Director: Robert Wiene. Decla-Bioskop AG.
Producer: Erich Pommer
Writer: Carl Mayer.
Camera: Willy Hameister.
Music: Larry Marotta (reissue).
Sets: Walter Reimann, Cesar Klein
Fern Andra, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski, Ernst Gronau, Harald Paulsen, Albert Bennefeld, John Gottowt, Lewis Brody.
The subject in a painting about a high priestess of yore comes to life and escapes when the withdrawn artist who created her falls asleep. She is bought and then locked up, but released, only for murder and mayhem to follow. Eventually, the protagonists round up local villagers to try and contain this wanton apparition.
After such an auspicious push to his career with Das Kabinet Des Dr Caligari/The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919) director Weine, having hit an artistically and thematically lucrative seam (as well as a cheap one), quickly felt how the laws of diminishing returns can come to roundly trounce on one’s new found success.
This was his follow-up to that well-received first dip into expressionist cinema, in which the outside world is wildly distorted to represent the inner thoughts and motivations of the characters or story. This time around the expressionism in the design, performances and story is odd and jaunty, rather than being genuinely creepy.
The purple tinted screens are really vivid and the lighting is clever, using the shadow of a Max Shrek-like characters to look like Nosferatu. But this time around, the idea to save money by inventingly designing the sets on canvas backdrops in place of wooden, look just cheap and an odd pick and mix of imagery is used rather than forming part of a coherent production design.
Andra turns in a briefly silly performance as the title character. The nods to the expressionist style are there as she stretches her hands to the sky on seeing the ladder that will help in her escape, ages before she needs to actually start climbing. She’s gone a bit wild in a past life, which explains the crazy hair do. The rest of the acting confirms to the type of overly histrionic and mad gestures one would get in such a film of this period.
Maroletta provides a new, appropriately bleak score.
Perhaps Wiene’s trick film it seems was of the one pony kind.