Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Fången n:r 53 / A Cottage on Dartmoor, Swedish version

FÅNGEN N:R 53 (A Cottage on Dartmoor) [neither version was released in Finland] [Prigioniero n. 53] (British Instructional Films / AB Svensk Filmindustri, GB/SE, 1929) D, SC: Anthony Asquith; P: H. Bruce Woolfe; story: Herbert C. Price; DP: Axel Lindblom; C: Norah Baring (Sally), Uno Henning (Joe), Hans Adalbert Schlettow (Harry); première: 27.1.1930 (Stockholm); 35 mm, 1812 m, 72' (22 fps); print source: Filmarkivet vid Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm. Swedish intertitles. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano: Stephen Horne, 8 Oct 2013

Jon Wengström: "Fången n:r 53 (literally, “Convict No. 53”) – the Swedish version of Anthony Asquith’s A Cottage on Dartmoor – differs significantly in many respects from the British version. First of all, the events in the film are depicted in strict chronological order, unlike the British version, where the main character Joe is seen escaping from prison in the opening scene and the previous events are told in flashback."

"The Swedish version of the film opens with newsreel-like footage of London, to inform the Swedish audience where the film was set (although the actual locale in the British version is never named). We are presented with emblematic images of the Tower, boats on the Thames, and busy traffic at Piccadilly Circus, before we enter the barbershop. The Swedish chronological narrative structure also calls for explanatory titles and images – not necessary in the British version – when the action is then transposed to Dartmoor (the Swedish intertitles talk about the Dartmoor Highlands, to confuse things even more). The escape from prison also includes images that are non- existent in the British version."

"The film’s most famous scene is probably that in the movie theatre, which again differs significantly in the Swedish version. This scene is approximately 5 minutes long in Fången n:r 53, which is just half the duration of the scene in the British version, but on numerous occasions we get to see what the audience in the theatre sees on screen, images from the Harold Lloyd film Hot Water (1924). In Fången n:r 53, since no talkie is included in the theatre’s programme, there are thus no images of the musicians pulling out a deck of cards, smoking, drinking, and eating sandwiches. (The exclusion of the talkie in the Swedish version may have something to do with the fact that, unlike in Britain, Fången n:r 53 was only released as a silent film.) The movie-theatre scene also has a completely different ending in the Swedish version: Joe picks a fight with Harry inside the theatre, and is actually thrown into the street. In the British version everyone simply leaves the theatre when the screening is over."

"Other differences concern the intertitles, which in Fången n:r 53 are not simply translated into Swedish from the original English. For instance, in the throat-cutting scene in the barbershop, Sally actually warns Harry by saying, “Harry, don’t let Joe shave you,” to which Harry responds, “I am not afraid!” There are no equivalent titles in the British version. The montage leading up to the bloodshed in the Swedish version is also different; it is less rapid and is composed of different images."

"Fången n:r 53 is thus not just a Swedish-language version of A Cottage on Dartmoor; the differences in chronology, imagery, intertitles, and editing make it a question of two different versions altogether. Co- produced by British Instructional Films and AB Svensk Filmindustri, and shot at the Welwyn studios in England, Fången n:r 53 was released in Sweden on 27 January 1930. In original programmes from the famous Röda Kvarn theatre the cinematography is credited to Axel Lindblom, but in the credits of the British version, released in October 1929, Stanley Rodwell is named as the cinematographer, and there is no mention whatsoever of Lindblom, while the print of the Swedish version doesn’t include any cinematography credit at all. In an interview with AB Svensk Filmindustri’s managing director Olof Andersson in the January 1929 issue of the trade paper Biografbladet (Cinema Journal), he talks about a Swedish-British co-production to be directed by Anthony Asquith and photographed by Julius Jaenzon. In the March 1929 issue of the same journal the film has a title – Fången 113 – and is now to be shot by Axel Lindblom. When shooting was completed there was another article in Biografbladet, this time in May 1929, where again Axel Lindblom is stated to have been the film’s cameraman."

"The film’s other main Swedish creative participant was the actor Uno Henning. He made his screen debut in Rune Carlsten’s Ett farligt frieri (A Dangerous Wooing, 1919), and had something of an international career in the late 1920s before the Asquith film, most notably in G. W. Pabst’s Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (The Love of Jeanne Ney, 1927)."

"The Print. A 35 mm interpositive was made from a nitrate negative source in 1974. A new 35 mm duplicate negative was made from this interpositive, and Swedish intertitles were inserted, based on a list of intertitles submitted to the Swedish censorship authorities at the time of the film’s original release. A 35 mm viewing print was also struck from this new negative in 1974." – Jon Wengström (The GCM Catalogue)

AA: A fascinating sample from the period of multi-language and multi-national versions in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, proving that the other versions were not necessarily inferior.

Anthony Asquith was at his best in his late silents and transitional films (Underground, Shooting Stars, A Cottage on Dartmoor). There is true visual excitement in this picture.

A Cottage on Dartmoor belongs to the virtuoso achievements of the late silent period. It is a film which is almost drunk by its own surface brilliance. The central milieu of the barber shop offers a lot of mirrors, reflections and gleaming objects.

At first, this is a story about falling in love. The looks convey the story of longing, wishing, and hoping. Then there is a rival, and a turn into jealousy, violence, and conviction. The prisoner escapes to commit the final horrible act of revenge.

The mise-en-scène is excellent, and there is a brilliant sense of space, camera movement, and editing. Perception is conveyed at times via reflections only, stream of consciousness via mind flashes.

But there are also questions of tedium in the narrative: the triangle drama and the revenge story are heavy-handed.

Uno Henning gives a fine performance as the tormented Joe who is the aggressor and also a victim of his own obsession and possession.

A good print of a film in which visual brilliance is essential.

Norah Baring, Uno Henning. Photo: Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm © 1929 AB Svensk Filmindustri. All rights reserved.

Anthony Asquith (left) on the set during the shooting. Photo: Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm © 1929 AB Svensk Filmindustri. All rights reserved.

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