Silent Greta Garbo:Victor Sjostrom as Victor Seastrom
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Swedish Silent Film: Victor Sjostrom, Greta Garbo
Filmic address could more often be comprised of objects put into the scene, placing the view of the spectator within it, not only to bring a greater involvement with character, but to allow the spectator to identify more often with the relation between character and enviornment, technique providing the relation between film and viewer. Specific to the relationship between character and enviornment is the relation between the character and the object towards which he or she is looking. The aesthetics of pictorial composition could utilize placing the figure in either the foreground or background of the shot, depth of plane,depth of framing, narrative and pictorial continuity being developed together. Compositions would become related to each other in the editing of successive images and adjacent shots, the structure of the scene; Griffith had already begun to cut mid-scene, his cutting to another scene before the action of the previous scene was completed, and had certainly already begun to cut between two seperate spatial locations within the scene.
Author Kenneth Macgowan praises the silent film The Avenging Conscience as a photoplay, his view being that Giriffith’s film uses a narrative method of storystructure, action being secondary to character development, if not often interpolated in between scenes, his noting that it was seldom that Griffith used intertitles with lines of dialougue during a scene. Among the narrative films of Griffith filmed in 1909 was the silent film The Sealed Room.
The camera could also portray the character more fully by adding the movement of the camera to character movement, as in The Golden Louis (1909), mobilizing the gaze of the character within the organization of the look. In For Love of Gold, one of the fourty four biograph films made in 1908, D.W. Griffith and Bitzer had shifted the placement of the camera during the scene, the close up used in conjuction with the long shot and full shot. Not only could the editing together of different spatial relationships with each shot provide contrast between shots that were in a series, but the duration of each shot could be varying as well. With the use of varying camera postitions, particularly during the 1908 film After Many Years, Griffith would establish the use of the narrative close up, and by the interpolating of an individual shot between shots similar in composition as a cut in shot, editing would be used to connect seperate shots to advance plotline. With Griffith, film would create a proscenium arc of its own, that of the lens, a lens that would with the Vitagraph nine foot line bring the frame into the grammar of film, shifting from a viewpoint of playing in front of the audience to one more aligned with it, the authorial camera entering into a new relationship with the spectator- included in the films made by D. W Griffith in 1908 is a stage to screen adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, with Florence Lawrence.
Among the literary adaptations filmed by Vitagraph in 1909 was Launcelot and Elaine.
In her autobiography, Lillian Gish08 discusses Griffith’s use of shot legnth in The Lonely Villa (1909) and his cutting between camera distances in The Lonedale Operator (1911). Not incidentally, Eisenstien in a discussion of Griffith’s editing goes so far as to describe ”the principle function of the close shot” which is ”not so much to present, as to signify, to designate, to give meaning.” Belazs adds, ”Only in editing is the shot given its particular meaning.” Cavell writes, ”If either the frame or subject budges, the composition alters.” If filmic address during a cinema of attractions had begun with the act of display, it had begun to incorporate the actor as seen in close shot, which could be edited into a grammar of film – the shot had become ”the unit of editing” and the ”basis for the construction of the scene” (Jacobs), whereas before it had been the scene that would allow the placement of shots, it now being that there could be an assemblage of shots. Terry Ramsaye writes,” Griffith began to work at a syntax for the screen narration…While Griffith may not have originated the closeup and like elements of technique, he did establish for them their function.”; which silent film author Nicholas A. Vardac reiterates by writing that it was from the films of Edwin S. Porter that D.W. Griffith acquired the technique of viewing the shot within its context as ”a syntax for the melodrama”.
Belazs mentions that the mood of a scene can be established by the particular set ups that are used, his almost attributing the ability to participate in the action to the surroundings and background in which the film takes place, as does Spottiswoode, who mentions that by filming from any number of postitions and angles, the director can decide which elements of the scene can be included in creating its mood, particularly which components of the director’s subject. Bengt Forslund notes that the use of nature to provide the action of the scene with something that would render it more dramatic Gardner, particularly diring ”the lyrical love sequences between Lili Beck and Gösta Ekman, his having written, ”There is also an intentionally stereoscopic effect in the sets that is typical of all of Sjöström’s films, and that shows the amount of intuition Sjöström had for the new medium.” Often in the films of Sjöström, like in those of Bergman, the landscape ”in which his journeys take place are part of the journey.” (John Simon). Peter Cowie has noted that Swedish films were often shot on location and that Sjöström had ”revelled in location shooting and embarked on the most perilous of stunts for the sake of realism.” Birgitta Steene writes that ”it was Sjöström and Stiller (as well as Griffith) who began to shoot pictures out-doors”. ”Nevertheless in his best dramas of pastoral life, Sjöström to integrate the rugged Swedish landscape into the texture of his films with an almost mystical force- a feature noted and much admired in other countries.” Venerated Swedish film historian Forsyth Hardy compares the directors Victor Sjöström to each other by writing, ”Both turned instinctively for material to the works of Selma Lagerloff with their combination of ardent puritanism and a passionate love of nature. And both were sensitively aware of the virtue which the camera could draw out of inanimate objects.” Sjöström and Stiller can be compared while relating their influence upon the silent film of Finland, but it can be allowed that ”Victor Sjöström delved deeper into the mysteries of the landscape.” (Annitti Alanen) Of interest is that the establishing shot that begins the Greta Garbo film Love, directed in the Untied States by Edmund Goulding is an exterior that begins the plotline with Garbo in a snowstorm being brought homeward in a sleigh; it is a series of exterior shots that depict nature as the background for character delineation very much like in the films of Scandinavian director Victor Sjöström, so much so that it is revealed in the first interior shots that both the love interest in the film, portrayed by John Gilbert, and the audience, were nearly unaware of who the character portayed by Garbo really was and hadn’t fully realized it untill being given later look at the beauty of the passenger, as though they were being reintroduced to someone they had been with during the journey through the snow.
And yet, if the present author has anything to add to what has been written in appreciation of Scandinavian film and its use of landscape to add depth to the development of character by creating relationships between the background and the protagonist of any given film’s plotline, within that is that within classical cinema and its chronological ordering of events, it is still often spatio-temporal relationships that are developed. The viewer often acknowledging the effect that an object within the film might have upon the character, an object that is either stationary or in movement, poeticly in movement as a waterfall would be, the structuring of space within the film not only clarifies plot action, but, within the framed image, included in the spatial continuity within the visual structure of the film, establishes a relation of objects that appear onscreen to the space that is offscreen. Spatial relations became narrative. Character movement, camera movement and shot structure create a scenographic space which within the gaze of the actress is observed through an ideal of femininity, a unity of space constructed that links shots, often by forming spaces that are contiguous within the scene and creating images that are poeticly presented as being contiguous; subjectivity is structured within the discourse of the film and these subjectivities are presented to the viewer as being within a larger context within early Silent Scandinavian films.
In addition to using close ups that could isolate the actor from what particular background that happenned to surround him or her, D. W. Griffith would establish the relationship between character and enviornment as well, particularly developing it through the use of editing and varying spatial relationships, as in his use of exteriors and the long shot in the silent film Battle at Elderbrush (1912).
In Kristianstad, Sweden the director Carl Engdahl pioneered with the film The People of Varmland (Varmanningarna) in 1909. Robert Olsson photographed The Wedding at Ulfasa for two directors, the second having had been being Gustaf Linden. The film starred the Swedish silent film actresses Ellen Appelberg, Lilly Wasmuth and Anna Lisa Hellstrom. In 1910, Olsson wrote, directed and photographed the film Emigranten, starring Oscar Soderholm and Valborg Ljungberg, and photographed the films Emigrant starring Torre Cederborg and Gucken Cederborg in her first appearance on screen, and Regina von Emmeritz och Kongung Gustaf II Adolf, starring Emile Stiebel and Gerda Andre, both directed by Gustaf Linden. Twelve years later, Gucken Cederborg was introduced to another actress who would soon be introduced to Swedish audiences, Barry Paris having written that when when she and actress Tyra Ryman walked into Pub with actor-director Eric Petschler, Greta Garbo, who worked there as a clerk, recognized them immediately.
Film historians have noted that Kristianstad, Sweden was home to another film, The Man Who Takes Care of the Villian (Han som clara boven), filmed in 1907. Produced by Franz G. Wiberg, the film has never been released theatrically.
Svensk Kinematograf was the production company that under N. E. Sterner had filmed six of the earliest films photographed in Scandinavia- Robert Olsson had photographed Pictures of Laplanders (Lappbilder), Herring Fishing in Bohuslan (Sillfiske i Bohuslan), Lika mot lika starring Tollie Zellman and Kung Oscars mottagning i Kristianstad in 1906 before working with Carl Engdahl. Also shown in Stockholm and Goteborg during 1906 was the film Kriget i Ostergotland. In 1911, Gustaf Linden, directed the film The Iron Carrier (Jarnbararen), photographed by Robert Olsson and starring Anna-lisa Hellstrom and Ivan Hedqvist. Similar to the early cinematography of Robert Olsson were the films shot by Ernest Florman, who wrote and directed the film Skona Helena (1903), which had starred Swedish actress Anna Norrie.
Another of Sweden’s earliest photographers was Walfrid Bergström, who was behind the camera between 1907-1911 in Stockholm for Apollo productions. In 1907 Bergström filmed Den glada ankan, one of the three films produced by Albin Roosval starring Carl Barklind and Emma Meissner and Konung Oscar II’s likbegangelse. Between 1907 and 1911, Bergstrrom would photographed Skilda tiders danser with Emma Meissner and Rosa Grunberg in 1909 and Ryska sallskapsdanser in 1911. During 1908, Svenska Biografteatern produced two short films with the actress Inga Berentz, Sjomansdansen, photographed by Walfrid Bergstrom, and I kladloge och pascen, photographed by Otto Bokman.
Charles Magnusson, who came to the United States, directed and wrote The Pirate and Memories from the Boston Sports Club in 1909 and Orpheus in the Underworld (Urfeus i underjorden) in 1910. Magnusson in 1909 had become the managing director of Svenska Biografteatern, which Julius Jaenzon become part of in 1910. Notably, while under N. E. Sterner of Svensk Kinematograf, Charles Magnusson had photographed Konung Haakons mottagning i Kristiania (1905), a short film of the King of Norway’s visit to Kristiania almost as though to presage that it would be there, rather than Rasunda that he would begin the Swedish Film industry, his also having directed the films Gosta Berlings land(Bilder fran Frysdalen, 1907), Gota elf-katastrofen (1908) and Resa Stockholm-Goteborg genom Gota och Trollhatte kanaler (1908). Konstantin Axelsson, in 1911, directed Hon fick platsen eller Exkong Manuel i Stockholm. Starring Ellen Landquist, the film was produced in Stockholm by Apollo and was photographed by Walfrid Bergstrom.
Like Charles Magnusson, Frans Lundberg produced short silent films in Sweden, the first two filmed in 1910. Stora Biografteatern, in Malmo, Sweden, photographed To Save a Son (Massosens offer), directed by Alfred Lind and starring Agnes Nyrup-Christensen, and The People of Varmland (Varmlandingarna), directed by Ebba Lindkvist, photographed by Ernst Dittmer and starring Agda Malmberg, Astrid Nilsson and Ester Selander. The following year Ernesr Dittmer would write and direct the film Rannsakningsdomaren, starring Gerda Malmberg and Ebba Bergman.
In Malmo Sweden, for Stora Biografteatern, Otto Hoy during 1911 wrote and directed the film The Spy (Spionen), starring Paul Welander and Agnes Nyrop-Christensen, the manager of Stora Biografteatern, Frans Lundberg. Paul Welander wrote and directed his first film in 1911, Champagneruset.
Carl Engdahl later appeared in the 1926 film Mordbrannerskan, directed by John Lindlof.
Forsyth Hardy notes that the early Swedish films of 1911 were films in which ”the camera remained static and the action was artificially concentrated into a small area in front of it.” Not quite apart from this and very much like the silent film included in Vardac’s account of the use of the proscenium arch in early cinema in Stage to Screen,the films directed by Anna Hofman Uddgren in 1911 were transpositions of Miss Julie and The Father (Fadren) ,the intimate theater of Swedish playwright August Strindberg. Cameraman Otto Bokman used two exterior shots during The Father, the film having starred Karin Alexandersson and Renee Bjorling. Miss Julie, a film that had had its Stockholm premiere at the Orientaliska Teatern, starred Karin Alexandersson and Manda Bjorling. Both plays were later to be filmed by Alf Sjöberg. Stiller had, in fact, been the manager of the Lilla Teaten and a contemporary of August Falk and Manda Bjorling had acted with him and Anna Flygare at the Intima Theatern. Uddgren also in 1911 directed Single a Dream (Blott in drom), starring Edith Wallen Sisters (Systarna), starring Edith Wallen and Sigurd Wallen and Stockholmsdamernas alskling, starring Carl Barcklind, Erika Tornberg and Anna-Lisa Hellström. Balif vid Molle (1911) was photographed by John Bergqvist. Also in Stockholm, the Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern, later managed by both Ingmar Bergman and Erland Josephson, was headed by Gustaf Fredriksson between 1904-1907 and then by Knut Michaelson between 1908-1910. Swedish Film Institue founder Charles Magnusson in 1911 directed The Talisman (Amuletten), starring Lili Bech. Victor Sjöström had had his own theater with Einar Froberg before his directing under Magnusson, it having been Froberg that had spoken to Magnusson before he and Sjöström had met. Swedish film director Gustav Molander had in fact been at the Intima Teatern from 1911 to 1913. The Blue Tower, where August Strindberg lived in Stockholm between 1908-1912 and where he wrote the play The Great Highway, is now part of The Strindberg Museum.
Thanhouser was also producing adaptations of literature for the screen and in 1911 filmed three plays by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen: Pillars of Society (Samfundets stotter), Lady from the Sea (Fruen fra havet, Theodore Marston) and A Doll’s House (Et dukkehjem). Lubin that year filmed a version of Ibsen’s Sins of the Father (Gengangere).
Although a theory of a cinema of attractions depends less upon the use of the proscenium arch written about by Nicholas A. Vardac or the camera’s photographic reproduction of drama that had previously been enacted upon the stage and more upon the act of display having preceded the use of cinematic and editorial devices to propel narrative, the grammar of film would be used both to transpose the theatricality of the stage play and to adapt novels to the screen in ways which they could not be performed in front of a theater audience not only in regard to the modes of address which would position the spectator but also in regard to the public sphere of reception. Within the reception of each film there soon was a heterogeneity of filmgoers and that films were visual soon transversed language barriers between audiences that would otherwise have been seperate. Characteristic of early films that were adaptions of novels was the use of a linear narrative similar to that of the ”well made novel” novel of the nineteenth century, the camera following the character into each subsequent scene. There soon would be films in which there would be a contemporaneity of narrative and attraction. Raymond Spottiswoode distinguishes between the photoplay, the adaptation of the stage play to the screen with little or no editing, and the screenplay, where camera movement and technique is used to convey narrative- the photoplay can be likened to a cinema of attractions where the scene is filmed from a fixed camera position, whereas the screenplay includes the cut from a medium shot to a close shot in order to build the scene.
In regard to the camera being authorial, Raymond Spottiswoode writes, ”The spatial closeup is the usual means of revealing significant detail and motion. Small movements which must necessarily have escaped the audiences of a play sitting removed some distance from its actors can thus be selected from their surroundings and magnified to any extent.” While writing that how the camera is authorial includes its having only one position, that of the viewer, which, differing from that of the theater audience can vary with each shot change, depending upon the action within the scene, Spottiswoode cautions that the well written stage play is not suited for the camera’s mobility. He also indirectly addresses the use of nature as a way to connect characters to their enviornment while they are being developed that is quite often significant in Scandinavian films when writing about the possibility there being a ”difference film”, by that his referring to a film which uses relational cutting. ”To constitute such a ‘difference film’ is not sufficiently merely to photograph mountains and streams which are inaccessible to theater producers; the film must also choose a method of carrying on its purposive themes or meaning from moment to moment.” He continues, ”the public can be trained to appreciate that the differences between nature seen and nature filmed constitute the chief value of the cinema.”
In the United States, with Edison (The Road of Anthracite, Race for Millions and The Society Raffles) and Vitagraph (Raffles, the Amatuer Cracksman, The Burgler on the Roof), the attraction had literally become filmed theater, scenes based on those of the stage solely for dramatic value, photographed in one reel as though in one act, from which came the knee shot, or medium full shot; the use of the proscenium arch is more pronounced before the Vitagraph nine foot line, the camera distance of the knee shot, in that there would be space left as visible in between the actor’s feet and the bottom frameline, space articulated in tableau that would be more like that of when the spectator is in the audience at a theater. The legnth of one reel would be between eight hundred and one thousand feet. At first the films of Melies were shot in a single scene, as though filmed theater; in order to film narrative he then put seperate shots in order to become connected scenes, or ”artificially arranged scenes”. It would later become ”a constant shifting of scenes” (Lewis Jacobs). Although the article discusses the lack of narrative closure and unicity of frame in early cinema, the subject of a recent e-mailed book review was the writing of one author that has offered the idea that there is less of a demarcation between early cinema and the films that provide transition to the two-reel film -writing about the editing of Melies, Ezra gives an account of his films being comprised of combinations of photographic reproduction, spectacle and narrative. Quite certainly, the images of film are moving images and can advance the narrative and more of the film that was to come later would be dramatic narrative. The cinema of Melies has been likened to a cinema of attractions in its repetitive use of suprise and sudden appearance; the temporality of attraction one of appearance-nonappearance rather than that of development.
One particular silent film, Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900), considerably under one minute in legnth, had starred William Gillete, ushering in the new century with the first screen appearance of the consulting detective. On vieweing the single shot film, the audience is as baffled as Holmes by the abrupt vanishings of a burgler that disappears and reappears throughout the room through the use of stop-motion trick photography, the film a superb example of early cinema and possibly any narrative of attractions (action within the frame) there may have been.
The Great Train Robbery, produced by Edwin S. Porter, was made by the Edison Manufacturing Co. and is included in the 275 silent films of the Paper Print Collection. Also included in the collection is the early silent film The Little Train Robbery filmed by the Edison Manufacturing Co. in 1905. The Library of Congress also holds a collection of early animation, in which two films produced by silent film pioneer Thomas A. Edison are included, as well as Dinosaur and the missing link, produced by Edison and written by Willis O’Brien in 1917. Charles Musser writes that more than four fifths of the films made by Edison between 1904 and 1907 were narrative or stage fiction; among these was the 1906 film Kathleen Mavourneen. The Edison company released its last film as a studio, The Unbeliever (Alan Crosland, six reels) in 1918. Not Incidentally, the term ‘one sheet’ used to describe the standard size of movie posters begin with the Edison photoplay; it was a size of approximately 27 inches by 41 inches and often included a synopsis of the plotline of the film. The early silent films of Thomas Edison are also presently available from Kino.
William Rothman writes that only one sixth of the film before 1907 had storyline. While Kenneth MacGowan also mentions filmmakers that had used trick photography other than Melies, among them G. A Smith of England, he adds that not untill Cecil Hepworth, with the silent film Alice in Wonderland, (1903) were there films that included seperate scenes to articulate fantasy or narrative. A later screen version of the silent film Alice and Wonderland was filmed by W. W. Young in 1915. Edison had filmed a version of Jack and the Beanstalk as early as 1902. Silent film director Cecil Hepworth would shortly thereafter bring the element of editing narrative into his films with Rescued by Rover. (1905)
Heath sees early cinema as space articulated in tableau, filmed frontally, storyline achieved by the linking of scenes, as when they are linked by characters and their having entered the frame, to the viewer, spectacle being horizontal, scenographic space. Mary Ann Doanne equates the cinema of attractions with ”an early form of cinema organized around single events” looking to the one-shot films as their often being ”the spectacular deployment of the female body”, as in the Biograph film, Pull Down the Curtains, Suzie (1904). Within a study of trade press and preformance style, ”intertextuality and contextuality”, which in this instance include a volume on stage acting written by actress Mae Marsh, Roberta Pearson looks at Biograph and demarcates a shift from codes within cinematic acting style that had occurred while narrative films was replacing the cinema of attractions. Pearson sees a ”desirability of versimiltude” clamored for by movie reviews between 1908-1913 to replace acting that may have been ”false, theatrical, and stagy, or, other words, histrionic.” Whether or not action can be histrioniclly coded or have versimilar code automaticlly, or incontrovertibly, brings the spatial relationships of the figure on screen into play, and as the expression of narrative, the camera as position or having position brings a difference between stage acting and film acting that can inevitably be availed by the close-up- the artist’s model has been posed tightly within content and form. As a film historian, in Eloquent Guestures, Pearson goes further with the delineation of the cinema of attractions by further outlining the development and influence of the Vitagraph nine-foot line by addrssing, ”Staigers chronology, set forth in Classical Hollywood cinema”. ”Prior to 1907,” Pearson writes, ”according to Staiger, one person, the cameraman, had control of all aspects of film production, from the selection of the subject to the final editing”. Why the present author would look on this as pertinent is that in light of the early film of Charles Magnusson that may have been newsreel in character and lacking narrative, as may have been the first Danish short films, Pearson may have found a corrollary between studios in the United States and those in Scandinavia. She continues, ”By 1909, the film studios began to institute the ”director-unit” system to meet the need for twenty to thirty new reels a week.” This positions the director as a script-supervisor where the cameraman is left to control the lighting of the shot.
The director at Biograph untill June 1908 had been Wallace McCutheon (Personal, 1904). The technique of crosscutting has been attributed to McCutheon (Her First Adventure, 1906; The Elopement, 1907); on occaision directors were beginning to hint at cutting on action by 1907 and were also beginning to link seperate scenes together, as when the same character appears in two scenes that are adjacent. If, within a cinema of attractions, narrative exposition had previously used a discontinuous style, one of filming a single action within what was then an autonomous shot, it would acquire as form a continuous style; when there were to be juxtapositions within narrative from shot to shot, they would be decisions of editing used for the advancement of plot. That intertitles were at first often explanatory shows the beginnings of a narrative within cinema. During an early scene of the silent Frankenstien (J. Searle Dawley, Edison, 1910), there is, in between scenes, an expository intertitle that uses of a close shot of a letter to develop character within the narrative, epistolary form used on the screen. A similar insert shot is used in the film Dash Through the Clouds (1912). Certainly by 1917 films made in the United States, and the films made by Sjöström and Stiller in Sweden had acquired a narrative transitivity, a chronological plot outline, more often than not their being characterized by their having a causal motivation of scene and its structure. In regard to film preservation and the intertitle, The Danish Film Institute used the screenplay to Dreyer’s film Der var Engang to provide descriptive intertitles to the film that explain its plot, including explanatory description that now appears in the same intertitle as the dialouge to the silent photoplay. Carl Dreyer had adapted the screenplay from the stage and seperated the two different types of intertitle while writing.
D. W. Griffith uses offscreen space in his structuring of shots during the 1910 film What Daisy Said, directed for Biograph. Most of the shots to the film are exterior longshots with two or more characters with a static camera. Starring with Gertrude Robinson, Mary Pickford enters the frame from the far left of the screen and exits near to the end of the shot from that same side. In a subsequent shot she enters from the right side of the frame, quickly climbs a set of outdoor stairs, exits from the left and then reenters the frame from the left to begin the next shot, her dancing from one side of the screen to the other and the camera cutting almost on her action of entering and exiting to begin each shot. She runs in fron of the camera from the offscreen space that frames the exterior and then runs back to the same side of the screen to exit the frame in a brief shot. She later slowly descends the outdoor stairs during the film to depict despair. Her movement as a unifying image, the moving subject, serves to link the adjacent shots, her movement within the frame carried into each subsequent shot so that the spatial relationships with the frame of each individual shot are seen with the shot to shot relationships of camera position and reposition, character movement linking the image to create narrative continuity as the viewer is brought to the edges of the rectangular frame. The significant action of the scene bringing an involvement with with the protagonist, the causality in the storyline of the film is constructed without the frequent use of explanatory intertitles.
It is not suprising that Kenneth Macgowan writing as early as 1965 in Behind the Screen divides early silent film into three periods: 1896-1905; 1906-1915; 1916-1925. Form and content in film technique seem to have developed together.
In regard to film preservation and the search for silent film, in April 2005, United Press International reported that films dating back as far as 1910, including one film entitled ”Little Snow White”, were found by the Huntley Archive., the unknown of collection totalling more than six hundread cans of film kept hidden in an airplane hanger in the south of England. To add to this, during June of 2006, the only copy of the first British narrative film, a film depicting a pickpocket directed by Birt Acres in 1895, as well as as many as six films that were included in the body of work filmed by Thomas Edison, was found in an attic in West Midlands, England. In his biography of Victor Sjöström, Bengt Forslund exuberantly remarks upon the discovering of a hitherto unknown copy of Predators of the Sea (Sea Vultures, Havsgama, 1914), starring Richard Lund, Greta Almroth and John Ekman, and not so exuberantly on the unlikelihood of a copy of Victor Sjöström’s film The Divine Woman, starring Greta Garbo, being found in the future. On the film Predators of the Sea, Forslund writes, ”Sjöström recounts his story simply and straitforwardly in remarkably well thought-out images of the kind we already know from Ingeborg Holm.
The Nordisk Film Kompagni having had been founded in 1906, most of the early narrative films for the most part ”thrillers, tragedies and love stories” (Astrid Soderberg Widding), or ”the social melodrama and dive novel that made a hit from 1910 onwards” (Bengt Forslund), were directed by Viggo Larsen, who directed The Black Mask (1906), Revenge (1906) and The Magic Bed (Tryllesaekken, 1907) in Denmark : Urban Gad directed Asta Nielsen in her first film, The Abyss (Afgrunden, 1910) in Denmark, a film often written about due to her popularity and to a scene contained in it in which she dances eroticly; both directors went to Germany. Among the films produced by Nordisk Films Kompagni in 1906 was Bonden i Kobenhavn (Hunting of a Polar Bear), directed by its manager, Ole Olsen. Having established the Biografteatret, Copenhagen’s first movie theater, Ole Olsen established its first production company in 1906, Ole Olsen’s Film Industry, which that year filmed Pigeons and Seagulls (Duer og Maager). Ole Olsen also produced the 1906 films The Funeral of King Christian IX (King Christian IX’s Bisaettelse) and The Proclamation of King Fredderick VIII (King Frederick VIII’s Proklamtion). Many of the silent films made by the Nordisk Films Kompagni, although produced by Ole Olsen, still have an unattributed director, one example of this being the film Rouges (Gartyve), filmed in 1906. Vitriolic Drama (Vitrioldrama), Violinist’s Romance (Violinistens Roman), Rivalinder (A Woman’s Duel/The Rivals), Gelejslaven, Tandpine, Knuste Haaband and Kortspillere were also filmed by Nordisk Films Kompagni during 1906. In 1906 Louis Halberstadt for Nordisk Films Kompagni directed the film Konfirmation, photographed by Rasmus Bjerregaard, it having been the first Danish silent film in which Greta Garbo co-star Jean Hersholt (The Rise and Fall of Susan Lennox) was to appear.
Viggo Larsen was quite possibly the first director to cut from one long shot of a scene to its reverse angle, a long shot of the scene from an opposite angle (Rovens Brod, 1907). The Danish photographer Axel Sorensen began filming for Larsen in 1906 and continued solely with Larsen untill 1911, when he began photographing first for Danish director August Blom and then for Danish director Urban Gad under the name of Axel Graatkjae. One film photographed by Axel Sorensen that Viggo Larsen is particularly noted for directing is The Lion Hunt (Lovejaten, 1907). In the year 1906, the actress Margrethe Jespersen had starred in the films Anarkistens svigermor (Larsen), Knuste hab, Caros dod, Haevnet (Larsen) and Fiskerliv i Norden (Larsen). In 1907, the actress Oda Alstrup was directed by Viggo Larsen and photgraphed by Axel Graatkjaer Sorensen for Nordisk Films in Camille (Kameliadamen), Den glade enke, Trilby (Lille Trilby), and in Aeren tabt-alt tabt and Handen (Haanden), both of which she had starred in with actress Thora Nathansen. Clara Nebelong appeared with her in the film Roverens brud. Among the films directed by Larsen in 1907 were A Modern Naval Hero (En Moderne Sohelt) and Once Upon a Time (Der var engang) with Clara Nebelong, Gerda Jensen and Agnes Norlund Seemann, both of which he appeared in as an actor. Actress Clara Nebelong also that year appeared in the films Vikingeblod and From the Rococo Times (Rosen), also directed by Viggo Larsen and photographed by Axel Sorensen. The Artist’s Model’s Sweetheart (Den Romersk Model) is among the films credited as having been directed by Viggo Larsen in 1908. Viggo Larsen in 1908 directed actress Lili Jansen in several films photographed by Axel Graatkjaer Sorensen, including Lille Hanne, Peters Held, Urmagerens Bryllup and The School of Life (Gennem Livets Skole), which also starred Thora Nathansen. Viggo Larsen that year also directed Mathilde Nielsen and Pterine Sonne in the film The Capricious Moment (Capriciosa). In 1909, Viggo Larsen directed the film Child as Benefactor (Barnet som Velgorer). Emmanuel Tvede directed only one film in Denmark, Faldgruben, and yet in it was future star Emilie Sannom in one of her first screen appearances, Danish actress Kate Fabian also having appeared in the film.
In addition to Nordisk Films, during 1910 the Regina Kunst Kompagni briefly produced films in Denmark, notably the first three films in which actress Clara Weith Pontoppidan had, as Clara Weith, starred, Elskovsleg, Djaevelsonaten, and Ett Gensyn, in which she starred with actresses Annegrette Antonsen and Ellen Aggerholm. Director Axel Strom directed Clara Weith in the film Dorian Grays Portraet, in which she starred with Valdemar Psilander as well as his having directed Johanne Dinesen in the film Den doe Rotte. Danish silent film actress Emilie Sannon also starred on screen for the Regina Kunst Kompagni, her having starred in the film Doden.
The versatility of Asta Nielsen, directed by her husband Urban Gad, was especially shown from film to film. The Abyss begins with a shot of the actress Asta Nielsen as Magda and her boarding a train as though it were a whistle stop. It continues with exterior longshots, untill the two characters are seen at an outdoor coffee table. There is a cut to an interior where she is seen in full shot opening a letter, the camera distance well behing the Vitagraph nine foot line, particularly for an interior filmed in 1910. Seated, the next shot shows her at a closer angle, filmed higher than her as she is reading the letter. It then cuts to a train station and then a series exterior full shots of her arriving in the country. The scene then shifts to an outdoor circus and an exterior full shot during which she dances. The storyline becomes dramatic, or sensational in its being melodramatic, where she flees with the circus, much like in the Greta Garbo film The Rise and Fall of Susan Lennox. There is in the film a near panning shot following characters as a horse drawn carriage parks near the exterior of a building, the camera then cutting to the interior where she is recieving guests.
In Denmark, Urban Gad also directed actresses Emilie Sannom and Ellen Kornbeck, among the films Gad directed for Nordisk Films in 1911 two having been When Passion Binds Honesty (Dyrekobt Glimmer), in which both actresses appeared with Johannes Poulsen and Elna From, and An Aviator’s Generosity (Den Store Flyver, 3 reels), which had starred Christel Holck. Also that year Gad directed the films Spansk Elsker, and Sydens Born in Denmark. It was also that year that Urban Gad and Asta Nielsen would travel to Germany to film for Deutsche Bioscop. Asta Nielsen appeared on screen under Urban Gad’s direction with the cinematographer Karl Freund behind the camera that year in the films The Moth (Nachtfalter) and The Strange Bird (Der fremde Vogel). Asta Nieslen also continued in 1911 to appear under Gad’s direction in the films The Traitoress (Die Verraterin), Hot Blood (Heisses Blut), In Those Large Eye Glances (In dem grossen Augenblick).
The first Finnish narrative film, Bootleggers (Salaviinanpolttajat), was given to the Swedish director Louis Sparre, the film photographed by Frans Engstrom in 1907. Jaenzon filmed The Dangers of a Fisherman’s Life- An Ocen Drama (Fiskarliv ets farer-et Drama paa havet), an early Norwegian silent film under the direction of Hugo Hermansen. The first two Finnish directors, Erkki Karu and Teuvo Puro, are particularly noted for their use of nature as a background and landscape to complement the thematic, and yet Sylvi (1913) has been particularly likened to the film Ingeborg Holm, directed by Victor Sjöström. Peter Cowie notes that Karu’s The Logroller’s Bride (Koskenlaskijan morsian, 1923) has an exterior landscape scene that had been filmed by using six different cameras; the director later remade the film as the first Finnish film to include sound. The film Tukijoella (Log River) continued the influence of the Scandinavian film directors upon the silent cinema of Finland in their being a relation shown between the characters of the film and its background landscape, it having appeared in theaters in 1928. Also directing in Finland in 1913 was playwright Kaarle Halme who brought the films (The Bloodless Ones/Verettomat) and The Young Pilot (Nuori luotsi) to silent film audiences who had previously looked to the theater; the photplay, although quickly a new form of literature to convey the dramtic, and melodramtic, was still in Finland before 1919 contained within static camera angles without the frequent use of editing to complicate plotlines and character relationships, characters often shown in full figure, at the same camera distance, as at Vitagraph studios in the United States.
Peter Lykke-Seest, who had founded the first Norwegian film studio, the Christiana Film Company, was a screenwriter for Victor Sjöström (and Mauritz Stiller) before his directing The Story of a Boy (Historien om en gut) in 1919.
Aside from this was the consideration that once films had been begun to have been made that were two reels or more, dialouge,through the use of intertitles, and expository descriptions could be added to the way the causality of plotline was developed during a film and how character was delineated, intertitles that would not only lend continuity to the linear progression of storyline but also bring unity to it. Victor Sjöström later would in fact use intertitles to act as retrospective first person, voice over narrative. As well, narrative would no longer need to be only linear in regard to its structure and the syntax of film could include transitions between scenes; technique, in part could become the attraction.
Technique would become the ordering of images within an arrangement of shots that would bring seperate compositions into a relation within narrative- the film technique that would later be described by Christian Metz as consisting of syntagmatic categories, technique that would avail questions regarding whether a segment would be autonomous, chronological, linear, narrative or descriptive, continuous and whether it would be organized, was beginning to be decided. Metz in fact had viewed the narrative function in cinema as being what had brought about its development, it being more than possible that the techniques developed by Ince and Griffith were the exingencies of narrative form.
That Sjöström the actor would later be shown in both long shot and close shot in the same sequence shows the relation between the character on the screen and the space within the frame; in that the camera had been becoming increasingly authorial, it often seemed to provide an embodied viewpoint from which an idealized spectator could view onscreen space, and by its being authorial, could seem to reposition the spectator during the film through the use of a second central character. While discussing film technique as something that is a reproduction of the images before the spectator, Raymond Spottiswoode claims that ”it can never attain to art”, and yethe adds that there must be a freedom available to the director ”if he is to infuse his purpose and character into the beings of nature, to change them that their life becomes more living, their meaning more significant, their vlaue more sure and true.” He continues that while it can be put forth that there is only one camera angle that any scene can be photographed from, one relation to the camera that any object can be aquire within the varying spatial relations that it takes while arranged with the other objects in front of the camera, ”there is no reason to suppose that the choice of a camera angle is not perfectly free.” The attention of the spectator could be directed spatially. It is by being authorial that the camera can impart meaning, technique not only to have brought an objectification of what was in front of the camera but also of the camera itself as it observed the actors within the scene, as it photographed the object, the structure of the image deigned by the placement of the camera, the pleasure of the spectator derived in part from the parallel between the spectator and the camera. In regard to the camera being authorial, a group member of an e-mailed silent film mailing list recently in a post quoted a postulate of the theory of there being a cinema of attractions, ”The narrator in the early films is sporadic; an occaisional specter rather than a unified presence.”
Sjöström had said, ”At one time, Moje was without any doubt in love with Garbo, and she with him.” and she had reiterated that if ever she were to love anyone it would be Mauritz Stiller, the director who had taken her to see her first motion picture in the United States, The Lady Who Lied (1925, eight reels) with Lewis Stone and Nita Naldi. Fredrick Sands quotes Victor Sjöström as having said, ”For a certain time at least Stiller was in love with her and she with him. They told me so themselves.” Stiller, after having met cameraman Julius Jaenzon, had begun directing for Svenska Bio in 1912 with Mother and Daughter (Mor och Dotter), in which he acted with Anna Norrie and Lily Jacobsson and then in the same year The Black Masks (De svarta maskerna), in which Sjöström acted with Lili Bech and the film The Tyrannical Fiancee (Den Tyranniske Fastmannen), in which he starred with Agda Helin. Produced by AB Svenska Biografteatern, the film The Black Masks, is a circus movie in regard to its subject. It has been noted that the film is exceptionally edited, its numerous, varied scenes, ”a constantly changing combination of interiors and exteriors, close-ups and panoramic shots.” (Forsyth Hardy).
It had been early in 1912 that Magnusson had met with screen writer Erik Ljungberger who gave Magnusson Victor Sjöström’s name and who telephoned him for Magnusson. Victor Sjöström that year wrote and directed The Marriage Bureau (Aktenskapsbryan) with Victor Lundberg and directed A Secret Marriage (Ett hemlight giftermal) with Hilda Borgström, Smiles and Tears (Lojen och tarar) with Mia Hagman, a film written by Charles Magnusson and photographed by Julius Jaenzon, A Summer’s Tale (En Sommar Saga) and Lady Marion’s Summer Flirtation (Lady Marion’s sommarflirt, photographed by Julius Jaenzon and starring Hilda Borgström.
That year Paul Garbagni directed both Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller with actress Astrid Endgelbrecht in the film Springtime of Life (In the Spring of Life, I livets var), adapted from the novel The First Mistress by August Blanche- almost as soon as Swedish cinema had begun, it had begun adapting the novel to film; the significance of the cinema of attractions would now be in the shot, the placement of the shot within the scene, display relegated to frame compositions.
Eric Malmberg that year directed the films Oceanbreakers and Stolen Happiness (Branningar eller Stulen lycka) with Lily Jacobsson, Tollie Zellman and Victor Arfvidson, Det grona halsbandet with Lilly Jacobsson and Agda Helin and Samhallets dom, with Lily Jacobsson, Agda Helin, Tollie Zellman and actress Lisa Holm in the first film in which she was to appear, as well as Agaton and Fina (Agaton och Fina), and Two Swedish Emigrants in America (Tva svenska emigranters afventyr i Amerika), both photographed by Julius Jaenzon, also with Lily Jacobsson. John Ekman directed Swedish actress Stina Berg in her first appearance on the screen in the film The Shepherd Girl (Saterjantan), photographed by Hugo Edlund for Svenska Biografteatern. The Last Performance (Dodsritten under cirkuskupolen), Musiken makt, starring Lily Jacobsson, Jupiter pa jorden, with Axel Ringvall, and Tva broder with Birger Lundstedt and Eugen Nilsson, were filmed by Georg af Klercker. Algot Sandberg that year directed the film Farbror Johannes ankomst till Stockholm.
In Malmo, Sweden, for the Danish film producer Frans Lundberg and Stora Biografteatern, Paul Welander in 1912 contributed the films The Pace That Kills (Broder och syster), The Circus Queen (Circusluft), and two films photographed by photographer Ernst Dittmer, The Boa Constrictor (Ormen), The Flirt (Karlekens offer) and Princess Charlotte (Komtessan Charlotte), starring Phillipa Frederiksen and Agners Nyrup-Christensen, Welander also that year having starred with Ida Nielsen in The Bonds of Marriage (Karleksdrommar) a film made by Frans Lundberg. Charles Magnusson would direct The Green Necklace (Det grona halsbandet) and The Vagabond’s Galoshes (Kolingens galosher), both photographed by Julius Jaenzon. Jaenzon that year was the photographer and director of the film Condemned by Society.
1912 was also the year that Hjalmar Söderberg, often considered the nearest contemporary to Strindberg, published the novel The Most Serious Game (Den allvarsamm leken) and the one act play Aftonstjarnan. The first publication to appear written by Par Lagerkvist, People (Manniskor), a collection of short stories was also printed that year as well.
In the United States, Mary Pickford had a year earlier left Biograph where she had filmed under the direction of D. W. Griffith and Frank Powell to film with Thomas Ince at IMP studios during the first two months of the beginning of 1911. Among the films she made there were Their First Misunderstanding, The Dream, Maid or Man, At Duke’s Command, The Mirror, While the Cats Away, Her Darkest Hour and Artful Kate. Before returning to Biograph, she spent the last two months of 1911 at The Majestic Company, filming under the direction of George Loane Tucker and Owen Moore.
The year of 1912 was to mark the first film with Lillian and Dorothy Gish, An Unseen Enemy, along with the Mary Pickford film A New York Hat, the first photoplay written by Anita Loos. Within the short scenes of the film, Mary Pickford is shown in to the right of the screen in medium close shot trying on a hat, her hands and bended elbows in frame. Griffith cuts on the action of her leaving the frame to exterior shots. In a later scene, Griffith positions her to the left of the screen, and, his already having shown time having elapsed between the two two scenes, then brings the ensuing action back to the right of the screen frame. As an early reversal of screen direction, or screen positioning, there is the use of scene editing in between the complementary positions of showing her in the same interior. During the film, the actress is, almost referentially, often kept in right profile, facing the right of the screen’s frame.
During the Biograph silent film short The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) Griffith frames Lillian Gish at a table, only half of her visible in the frameline untill she leaves the table, and then cuts on the action of her leaving the frame as she crosses the screen from one interior into the adjacent one, her crossing the screen from left to right in both the shots Griffith had edited together, toward the far left side of the screen in the first, toward the middle of the screen in the next. Vertical space allows a disclosure in the film, one allowed by the moving figure as Gish skirts from one room to the next, her moving into the unexpected space the audience may or may not have already seen where there is action that has been simultaneously transpiring within the temporality of the film. In a film from the same year in which Gish only briefly appears, A Burgler’s Dilema, Griffith again cuts on action often, particularly during entrances, but interpolates very brief exterior shots in between scenes, increasing their frequency and interspersing within the scene as the film continues and the pace of the action hastens, or complicates, with the plotline.
If it is that spatial compostition can be included as a part of the grammar, or syntax, of film, within that is pictorial continuity and the use of visual tropes. A spatial relation is established through screen direction as figure movment becomes motion within the frame and action that the camera can cut on before continuing it in the subsequent frame, the camera cutting within the scene for effect. The spatial movement of the character is continued from shot to shot, linking each of them through a directional continuity, and yet, within the scene, the contour of objects, their proximity to the camera and their arrangement in front of the camera as its various positions cause it to become more authorial, is varied with each contrast between the adjacent shots within the temporality of the scene. As an inscription of its own being authorial, the camera could participate in narrative drama as an unseen presence, particularly through its own repostioning, unobtrusive if omnipresent in its guiding the spectator toward the action of the scene. Establishing the relation between spectator and content, the actress as an element of the film’s pictorial compostion, in turn, could, as an aesthetic object, often substitute for the gaze of the female spectator, particularly as a motif for femininity, quite possibly more noticebly during cut in close ups where, while photographed with the space between her and the camera only represented by her near filling the area of the frame, spectator interest would recess into brief plateau before the narrative would climb into an increase of identification untill the quiet, slow stillness of the close up that would come next.
The following year Mary Pickford would go from Biograph to Famous Player to make Bishop Carriage (four reels), Hearts Adrift (four-five reels) and A Good Little Devil (five reels) with the director Edwin S. Porter. Of the film, Pickford wrote, ”we were made to read our entire speeches before the camera. The result was a silent reproduction of the play, instead of what should have been, a restatement of the play in terms of action and pantomine.” For the most part, when filming her, Porter used medium and long shots; Kirkland would later use the close up. Writing about 1912 in her autobiography Sunshine and Shadow, silent film actress Mary Pickford remembers her first close up, ”Billy took the shot, which was a semi-close up, cutting me at the waist…It was a new image of my face that I was waiting to see. What a frightening experience when my grotesquely magnified face finally flashed on the screen…But I was critical enough to notice the make up…’I think there’s too much eyebrow pencil and shadowing around my eyes,’ I said. Later,on a seperate occaision, she had realized there was low light reflected back towards her while she was readying her make up for a scene and had asked her director to use artificial light from below while filming her. The autobiography of silent film star Douglas Fairbanks, Laugh and Live, is apparently no longer available online from sunrisesilents.
Having directed The Indian Massacre and Across the Plains the year before, Thomas Ince directed the silent films The Invaders (three reels), starring its co-director, Francis Ford,and Ethel Grandin, Shadows of the Past and Custer’s Last Fight in 1912. Ince, and the directors that photographed with him, have been attributed with having been among the early directors to have varied camera postitions with the use of more than one shot during a scene, particularly the use of the reverse angle to cut around a scene and its use to develop the action of the scene during its climax. It is often acknowledged that Thomas Ince was the first director to use a shooting script. Author Kenneth MacGowan notes that Ince ”strove for a theatric effect”, but only with scripts that were ”direct and tight” and used intertitles to advance character action, dramatically relating events as a technique of exposition. If this was later remarked upon as being part of a comparision and contrast, Mary Pickford was to write, ”As I recall, D. W. Griffith never adhered to a script. Improvisation was frequently the order of the day. Sometimes the camera registered an impromputu piece of off-story action and that too stayed in the film.” Lillian Gish in no way contradicts her by writing about how Griffith used the editing room to develop storyline, particularly by adding close ups and shots of objects, ”Later, he would make sense of the assorted shots in the cutting room, giving them drama and continuity.” These cut-in shots were inserted into the scene to add ”depth and dimension to the moment”.
During 1912 the first film that would star Mary Miles Minter would appear on the marquee, the one reel The Nurse and Anna Q. Nilsson would make her first film, the one reel Molly Pitcher. Oddly enough, Nilsson’s studio, Kalem, had given the title role of The Vampire to Alice Hollister, the two later united on the screen in A Sister’s Burden (1915). In addition to the films of Louise Glaum,whom Fred Niblo directed in Sex (1920, seven reels), and Valeska Suratt, another film of that title had starred Olga Petrova, it seeming that quickly ” ‘vamp’ became an all too common noun and in less than a year it was a highly active verb, transitive and intransitive” (Ramsaye). Stiller had directed Sjöström in his first roles as an actor in For sin Karlekskull (Because Her Love), When Love Kills (Nar karleken dodar) in which he starred with Georg af Klercker, The Child (Barnet) and, coincidently, The Vampire (Vampyren/The Nightclub Dancer),in which he starred with Lili Bech. Anna Q. Nilsson would appear in War’s Havoc, Under a Flag of Truce and The Soldier Brothers of Suzanna in 1912. Lillian Gish would later play a vamp in Diane of the Follies (1916). Birgitta Steene writes that in the films of Ingmar Bergman, ”the vamp is portrayed as the social victim rather than the embodiment of sin.”
Danish silent film direct Wilhelm Gluckstadt began directing in 1912 with the film The Blue Blood (Det blaa Blod), scripted by Stellan Rye and starring Elina Jorgen Jensen, Grethe Ditlevsen and Gudrun Houlberg. That year Wilhelm Gluckstadt also directed the exceptionally beautiful Danish film actress Eimilie Sannom in the films Konfetti, De to brodre and Zigeunerorkestret. Danish film director Aage Brandt during 1912 would direct Vera Brechling in A Death Warning (Dodsvarlet)
Danish silent film director August Blom in 1912 filmed with the photographer Johanne Ankerstjerne for Nordisk Film, notably with the actress Clara Weith Pontoppidan, whom he directed in the film Faithful Unto Death (Et Hjerte af Guld) and had directed a year earlier in the film In the Prime of Life (Ekspedtricen), photographed by Axel Sorensen. Blom that year also for Nordisk Film directed Robert Dinesen in the films Stolen Treaty (Secret Treaty/ Den Magt Trede and The Black Chancellor (Den Sorte Kansler) with Valdemar Psilander, Ebba Thomsen and Jenny Roelsgaard, The Black Chancellor having been a film in which Danish silent film scriptwriter Christian Schroder appeared on screen as an actor. That year August Blom also directed A High Stake (Hjaerternes Kamp).
Danish film director Benjamin Christensen followed with Blind Justice (Haevnansnat, 1915), both films having starred the actress Karen Caspersen. The two films by Christensen were of the only three produced by the Dansk Biograf Compagni. Benjamin Christensen had starred as an actor with actress Karen Caspersen and Ellen Malmberg during 1913 in Skaebnebaeltet, directed by Danish silent film director Sven Rindom, his also that year having starred in the films Children of the Stage (Scenens Born, Bjorn Bjornson), starring Bodil Ipsen and Aud Egede-Nissen and Lille Klaus Og Store Klaus (Elith Reumert). Children of the Stage was produced by Dania Biofilm Kompagni.
For Ingmar Bergman,the first notable Swedish film is Ingeborg Holm from 1913. In an interview with Jonas Sima, he describes the directing of Victor Sjöström, ”It is one of the most remarkable films ever made…Often he works on two planes, something being played out in the foreground,but then,through a doorway for instance,one sees something quite different is going on in the background.”. Produced by AB Svenska Biograteatern and five reels in legnth, it is also his screenplay from a play by Nils Krook which Sjöström had adapted for the stage in 1907. Like Sarah Bernhardt, Hilda Borgström had came to film. Also in the film are Aron Lindgren and George Gronroos. William Larsson and Carl Barcklind both appear in the film as well. It is almost astounding that under the title Give Us This Day the legnth of the film is listed as having reached seven reels. Einar Lauritzen wrote, ”The primitive tableau of the time cannot destroy the genuine feeling for both character and enviornment which Sjöström brought to almost every scene.”
Much like it being that the films of Bergman ”concern interior journeys: journeys into the soul of the character, or into the souls of two related characters” (John Simon), that Ingeborg Holm was a contemporary drama is particularly a matter for aesthetics, as was the observation that there may have been the photoplay of intimacy, the photoplay of action or the photoplay of splendor. As a side note from the present author, the caption on the cover to the filmed version of The Painted Veil, starring Naomi Watts reads, ”Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people.” What is beautiful is not only that the images of film consist of our being in a position to them spectatorially, or the look that is entailed within suture, but that behind the close ups of faces there is a character, quite often one in the midst of drama- if the cinema of attractions was followed by a cinema of narrative integration, what concerns aesthetics is that no matter how maudlin or whether or not plot was translated into fantasy, the cinema had begun to develop character more fully, more deeply. Bengt Forslund writes, ”I am fairly convinced that it was always the fate of the individual that intrigued Sjöström- not the circumstances that led to it.”
Interestingly enough, one of the best explanations of classical narrative construction, narrative form which is often based on there being a casual relationship between events that are connected spatially during the film brought about by its characters, comes from the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. In his autobiography Images, Ingmar Bergman relates that it was Stina Bergman, then head of the script department, who had asked for him at Svensk Filmindustri. She and her husband Hjalmar Bergman had in fact met with Victor Sjöström while in the United States, where Stina Bergman had acquired the technique of scriptwriting. ”This technique was extremely obvious, almost rigid; the audience must never have the slightest doubt where they were in the story. Nor could there be any doubt about who was who, and the transitions between various points of the story were to be treated with care. High points should be allotted and placed at specific places in the script and culmination had to be saved for the end. Dialougue had to be kept short.” Author David Bordwell often approximates this description of continuity in the feature film. Bergman continues in the autobiography to write that many of the remarks that Stina Bergman made at that time were treasured by him and that Hjalmar Bergman was his idol.
|The Miller’s Daughter, The Song of the Shirt (1908) and A Corner in Weat (1909) directed by D. W. Griffith, are early films that depicted the individual within a social context, the early photoplay Falling Leaves directed by Alice Guy Blanche the year prior to the filming of Ingeborg Holm, also being among films which centered its characters around a social drama. Later films, including The White Rose (1923), with Mae Marsh, more elaborately presented theme as being intertwined with the drama in which the characters were situated. Sweden, in 1953, made The Bread of Love (Karlekens brod). Writing about the films of Victor Sjöstrom, Bengt Forslund notes, ”Guilt Redeemed, shot in the early summer of 1914, may perhaps be seen as an attempt to repeat the success of Ingeborg Holm. Guilt Redeemed (Skana Skuld) starred actress Lili Bech.|
|The films that Victor Sjöström had made in 1913 were scheduled to be shot within one or two weeks. Among them were Half-Breed (Halvblod) with Karin Molander, its screenwriter Peter Lykke-Seest, The Voice of Blood (Blodets rost) with Greta Almroth and Ragna Wettergreen, The Conflicts of Life (Livets konflikter) starring Gösta Ekman, A Good Girl Should Solve Her Own Problems (Bra flicka reder sig sjalv) with Clara Pontoppidan and Jenny Tschernichin and The Clergyman (Prasten), starring Clara Pontoppidan and Egil Eide. Alongside Sjöström, that year Maurtiz Stiller would film Nar larmklockan ljunder, with Lilly Jacobsson, en pojke I livets strid, The Modern Suffragette (Den moderna suffragetten), Brother Against Brother (People of the Border, Gransfolken), which was the film debut of Edith Erastoff and in which Anders Henrikson had appeared, The Girl From Abroad (The Unknown Woman, Den okanda), with Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson and Grete Wiesenthal and The Fateful Roads of Life (Pa livets odesvagar), with Clara Pontoppidan. No less than four Swedish silent film actresses would make their first appearance on the screen in Mauritz Stiller’s film The Fashion Model (Mannekangen) : Ida Otterström, Anna Diedrich, Lili Ziedner and Mary Johnson. Of Svenska Bio in 1913, Begnt Förslund notes, ”Sjöström was not always permitted to choose his material.” Scripts were submitted to Victor Sjöström much in the same way they would be to directors the United States.
George af Klercker in 1913 directed the film The Scandal (Skandalen) for Svenska Biografteatern, it having starred actresses Anna Norrie and Selma Wiklund af Klerker and having been photographed by Henrik Jaenzon. That year Klercker also appeared with Selma Wiklund af Klercker as an actor in the film With Weapon in Hand (Med vapen i hand), which he directed. Carl Barklind directed his first film that year, The Suicide Club (De lefvande dodas klubb), photographed by Julius Jaenzon and starring Hilma Barcklind and Nils Arehn. Barcklind had appeared as an actor in the film Den glada ankan in 1907. Paul Welander directed and Axel Briedahl scripted the 1913 film Black Heart and White (Karleken rar) starring Ida Nielsen, Martha Helsengreen and Ellen Hygolm. John Bergqvist that year directed the films Amors pilar eller Karlek i Hoga Norden and Lappens brud eller Dramat i vildmarken, both with Birger Lundstedt and Hildi Waernmark as well as the film Truls som mobiliserar, with Otto Sandgren. Paul Welander in 1913 directed A Fallen Star (Hjaltetenoren). Arthur Donaldson that year directed Lilly Jacobsson in the film En skargardsflickas roman, which he wrote and in which also appeared as an actor.
In 1913, Griffith directed Blanche Sweet in the films Love in an Apartment, Broken Ways, If We Only Knew and Death’s Marathon. After the four reel Judith of Bethulia, a film which interestingly ”is really an interior drama, in as much as the majority of the action is thoughtful, an interchange of emotions between two characters” (Slide), Griffith had left Biograph for Mutual to direct Gish in the five reel The Battle of the Sexes. With the advent of the feature film, in adddition to including a greater number of characters during each film, directors could more often include minor characters that would become spectators in the film watching the action, as when the camera had cut from a master shot to a closer angle, or during panning, character interest increased as the characters the viewer was watching were observed by the other characters in the film, the individual characters on the screen visual elements of the film that were to move in relation to each other, the film’s secondary characters framing the action and visual interest of the film. The editing of Griffith would in fact begin to shift from one group of characters to another more often.
While in the United States, Betty Nansen appeared in the films of producer William Fox. Among the films in which Betty Nansen starred in that were filmed in the United States after her leaving Denmark, four were directed by J. Gordon Edwards in 1915: A Woman’s Resurrection, The Song of Hate, scripted by Rex Ingram, Should a Mother Tell, also written by Rex Ingram, and Anna Karenina (five reels), scripted by Clara Beranger.
Lon Chaney appeared in his first films in 1913, among those being Back to Life (Alan Dwan, two reels), The Lie, Discord and Harmony and The Embezzler. There were two film adapations of A Study in Scarlet photographed in 1914, one in the United States, in which the director Francis Ford also starred as the detective Sherlock Holmes, the other in England, produced by British film director George Pearson with James Braginton in the role. The latter film was followed by a version of The Valley of Fear, with H. A. Saintsbury, in 1916.
Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström both had continued to direct in 1914 and 1915, the former with His Wife’s Past (Hans hustrus forflutuna), The Avenger (Hamnaren) ,which, starring Karin Molander, was the first film in which the actress Tyra Dorum had appeared on the screen, Playmates (Lekkamraterna), The Red Tower (Det Roda tornet), written by Charles Magnusson and starring Karin Molander, Stormy Petrel (Stormfageln), starring Lilly Jacobsson The Master Thief (Matsertjuven) with Wanda Rothgardt, Gentleman of the Room (Kammarjunkaren) with Clara Pontoppidan, Madame de Thebes, starring Karin Molander and The Dagger (Dolken) starring Lars Hanson.
The latter, Victor Sjöström, continued directing with The Miracle (Miraklet) with Clara Pontoppidan and Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson, photographed by Henrik Jaenzon. In regard to the film, based on a story by Zola, Bengt Forslund views as the foreground to the film Monastery of Sendomir and Love’s Crucible with the caution that Sjöström may not truly have had an affinity with making ”cloistered romances” much in the way his making The Divine Woman may have been pedestrian, significantly the author adds, ”It is clearly the first time that Sjöström consciously made use of a particular stretch of natural landscape as a background to the drama.” Victor Sjöström also that year continued with Landshovdingens dottar, a film adapted by Sjöström from the novels of Marika Stiernstedt, Do Not Judge (Domen icke) starring Hilda Borgström, Children of the Streets (Gatans Barn), photographed by Henrik Jaenzon and starring Stina Berg, Love Stronger than Hate (Karlek Starkare an Hat), starring Emmy Elffors and John Ekman, Daughter of the High Mountain (Hogfjalletts dotter), in which Sjöström starred with Greta Almroth and Lili Bech, Hearts that Meet (Hjartan som motas), photographed by Henrik Jaenzon and starring Karin Molander and Greta Almroth, The Strike (Strejken), in which Sjöström starred with Lilly Jacobsson, It Was in May (Det var i Maj), written by Algot Sandberg and photographed by Henrik Jaenzon, The Price of Betrayal (Judaspengar), starring Stina Berg, Stick to your last, Shoemaker (Skomakare, bliv vid din last), starring Stina Berg and In the Hour of Trial (I provingens stund), in which he starred with Greta Pfeil and Kotti Chave. Recently, the theater in the city of Uppsala where the Swedish silent films Domen icke and Bra flicka reder sig sjalv, directed by Victor Sjöström, and the film Stromfagelin directed by Mauritz Stiller, were first shown has been renovated, restoring it to how it first looked when built in 1914. Victor Sjöström ,incidentally, had returned to the stage in 1914 and 1915 at the Intima Theatre under the direction of Gustaf Collijn for a production of Strindberg’s play To Damascus.
After his having starred in the films of Victor Sjöström, Gunnar Tolnaes, who in 1915 appeared in the films One Out of the Many (En av de manga) with Greta Almroth, Lilly Jacobsson and Lili Bech, and When Artists Love (Nar konstnarer alska), returned to Denmark from Sweden to film Doktor X under the direction of Robert Dinesen.
At Svenska Biograteatern in 1914 Axel Breidahl directed King Solomon’s Judgement (Salomos drom) with Lili Zeidner and Stina Berg and the films The Birthday Present (Fodelsedagspresenten) starring Karin Alexandersson, Stina Berg and Lili Ziedner and The Way to A Man’s Heart (Vagen till mannens hjarta) starring Lili Ziedner, Stina Berg and Hilda Borgström, both photographed by Henrik Jaenzon.
Danish Silent film director Holger-Madsen often filmed with the cinematographer Marius Clausen. Betty Nansen in 1914 starred in his film For the Sake of A Man (Under Skaebnens Hjul), which, also starring Maja Bjerre-Lind, Christel Holch and Ingeborg Jensen, was among those films he photographed with Clausen. In 1914, Danish silent film director Vilhelm Gluckstadt directed the film Youthful Sin (Ungdomssynd), starring Sigrid Neiiendam.
Swedish Film director Edmond Hansen in 1915 directed the film Revenge (Hamnden ar ljuv), his also having that year directed Edith Erastoff in two films for Svenska Biografteatern, A Hero in Spite of Himself (Hjalte mot sin vilja), which was not only the first film photographed by Swedish cameraman Carl Gustaf Florin but also the first film scripted by Swedish screenwriter Oscar Hemberg, and The First Prize (Hosta vinsten), photographed by Julius Jaenzon. Arvid Endglin wrote and directed the film An Error (En forvillelse), starring Clara Pontoppidan, William Larsson and Egil Eide and directed Patrick’s Adventures (Patriks aventyr), starring Alfred Lundberg and Hilda Forsslund, the film having been the first in which she was to appear.
Apparently George af Klercker directed every film but one that was produced by Hasselblads Fotografiska AB from its first film in 1915 untill it merged early in 1918 to become part of Filmindustri AB Skandia early in 1918, and that film was directed by Manne Gothson (Perils of the Big City/Storstadsfaror), who had been Klercker’s assistant director, Gothson having had been being the assistant director to the 1915 film In the King’s Uniform (I kronas klader). George af Klerker in 1915 contributed the film The Rose of Thistle Island (Rosen pa Tistelon), the first film in which the actresses Elsa Carlsson and Anna Löfström were to appear. The film was produced by Hasselblads Fotografiska and Victorias Filmbyra. Goteborg, Sweden provided the location in which the studios of Hasselblads Fotografiska AB were housed. Two of Hasselblad’s photographers that filmed under the direction of George af Klercker were Gustav A. Gustafson and Sven Pettersson.
Besides the photographers Julius and Henrik Jaenzon, another of Sweden’s cameramen was Hugo Edlund who photographed the film His Father’s Crime (Hans faders brott, 1915), the director F. Magnussen’s first film, it having starred Richard Lund and Thure Holm. Both Edlund and Julius Jaenzon are listed as having been the cinematographer to the films Den Moderna suffragetten and For sin karleks skull. Magnussen in 1916 also directed the films The Hermits Wife (Enslingens hustru), starring Greta Almroth, Her Royal Highness (Hennes kungliga hoghet) ,starring Karin Molander and At the Eleventh Hour (I elfte timmen), also starring Greta Almroth, each filmed by Hugo Edlund.
It was in 1915 that Frances Marion began writing photoplays, her being the scenarist to Daughter of the Sea (Charles W. Seay, five reels). She wrote The Gilded Cage (H. Knoles, five reels) in 1916 and Stolen Paradise (H. Knoles, five reels), Battle of Hearts (Apfel, five reels) and The Feast of Life in 1917. Theda Bara would make her first film in 1915, The Clemenceau Case and two films for the director Herbert Brenon, Kreutzer Sonata (five reels) and Two Orphans (seven reels), which had been filmed by Selig in 1911 with Kathlyn Williams. Montague Love, who appeared with Lillian Gish in Victor Sjöström’s The Wind began in film in 1915 with Exile and in 1916 with A Woman’s Way, The Gilded Cage, and Bought and Paid For.
Clarence Brown during 1915-1917 was the assistant director and editor at Universal for director Maurice Tourneur. Notably, in 1925 he directed The Goosewoman with Louise Dresser and Constance Bennet for Universal/Jewel..Cameraman William Daniels had been an assistant cameraman at Triangle before becoming chief cameraman at Universal.
1914-1915 was also the brief period during which Dansk Filmfabrik, in Aarhus, Denmark produced the films of director Gunnar Helsengreen, including I dodens Brudeslor (1914), starring Gerda Ring, Jenny Roelsgaard and Elisabeth Stub, Sexton Blake (1915), Menneskeskaebner (1915) and Elskovs Tornevej (1915), also starring Jenny Roelsgaard, Gerda Ring and Elisabeth Stub.
(photo:cinemateket) Directed by Victor Sjostrom and photgraphed by Julius Jaenzon, the first of Gustaf Molander’s screenplays to become well known was Terje Vigen (1916), from the poem by Henrik Ibsen. The intertitles being from the poem, the structure of a poem would accomodate the structure of a silent film, and yet the film shows that there was beginning to be a grammar to film technique of its own. Edison’s 1912 The Charge of the Light Brigade has a similar use of the lines from the poem as intertitles and there had been an adaptation by the Independent Motion Picture Company of Hiawatha (1909) with Gladys Hulette as well. The 1912 poem Vanteenheittajat, written in Finland by Eino Leino, was to be filmed shortly after its publication by director Kaarle Halme as Summer (Kesa) with Hilma Rantanen. In regard to film preservation, the film Terje Vigen was rediscovered from a German print in 2004 and the translated restored intertitles charmingly read Svenska Biografteatern at the top framed by their owl logo and are in the from of stanzaic quotation, their being expository. The opening sequence is shot beuatifully and shows Victor Sjostrom portraying Terje Vigen as elderly against a background of the ocean at night during a storm in a series of shots during which he is filmed in blue tint and is shown framed by a doorway in adjacent masked shots alternating between over-the-shoulder and strait on shots, our sharing his view of the storm as well as watching his looking out into it. The intertitles then take the form of narrator as the film cuts to a restropective scene shot in a sepia-like red of Sjostrom as a young man aboard a ship to begin the storyline. Tytti Soila writes, ”The film also established the term ‘literary cinema’ in Sweden.” When reviewed in the United States, the film was seen as ”forcefull despite its occaisional indulgence in too much sentimentality and moralizing.” Bengt Forslund writing about the film notes, ”the explanation is undoubtedly that the description of Nature plays such a major role. It is really the sea that has the main part, like the mountains in The Outlaw and His Wife and the dust strom in Sjostrom’s last major work, The Wind. Appearing in the film with Victor Sjostrom are Bergliot Husberg, Edith Erastoff and August Falck. Molander had written Miller’s Dokument (1916), directed by Konrad Tallroth and starring Greta Almroth, before writing for Sjöström. Later, with his film Defiance (Trots, 1952) Molander was to introduce another screenwriter to modern audiences, Vilgot Sjöman (Lek pa regnbagen, Playing on the Rainbow, 1958). The film begins the story of Terje Vigen aboard a ship, the early exterior shots including his climbing the mast. Sjostrom cuts from an extreme longshot to a full shot of Terje Vigen sitting on the mast. His wife in the film is portrayed by Swedish silent film actress Bergliot Husberg the interior shots in which she is shown with are for the main part non-tinted. Sjostrom is seen in the foreground of a midshot during a tinted exterior shot and then, during the shot, runs from the camera to the background of the shot, the camera then returning to an exterior midshot of the husband and wife. To reinforce his use of the Scandinavian landscape and the foreground of the shot as a source of compositional depth, the interior scenes are again, contrastingly, non-tinted intercut with shots of Terje Vigen silhouetted in the froeground of the shot in front of the expanse of the night sea, the film tinted blue. During the film, the movement within the composition of the frame is often that of the sea. Act Two beins with Terje Vigen having eluded his pursuers. He is show in the foreground of the shot in his skiff rowing against the background of the sea, spotted in a vignette circled masked shot of his pursuers telescope. Crosses at a graveyard are silhouetted against the ocean’s horizon to end Act Two. Act Three begins with the same scene that was used to being the film, Sjostrom as elderly looking toward the ocean at night. He leaves his cottage to kneel on the beach, the waves crashing against the rock. Sjostrom espies a sinking craft admist the pounding surf and boards his skiff to aid in their rescue, the ship tossing in the spray of the ocean. In a later shot, Sjostrom leaves his cottage as Edith Erastoff sails away, the film ending with a shot of the crosses at the graveyard near the ocean.
Writing about Victor Sjöström and quoted by Charlotte de Silva for the Embassy of Sweden in London, Jon Wengström of the Swedish Film Institute writes, ”The pictorial compositions in Havsgamar/Sea Vultures (1916) and the complex narrative structure in the recently rediscovered Dodskyssen/Kiss of Death (1916) show a director in full command of the medium.” In addition to The Kiss of Death (Dodskyssen,four reels), in which Sjöström playing a double role and which not only uses retrospective narrative but also includes the use of double exposures, in 1916 Sjöström directed the films Ships that Meet (Skepp som Motas) with Lili Bech and August Warberg, Therese, a melodrama which had included intercutting and retrospective narrative starring Lars Hanson and She Was Victorious (Hon segrade) , in which he starred with Lili Bech and Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson. Mauritz Stiller directed The Fight for His Heart (Kampen om hans hjarta), starring Karin Molander, His Wedding Night (Hans brollopsnatt), The Lucky Brooch (Lyckonalen), starring Greta Almroth and The Mine Pilot. The most widely known of Stiller’s films from 1916 were The Ballet Primadonna (Balettprimadonnan) with Lars Hanson, Love and Journalism (Karleck och journalistik) with Karin Molander and The Wings (Vigarne), a film in which photographer Julius Jaenzon appears on the screen.
Appearing on the screen as as an actor as well, Edmond Hansen at Svenska Biografteatern during 1916 wrote and directed the films The Consequences of Jealousy (Svartsjukans foljder) with Eric Petschler, Stina Berg and Ellis Elis and Old Age and Folly (Alderdom och darskap) with Edith Erastoff and Greta Almroth. He that year directed Love’s Wanderings (Karlekens irrfarder), photographed by Carl Florin and starring Nicolay Johannsen and Greta Pfeil as well as Pa detta numera vanliga satt, starring Greta Almroth and Jenny Tschenichin Larsson.
Among the films directed by George af Klerker during 1916 was Aktiebolaget Halsans gava, the first film photographed by cinematographer Gustav A Gustafson and the first film in which actress Tekla Sjöblom was to appear. Also starring in the film are Mary Johnson and Anna Löfström. Tekla Sjoblom began as an actress in 1916, her having appeared in Georg af Klercker’s film The Gift of Health (Aktieboolaget Halsans gava), photographed by Carl Gustav Florin. That year the Swedish director Georg af Klercker also directed Under the Spell of Memories (I minnenas band), written and photographed by Sven Pettersson and starring Elsa Carlsson, Tora Carlsson and Elsa Berglund, as well as having written and directed Triumph of Love (Karleken segrar), starring Mary Johnson, Tekla Sjoblom, Selma Wiklund Klerker and Lily Cronwin in the first film in which she was to appear and Mother in Law Goes for a Stroll (Svarmor pa vift) starring Greta Johansson, Maja Cassel and Zara Backman. Also that year, Geoge af Klercker wrote and directed the film Calle’s New Clothes (Calles nya klader), starring Mary Johnson and Tekla Sjoblom, and Calle as a Millionaire (Calle som miljonar), the first film in which actress Helge Kihlberg was to appear. Actress Gerda Thome Mattssen appearred in two films directed by George af Klerker, the first having been Hogsta visten(1916), in which the director George af Klerker is seen with heron screen as an actor. During 1916, Klerker was allowed to film more professionally in a larger studio, on Otterhallan and in Castles, one being at Borshuset. The running time of the films of George af Klercker that year went from those of a half hour duration, to those lasting an hour. One Swedish webpage can be quoted when looking for the use of landscape in Swedish films and the filming of a direct relationship betwee the motifs in nature and those that develope character, ”Like Stiller and Sjöström is af Klerker sparse with the custom of closes-up. that he on your height uses that dramatic effective emphasis in an enviornment that total to be dominated of the entire picture format.
In 1916, F. Magnussen directed Victor Sjostrom, Lili Bech and Lars Hanson in the film The Gold Spider (Guldspindeln), photographed by Hugo Edlund for Svenska Biografteatern.
Captain Grogg’s Wonderful Journey (Kapten Grogg’s underbara resa) in 1916 introduced to Swedish audiences a series of films showcasing the animation of director Victor Bergdahl that would continue untill 1922. One of two films directed by Bergdahl that would use animation to narrate circus stories, Cirkus Fjollinski, also appeared that year.
As part of its Women and the Silent Screen series held June 11-13, 2008, the Cinematecket in Stockholm will be screening a the 1916 Danish film The Queen of the Stock Exchange (Die Borsenkonigin), written and directed by Edmund Edel. The film is from the Nederlands Filmmuseum. Paired with the film will be the trailer to the lost film The Sunken (Die Gesunkenen, Rudolf Walther-Fein, 1925) also starring Asta Nielsen, a film in which she costarred with the actress Olga Tschechova.
In the United States, Lillian Gish during appeared in the films Sold for Marriage, Flirting with Fate and Pathways of Life. Mae Marsh had made Hoodoo Ann (five reels) for Triangle as well as The Wharf Rat (five reels). Mary Pickford that year was filming under the direction of John B. O’Brien, for whom she made three films five reels in legnth, The Eternal Grind, The Foundling and Hulda from Holland. That year she also starred in Poor Little Peppina (Sidney Olcott, seven reels) and Less Than Dust (John Emerson, seven reels). silent film actress Corrine Griffith, ”The Orchid Lay of the Screen”, appeared in the film The Last Man in 1916.
Triangle Film Corporation had been formed in late 1915 to combine the efforts of Thomas Ince, D. W. Griffith and Mack Sennett. Sennett, who began at Biograph as an actor under Griffith had founded Keystone Studios in 1912. Not only was Sennett present at Biograph and Triangle with Griffith, but as a pioneer of silent film his name is alongside Griffith’s in his contribution to the development of film technique and the development of a grammar of film, a grammar of scene construction. It may well be that the comedies of Mack Sennett have their origin in, or are a continuation of, the earliest of narrative films that prior to 1907, and prior to Griffith’s joining Biograph, had brought together a cinema of attractions with films that depicted action, or the chase film. Just as Swedish silent film directors would use nature and landscape as a visual language, comedy would rely upon the visual in its use of the sight-gag. Among the comedies of 1912 were Love, Speed and Thrills directed by silent film director Mack Sennett and Love, Loot and Crash, also directed by the silent film pioneer Sennett, both films currently in public domain and both presently offered online by the Internet Archive, who were kind enough to write to the present writer and who it is sincerely hoped that in the future they will return again as my reader.
At Keystone in 1914 Mack Sennett had directed the first films of Charlie Chaplin, Making a Living and the silent film Kid Auto Races at Venice. In 1915, the silent film The Tramp would introduce a Chaplin character that would become familiar to audiences untill the end of the silent era.Silent comedian Charlie Chaplin would in 1916 leave Essanay studios, where he had made fourteen films, to film two-reel comedies with the Mutual Company, where he filmed The Immigrant (1917). Anthony Slide writes that Chaplin used as much film to shoot The Immigrant as D. W. Griffith had to film The Birth of A Nation. It was also at Mutual, where Chaplin had made eight films untill 1923, that Chaplin would film his first full legnth feature as director.
In 1912, while Stiller was beginning to film comedy in Sweden and Mack Sennet was beginning to film at Keystone, one of the other studios to produce comedies was Vitagraph. After joining Vitagraph in 1910, a studio for which he appeared in the film A Tale of Two Cities (1911) with Florence Turner and Norma Talmadge, John Bunny quickly became one of the most beloved of early silent screen comedians, teaming with Flora Finch in 1912 for films that included A Cure for Pokeritis, Stenographers Wanted, Irene’s Fascination, and The Suit of Armor. The 1913 film Queen for A Day with John Bunny and the 1915 film Unusual Honeymoon with Flora Finch was screened July 30,2005 in Rosslyn, Virginia, near Arlington Virginia, as part of their film festival of silent comedies, which opened July 28 with the film Pool Sharks and a retrospective of the films of Mack Sennet, including Billy Bevan in the film Hoboken to Hollywood (1928).
Three years before Intolerance (Griffith), Eustace Ball in the volume The Art of the Photoplay advised, ”Put one plot at a time; the single reel picture lasts only eighteen minutes and only one line can be worked out well in this time. This is another important detail in which the photoplay differes from the drama.”
The Sunbeam, the first film written by June Mathis appeared on the screen during the year 1916 and Frank Lloyd would direct his first film, The Code of Marcia Gray (five reels), King Vidor his first film, Intrigue. Louise Glaum would that year star in The Wolf Woman (five reels). John Gilbert appeared in the films Apostle of Vengence, Bullets and Brown Eyes (five reels), The Eye of Night, Hell’s Hinges and The Phantom and Lewis Stone appeared in his first films, The Man Who Found Out (1915) and Honor’s Altar (Raymond B. West, 1916, five reels).
In directing The Girl From Marsh Croft (Tosen fran Stormyrtopet, 1917) for AB Svenska Biografteatern, Victor Sjostrom began a marriage between novel and film in his adapting the novels of Selma Lagerlof-one that would establish Swedish silent cinema as being f ilmic poetry. It is also his screenplay, as are the other screenplays he adapted from her novels, each of them having been reviewed by Lagerlöf. Writing in 1971 that the films of Swedish silent cinema were those to which ”the prescence of mountain and pastoral landscapes gave a dimension of authenticity and elemental persuasiveness”, Peter Cowie remarks upon Sjöström’s use of bucolic subjects, David Robinson upon Sjöström’s depiction of man’s relationship to nature. Both find something spiritual or supernatural to the writings of Selma Lagerlöf, as though within the relation to the character’s surroundings there is a solitude. Lauritzen noted that there is often the ”juxtaposition of man and nature” in early Swedish cinema. Although remarking upon the films of Brunius, Stiller and Sjöström not having had been distributed to large audiences, as were the films of Ernst Lubitsch (Passion) that had starred Pola Negri, author Lewis Jacobs writes, ”Opposed to the artificiality of the German films in their stress on the real world of nature, the sea and the landscape, Swedish pictures were impressive for their simplicity, realism, sensitive acting and sincerity.” Starring the actress Karin Molander, when reviewed in the United States, the film was commended for its ”unity of plot structure” and for ”all its dramatic elements (being) dramatically related, its development (being) climactic and consitent.”. Also in the film are Greta Almroth, Concordia Selander and Hilda Castegren in her first appearance on screen. The novel was in fact filmed again in 1947 by Gustaf Edgren and in 1958 by Gustav Ucicky with Maria Emo. Peter Cowie has put the films of Finnish director Ruani Mollberg (Earth is a Sinful Song, Maa on syntinen laula, 1973) alongside the films of Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, his writing, ”His characters move not against the backdrop of field and lake and forest, but deep within the enveloping topography.” To Bengt Forslund, Sjöström had found a ”descriptive visual language” which accounts for his collaboration with Selma Lagerlof and her novels being particularly suited for adaptation. Charles Magnusson in 1909 had hoped to film the novel The Wonderful Journey of Nils Holgersson, which Victor Sjöström had read with enthusiasm. Allan Eyles notes that The Covered Wagon (James Cruze, 1923), filmed in the United States, was remarkable for its depicting the relationships of the characters within narrative to the enviornment in which the story takes places, its plotline built around the interaction of its three primary characters.
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