked while waiting to exile themselves from Bolshevik Russia in the years 1918-1920. Since Chardynin had repatriated to Odessa in 1923 it was natural that he filmed in this city. Though Protazanov had returned to Moscow, he went back to Yalta for the shooting of The Trial Concerning Three Million, though the story did not really require it: was it chance that took him there, or a response to his ex-colleague of the pre-revolutionary cinema?"

"Chardynin’s film is quite close to the style of the old Russian cinema, notably from the point of view of the very accentuated make-up of the actors. Cascariglia, played by Oleg Freylikh as a handsome rascal in frock coat and top hat, is in the style of male stars of the 1910s. Despite the Soviet message, depicting the conspiracy of the big thieves as opening the door to parliament, the film is also provided with the classic unhappy ending of the Tsarist cinema for the poor little thief Tapioca, who is imprisoned at the close of the film. For Protazanov the pre-revolutionary cinema also has its attractions, but in a more ironic fashion. When the banker-husband knocks on the door, Cascariglia puts a pistol to his head. But the classic situation of the Russian melodrama is shattered and parodied in the following scene, where we realize that the pistol is only a cigarette lighter with which the banker’s wife lights a cigarette. For Chardynin the principal hero was Cascariglia; for Protazanov it is certainly Tapioca/Iliinsky who is the central figure of his film. In both cases Tapioca is the comic figure, but in Chardynin’s version he is the loser, while for Protazanov he becomes the victor, and for this reason it becomes necessary to add a scapegoat at the end of the film, a small-time thief who robs the now-rich Tapioca and offers a moral in defending “the sacred principle of private property”."

"Melodrama and comedy coexist in both versions, but with Protazanov it is Western-style comedy which prevails. It is possibly precisely this element that Turkin could not achieve with Chardynin, but it was also very much in the spirit of Protazanov to integrate parody of pre-revolutionary melodrama in Soviet comedy, which he had already done in The Tailor from Torzhok – as Peter Bagrov justly writes in his article on the evolution of comedy in Russian cinema. However, Turkin is not mentioned in the credits of the film. Nor is Oleg Leonidov, who was to become Protazanov’s regular scenarist, and according to his memoirs was already working in this capacity on The Trial Concerning Three Million. The film credits simply state, “Scenario and direction, Y. Protazanov”. Protazanov seems to have been kinder to his actors than to the other members of the unit. His actors are always very appreciative in their memoirs, and it is not by chance that he retains the same cast from one film to another. Iliinsky, Ktorov, and Zhizhneva had already appeared in The Tailor from Torzhok, and here Mikhail Klimov joins the family, to which he would belong for a long time."

"The film had many problems with censorship. It was close to being labeled as promoting “foreign ideology”, but it was miraculously saved by the respected writer Mikhail Koltzov and Anatoli Lunacharsky, the Minister of Culture, who both declared that it was good that the Soviet cinema was capable of creating films of Western style and level while dealing perceptively with social problems. (Luckily this compliment was not paid at the time of the anti-cosmopolitan campaign, when it would have cost the director dearly.) In 1926 Mezhrabpom was sufficiently proud of the film to include it in the programme of studio successes screened for Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford during their visit to the USSR. They seem however not to have found it very interesting, in their eyes lacking a national style and too much like an average American film." – Natalia Noussinova

AA:  A satire.
    The three thieves are: the banker Ornano, the gentleman thief Cascariglia, and the small time crook Tapioca.
    Ornano is a financial speculator who gathers fortunes thanks to a poor harvest.
    Cascariglia volunteers to help an old lady, and robs her of her jewels.
    Tapioca is believed to have robbed three million, and he becomes immediately a figure of respect - he is called a hero - a genius - a saint - a prince. Lawyers offer assistance for free. Ladies find him handsome.
    The grand climax is the trial in a magnificent palace of justice. Protazanov is at his best here, staging an imposing show of the theatre of the law. Cascariglia appears with a circus stunt, swinging on a rope like Douglas Fairbanks, and letting the three million fly all over the palace. In the general chaos he escapes with Tapioca. But the bank notes are in fact just blank pieces of paper.
    There are inventive aspects in Protazanov's imagery. He uses close-ups expressively, and he knows how to use the landscapes of Crimea, topical in this year's headlines. The combination of the splendid landscape and the robbery plot brings to mind To Catch a Thief.
    The Case of the Three Million belongs to the charming cycle of NEP satires. It is an enjoyable film, but some of the farce is exaggerated, some of the satire not so subtle.
    In this print there is an explanatory introduction that has been added later.
    The visual quality is largely good, but perhaps the deepest black level is missing.

Frank Ormiston-Smith. Young Father of the Mountain Film

Frank Ormiston-Smith
Il giovane padre del cinema di montagna
Young Father of the Mountain Film

With e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Antonio Coppola, at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), Pordenone, 7 Oct 2014

William Barnes (GCM catalogue and website): "History has traditionally credited the invention of the genre of the Mountain Film – der Bergfilm – to Germany, and largely to one man, the geologist Dr. Arnold Fanck. Active and successful throughout the years of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), Fanck developed his own specialist cinematographers, Sepp Allgeier, Hans Schneeberger, and Richard Angst, and two athletic and charismatic stars, Leni Riefenstahl and Luis Trenker, who were to become directors in their own right."

"Fanck’s sound debut came in 1930, with Stürme über dem Mont Blanc (Storm over Mont Blanc). Yet this film – and the whole aesthetic of the mountain film – had been anticipated almost 30 years before by the epic (for 1902) production The Ascent of Mont Blanc, made by a young American director, apparently living and working for a large part of the year in Switzerland, but supplying films to a British company. Between 1901 and 1909 Frank Ormiston-Smith directed more than 200 films, yet his biography remains for the most part mysterious (even his name is sometimes given as Frederick). We know that he was in his early 20s in 1902, but have no dates for his birth or death, or any knowledge of what became of him after 1909."

"In September 1902, Ormiston-Smith headed the Bioscope Expedition up Mont Blanc, sponsored by the Warwick Trading Company of High Holborn, London, under the management of a fellow-American, the producer Charles Urban, who was in 1907 to become a naturalized British subject."

"The personnel of this expedition consisted of two of the most experienced Oberland guides, the foremost Chamonix guide, and three porters, under the command of Ormiston-Smith, who was described in the press as being “not far into his early twenties and already with much experience of climbing in the Alps, spending seven months of each year there”. He alone was responsible for all the cinematographic work and had trained one of his guides, Christian Bergener, in the use of a Kodak camera, with which he was able to capture certain moments of the expedition’s progress in still photographs."

"Ormiston-Smith was equipped with a modified American Bioscope cine-camera said to have cost £50 to adapt – quite a considerable sum in those days. The work on this camera was almost certainly carried out by the manufacturer of cinematography equipment Alfred Darling of Brighton, who had already made cine apparatus for Urban in the past."

"The camera was fitted with a lens having an F5 aperture and a 3' focal length. It appears that everything was done to make quite sure that it was capable of functioning in the most adverse weather conditions, to withstand the trials and tribulations of filming in the High Alps with the rigours of their harsh climate of severe cold, high winds, snow and ice."

"On 22 September 1902 the expedition of seven men arrived at Chamonix, and on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th they successfully accomplished the ascent of Mont Blanc, 15,781 feet high."

"The resulting film consisted of 18 scenes – as we discover from the programme of its special screening at the Queen’s Hall – with a total length of 800 feet. The Warwick catalogue of 1903 stipulated that it was only available to exhibitors as a complete film and not as 18 individual items – thus breaking the usual practice with other multiple films, of which each part could be bought separately. Before this the only films of comparable length were The Passion Play and some records of famous prizefights."

"Following the successful ascent of Mont Blanc, the expedition went on to ascend the Great Schreckhorn of 13,500 feet, securing a film of 250 feet in length. In all Ormiston-Smith shot about 2,500 feet of film, resulting in the release of a dozen films, including The Ascent of Mont Blanc. The other films in the series were of more modest length, measuring 50, 100, or 150 feet."

"The Ascent of Mont Blanc was a huge success, and was exhibited in at least three first-class venues in the West End of London – the Alhambra Music Hall, the Palace Music Hall, and the Queen’s Hall."

"Naturally Ormiston-Smith’s Mont Blanc film cannot be compared with the sophistication, drama, or technique of Fanck’s much later Stürm über dem Montblanc. It was a straightforward narrative of the ascent, in 18 scenes, but for its time it was a remarkable achievement and well deserves better acknowledgment than it has been given. In Low and Manvell’s History of the British Film 1896-1906 it barely gets a mention, and in most other histories of the British cinema, no mention at all."

"In 1903 Charles Urban left the Warwick Trading Company to form his own film business, the Charles Urban Trading Company, and took with him many of the film-makers who had worked for Warwick, including Ormiston-Smith; and by the Summer of 1903 was announcing a series of Ormiston-Smith films called The Wintery Alps and, later in the year, Picturesque Switzerland. That September Ormiston-Smith led another film expedition similar to that of The Ascent of Mont Blanc, and climbed the Jungfrau (24 September 1903) and the Matterhorn (28 September 1903). From early Spring 1904 he toured Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, and Palestine, and in 1905 he was in Sweden to make the Northern Sports series. All of these films were handled by the Charles Urban Trading Company."

"One feels that there is a biography – even an autobiography – out there somewhere waiting to surface, for surely Ormiston-Smith was a very remarkable man, an amazing film-maker who merits further research on both sides of the Atlantic (Ormiston-Smith is a frequent name-combination in the United States)." – William Barnes

Tutte le copie dei film provengono dal / All prints are from the BFI National Archive, London.

The order was changed in the screening from the printed programme to the following. The Ascent of Mont Blanc was screened as the last picture in the show.

THE MOUNT PILATUS RAILWAY (Warwick Trading Company - GB 1900?/1901?) D, DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 35 mm, 142 ft, 2' (16 fps). - AA: In the style of the phantom ride. Clumsy, visual quality mediocre or worse.

FANCY SKATING ON THE BEAR ICE RINK AT GRINDELWALD (Warwick Trading Company - GB 1902) D, DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 35 mm, 73 ft, 1' (16 fps). - AA: Still clumsy, visual quality as above.

SKI JUMPING AT GRINDELWALD (Charles Urban Trading Company - GB 1903) D, DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 35 mm, 173 ft, 3' (16 fps). - AA: As above.

LIFE IN JAFFA (Jaffa and Jerusalem) (Charles Urban Trading Company - GB 1905)
D, DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 35 mm, 181 ft, 3' (16 fps). - AA: A fascinating record. Visual quality as above.

THE ARLBERG RAILWAY (Charles Urban Trading Company - GB 1906)
D, DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 35 mm, 365 ft, 6' (16 fps). - AA: A phantom ride. Visual quality as above.

Sleighing Parties in Switzerland in Mid-Winter (1902)
INTERNATIONAL WINTER SPORTS (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1904) DP: Joseph Rosenthal, F. Ormiston Smith, Mr. Landsdorff; 35 mm, 370 ft, 6'10" (16 fps); titles: ENG.
    This compilation originally consisted of 25 scenes, representing winter sports in Canada, the United States, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland; the surviving version being shown contains 10 items. Charles Urban often repackaged compilations of his company’s films. A variant of this was later listed in Urban’s 1906 catalogue as Winter Sports Compilation. The photography of several films is credited to Frank Ormiston-Smith.
SLEIGHING PARTIES IN SWITZERLAND IN MID-WINTER (Warwick Trading Co. – GB 1902) DP: ?; 70 ft. Filmed in Grindelwald; includes shots from the sleigh.
MERRY BOYS AND GIRLS IN SNOWY SWITZERLAND (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1902) DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 55 ft. Schoolchildren on toboggans, filmed in Grindelwald.
THE BATTLE OF THE SNOW (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1903) DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 26 ft. A snowball fight.
ICE-YACHTING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1903) DP: Joseph Rosenthal; c.20 ft. Filmed in Canada.
FUN ON THE SKATING RINK AFTER A SNOWSTORM IN THE ALPS (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1903) DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 23 ft
COCK FIGHTING ON THE ICE RINK (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1904) DP: Frank Ormiston-Smith; 18 ft
MONTREAL ON SKATES (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1903) DP: Joseph Rosenthal; 11 ft
HOCKEY ON SKATES (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1903) DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 73 ft
A game of ice hockey, filmed in the Alps.
TOSSING THE PHOTOGRAPHER (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1903) DP: Joseph Rosenthal; c.17 ft. Members of the Old Tuque Blue Club in Montreal tossing Joseph Rosenthal in a
blanket.
THE OUTING OF THE “OLD TUQUE BLUE” SNOW-SHOEING CLUB OF MONTREAL. (Charles Urban Trading Co. – GB 1903) DP: Joseph Rosenthal; 24 ft
    AA: A fascinating, priceless compilation. The joy of winter sport. Visual quality as above.

THE ASCENT OF MONT BLANC (Warwick Trading Company - GB 1902) D, DP: F. Ormiston-Smith; 35 mm, 775 ft, 13' (16 fps). - AA: An exciting straight record of the ascent of Mont Blanc. The streams, the snow, the avalanches, the terrifying ravines over the clouds, reaching the top. Visual quality: mediocre to bad.

AA: A wonderful programme covering the birth of the mountain film and covering winter sports. The visual quality is not enjoyable, yet this is a magnificent record.