Monday, September 17, 2012

Rakkauden kaikkivalta - Amor omnia / [All-Conquering Love - Amor omnia]

Kärlekens allmakt - Amor omnia. FI 1922. PC: Suomi-Filmi Oy. P: Erkki Karu. D: Konrad Tallroth. SC: Konrad Tallroth. DP: Kurt Jäger. ED: Konrad Tallroth, Kurt Jäger. AD: Carl Fager. Assistants of the cinematographer: Armas Fredman, Armas Valen. Production manager: Carl Fager. Still photographers: Kalle Havas, Kosti Lehtinen. C: Ida Brander (countess Hedvig Örn), Konrad Tallroth  (count Carolus Örn), John Precht (lieutenant Henrik Loeven), Sara Järnefelt (Margaretha von Wildheim), Alex Biaudet (Carl-Johan Örn, Carl's son), Greti Grey (Mary, count Örn's maid), Valentine Panjutin (Harriet Örn, Carl's wife), Beate-Sofi Granqvist (Adèle von Wildheim), Eugen Kopkin (Carl Örn), Eero Leväluoma (Kristian, the count's valet), Edith Lamroth (the aunt "fix it all"). Helsinki premiere: 12.11.1922 Kino-Palatsi, distributed by Suomen Biografi Osakeyhtiö. 18 fps / 86 min. Titles and intertitles in Finnish / Swedish. A screener dvd viewed at home, Helsinki, 17 September 2012.

I had seen Amor omnia only once before, on a vhs video tape, and I now watched it in preparation of the Amor omnia live cinema concert on 5 October, 2012, of the Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Helsinki Music Center. Disappointingly I cannot be present at the premiere of the new score by the prominent composer Lotta Wennäkoski as I'm then on my way to Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, but the film with the new score will be transmitted during the autumn on the YLE Teema television channel, the fourth in their inspired Mykkää valoa [Silent Light] project of setting five Finnish silent feature films to new music by modern composers.

Amor omnia is an example of a genre rare in the Finnish cinema, the salon drama. which, however, was a genre popular in the Danish and the Swedish cinema in the 1910s. During WWI Konrad Tallroth had directed eight feature films for Svenska Bio, usually playing in them, as well, and he brought something of the professional expertise of the Nordic film industry into the Finnish cinema.

While the film is professionally made there is no personal flair in the director's touch. The most prominent artist in the production is the cinematographer Kurt Jäger, who has a fine sense of composition and lighting values. Many of the toning and tinting effects are successful.

Amor omnia is the story of forbidden love. The culprit is Carl, the spineless son of the Örn family and the father of Carl-Johan. Carl beds his parents' maid Mary who is then promptly sent away to give birth to the unwanted baby Margaretha. Carl-Johan and Margaretha become childhood playmates at the Hanko Spa without knowing they are relatives, and their young romance leads to the altar but there is another instance of the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding as the priest learns the truth at the last moment.

Carl-Johan is mortally wounded in the war, and Margaretha dies from a heart attack at his deathbed. Their mutual friend Henrik sees a strange dream where Carl-Johan and Margaretha, dressed for the wedding, emerge from a corn field and walk away into the darkness of the forest. Waking up from his dream in the morning Henrik finds the forbidden lovers dead in their final embrace.

Alex Biaudet as Carl-Johan is not an exciting actor and Sara Järnefelt (the daughter of the painter Eero Järnefelt, often portrayed by his father as a child) is not given much to do. The strongest presence is in the performances of the two veterans of Svenska Teatern, Ida Brander and Konrad Tallroth, himself.

There are aspects of the Goethean elective affinities (Wahlverwandtschaften) and the Wagnerian Liebestod in the final scenes of Amor omnia, which, unfortunately, is most of the time a rather pedestrian affair. Worth seeing because of the beautiful cinematography of Kurt Jäger, well preserved first by the Suomi-Filmi company and afterwards by Suomen elokuva-arkisto / Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen arkisto. The original camera negatives survive.

ROUGH NOTES. - The image on the dvd is black and white or tinted or toned sepia, yellow, green, blue, violet. The blue tones of the night scenes are elegant. - The countess Örn mounts the carriage driven by two horses and visits the family grave. - There is an international style, with any Finnish national references omitted. - To Henrik the countess tells about the family tragedy twenty years ago. - Long shots, full shots, medium shots, close-ups, fade outs, irises in, irises out. - The visual storytelling remains conventional, professional, well-made, easy to follow, mainstream. -  There is always some movement in the image. - The proud, commanding posture of Konrad Tallroth as an actor. - A salon drama. - The young leading actors fail to engage, to impress. - The old actor Ida Brander and Konrad Tallroth are superior. - The cinematography by Kurt Jäger is fine. His sense of composition and light is refined. - The young lead does not arouse sympathy. - In the visual storytelling there are steps to express memories and thoughts. - The valet hears the crying of the maid. - The old countess hears their quarrel about being a young count's mistress rather than an honourable wife. Also the count overhears all of this. - The spineless son arrives also. - What does the young count do every night in Mary's room. - The old count is heart-broken when he learns about the affair. - The maid is taken to the place of another countess. - The maid is constantly being harassed by men. - Mary's baby was most unwelcome. - At the Hanko spa a production of the play Hansel and Gretel is being planned. - The demonstration of the witch figure in silhouette. - Ten years later, after the meeting of Carl-Johan and Margaretha as children. - The cancelled wedding: the bride and the groom are siblings, groomed by their scoundrel father. - Margaretha is thunderstruck. - God punishes children for their parents' deeds. - Once more they viewed the places they had dreamed of. - Three months later Margaretha receives a letter from Carl-Johan. He has been mortally wounded. - Final encounter at the deathbed. Margaretha will stay by Carl-Johan. - Margaretha has a heart attack. - Henrik was there at the hospital: "So I fell asleep and had a dream": from the field the bride emerges, and they walk together into the depth of the forest. - "When I woke up I had a strange premonition". - Liebestod: the best friend found them in the final embrace. - Henrik and the old countess' final salute at the grave - the inscription: AMOR OMNIA.

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