Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Two German silent films

Schlagende Wetter (Firedamp)directed by Karl Grune, is a restored 1923 film about a marriage saved by a mine explosion. The story is straightforward - a girl becomes pregnant and her lover runs away and she is kicked out of the family home.
She meets up with a miner in Sankt Anton who marries her but it turns out that the runaway father is also here and he tries to rekindle the flame though she resists. A fire down the mine results in the erstwhile lover's demise and the couple's reconciliation. The film is rather incomplete but has some solid performances and interesting effects.
Die Wiesse Holle von Piz Palu (The White Hell of Pitz Palu) dates from 1929 and has two directors. Arnold Fanck who also wrote the story and Georg Wilhelm Pabst. One of a considerable number of mountain films of the 20s, several featuring, as does this one, Leni Riefenstahl, the film is considered by some to be the best mountain film of all. Again, marriage is at the heart of the film, one current and one forming the opening sequence with the loss of the wife. The widower meets
up with the second couple and they climb the eponymous peak together only to be caught in an avalanche when the weather turns. The widower sacrifices himself to save the couple. A somewhat trite melodrama which is saved by the excellent
photography both of the panoramic scenic shots of the mountains and, particularly, of the partly underground scenes of the
resuce party's efforts, the latter being extremely well done. What is of interest in comparing the two films is the amount of
development in equipment and the techniques that this allowed in the few years that separate the two. Even allowing for the fact that the older film is incomplete, the contrast is really striking.

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