Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pandora's Box

Die Büchse der Pandora; silent drama, Germany, 1929; D: Georg Wilhelm Pabst, S: Louise Brooks, Francis Lederer, Fritz Kortner

Lulu is an attractive, but promiscuous woman who has many lovers. One of them, the respectful newspaper publisher Schön, has had enough of sharing her with so many men and announces he is to get married to the daughter of a Minister. However, during a stage rehearsal where she was about to perform, Lulu manages to seduce Schön again, who gives in and decides to marry her instead. However, even during the wedding, Lulu is flirting with other men, and thus Schön gets a pistol - in the ensuing chaos, he is shot and dies. Lulu is sentenced to five years in prison, but manages to escape together with Schön's son, Alwa. They hide in a ship used for gambling, but have to escape once again when the owner intends to sell Lulu in a brothel. In London, working as a prostitute, Lulu gets killed by Jack the Ripper.

One of G. W. Pabst's most famous and acclaimed films seems almost like a cynical-bitter upside restructuring of the "Odyssey", where - unlike the heroine, Penelope, who is annoyed by the intrusive suitors and only longs for one man, her Odysseus - here the heroine, Lulu, actually treats every suitor the same and never wants to love only one person, but to live in constant state of admiration by men, even after her wedding. "Pandora's Box" caused quite a controversy during its premiere for tackling several taboo topics (promiscuity; a femme fatale; a gold digger...), yet is overall an overhyped film, a too straight-forward melodrama with little exceptions or interventions either in style or storyline to compensate for the rather standard, conventional build up with too much over-reliance on the sole topic which was daring back in those days, but seems normal today. The most was achieved from the expressionistic actress Louise Brooks, whose Lulu became her "trademark" performance of some sort, thanks to her modern hair due and erratic, adamant behavior. The tragedy stems from the ever growing rift between what Alwa and his father want from Lulu (a mature, loyal wife who will love only one man) and what Lulu actually is (an immature woman who does not want to grow up or to ever get attached to only one man), leading to several love triangles which nullify and destroy each other in the end. It is a dark and uncompromising film, yet it is a pity it was not enriched with more spice or director's intervention since it is very simplistic.


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