Friday, February 07, 2020
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929 film)
Based on the novel Tagebuch einer Verlorenen by Margarete Bohme, Diary of a Lost Girl is the story of a young woman who is raped by her father’s clerk as she becomes pregnant and later rejected by her entire family forcing her to fend for herself. Directed by G.W. Pabst and screenplay by Rudolf Leonhard, the film is a silent drama that explores a woman’s plight as she copes with her situations as well as the terror that women endure due to actions beyond their own control. Starring Louise Brooks, Fritz Rasp, Andre Roanne, Josef Ravensky, and Franziska Kinz. Diary of a Lost Girl is a rapturous film from G.W. Pabst.
The film follows the journey and plight of a young woman who is raped by her father’s clerk and becomes pregnant yet her refusal to marry the clerk has her kicked out by her family where she endures a journey to find herself. It’s a film that explores a woman coping with being raped and being shunned by her father and her new stepmother as she endures cruelty prompting her to go into a world of prostitution and uncertainty. Rudolf Leonhard’s screenplay has a straightforward narrative yet it explores the journey that the protagonist Thymian Henning (Louise Brooks) goes through as she would write her experience from a diary that her fired housekeeper Elisabeth (Sybille Schmitz) had accidentally left. After refusing to marry her father’s clerk Meinert (Fritz Rasp), her new housekeeper Meta (Franziska Kinz) sends Thymian’s baby to a midwife while Thymian is sent to a reformatory as she endures all sorts of cruelty in the hands of its matron (Valeska Grest) and her brutal assistant (Andrews Engelmann). Though she gets help from Meinert’s friend Count Osdorff (Andre Roanne), Thymian will make some discoveries as she turns to prostitution as well as uncertainty about her life.
G.W. Pabst’s direction does have elements of style yet it his approach to compositions including some of the close-ups that add to the film’s brilliance. Shot partially on soundstages in Germany, Pabst does create a world set in Germany that explores the plight of post-war uncertainty with Thymian in the middle as she sees what happens to Elisabeth and her eventual outcome. Though there aren’t a lot of wide shots, Pabst’s usage of medium shots do get a lot of coverage of the rooms and places that Thymian goes to as well as the reformatory she is forced to attend. Pabst’s camera movements including a shot of Thymian walking up the stairs are among the key moments of the film yet it’s the close-ups that help add to the drama. Even as Pabst captures the anguish and torment in Thymian upon her decision to become a prostitute that includes a nightclub scene that shows how lost she is as she also deals with the plight of others who become lost due to actions beyond their control. Overall, Pabst crafts a heart-wrenching yet intoxicating film about a woman fending for herself after being shunned by her family for not marrying the man who raped her.
Cinematographers Sepp Allgeier and Fritz Arno Wagner do amazing work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into the dreary look of the reformatory as well as the gorgeous look of the brothel and nightclub that Thymian goes to. Art directors Emil Hasler and Erno Metzner do brilliant work with the look of the reformatory as well as the pharmacy that Thymian’s father owns and runs as well as the brothel. The film’s music by Javier Perez de Aspeitia from the 2012 restoration edition is incredible for its piano-based score that feature elements of flourishing themes along with some somber pieces as it is a highlight of the film.
The film’s excellent cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Vera Pawlowa as Thymian’s Aunt Frieda who is against Thymian’s banishment from the family, Sybille Schmitz as the housekeeper Elisabeth who is fired early in the film as she drops a diary that Thymian would use, Edith Meinhard as Erika whom Thymian befriends at the reformatory, Arnold Korff as the elder Count Osdorff who is disappointed by his nephew and cuts him off, Andrews Engelmann as the reformatory matron’s creepy assistant, and Josef Ravensky as Thymian’s father Robert who is angered by his daughter’s plight as he would turn to Meta for guidance. Franziska Kinz is fantastic as the new housekeeper Meta who would woo Robert and use her influence to banish Thymian while trying to run the household much to Aunt Frieda’s dismay. Valeska Grest is superb as the reformatory matron who rules the place with an iron fist and demands order.
Fritz Rasp is brilliant as Meinert as Robert’s pharmacy clerk who would rape Thymian and try to marry her while being close in Robert and Meta’s circle to ruin Thymian as well as gain power in the pharmacy. Andre Roanne is amazing as Count Nicholas Osdorff as the nephew of a respected count who isn’t good at any trade as he prefers to party and have fun while does have ideas to create a more respectable brothel as well as helping Thymian out any way he can. Finally, there’s Louise Brooks in a phenomenal performance as Thymian Henning as a young woman raped by her father’s clerk and is forced to marry him only to refuse prompting her to fend for herself as there’s a radiance to her performance including the way she expresses her anguish and sense of loss as it is an iconic performance from Brooks.
Diary of a Lost Girl is a tremendous film from G.W. Pabst that features a radiant performance from Louise Brooks. Along with its riveting story, lush piano score, gorgeous dresses that Brooks wears, and its dazzling visuals. It’s a silent drama that explore a woman’s plight and the uncertainty she faces as well as the lack of roles that would help her find peace and salvation. In the end, Diary of a Lost Girl is a spectacular film from G.W. Pabst.
G.W. Pabst Films: (The Treasure (1923 film)) – (Countess Donelli) – (Joyless Street) – (One Does Not Play with Love) – (The Love of Jeanne Ney) – (The Devious Path) – Pandora's Box - (The White Hell of Pitz Palu) – (Westfront 1918) – (Scandalous Eva) – (The Threepenny Opera) – (Kameradschaft) – (L’Atlantide) – (Adventures of Don Quixote) – (High and Low (1933 film)) – (A Modern Hero) – (Street of Shadows) – (The Shanghai Drama) – (Girls in Distress) – (The Comedians) – (Paracelsus) – (Der Fall Molander) – (The Trial (1948 film)) – (Mysterious Shadows) – (Call Over the Air) – (Voice of Silence) – (Cose da pazzi) – (The Confession of Ina Kahr) – (The Last Ten Days) – (Jackboot Mutiny) – (Ballerina (1956 film)) – (Through the Forests and Through the Trees)
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