|Venetianische Nacht. Photo: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.|
VENETIANISCHE NACHT (Notti veneziane) (DE 1913). D: Max Reinhardt. Ass D: Carl Wilhelm (Venezia). SC: dalla pantomima di Karl Vollmöller, Venezianische Abenteuer eines jungen Mannes. CIN: Friedrich Weinmann, Karl Freund. C: Maria Carmi (the bride, Marchesina dei Bisognosi), Joseph Klein (Luigi Mangiabene, the Mestre bridegroom), Alfred Abel (Anselmus Aselmeyer, aspirante filosofo / the student), Ernst Matray (Pipistrello), Georg Hötzel (servant), Theodor Rocholl (officer), Victor Arnold, Else Eckersberg, Ernst Lubitsch (?). PC: Paul Davidson, Projektions-AG “Union” (PAGU), Berlin. Filmed: 4.1913 (Venezia; Chioggia; Cimitero). Rel: 6.1914 (U.T. Kurfürstendamm, Berlin). 35 mm, 1079 m, 60' (16 fps); titles: GER. Source: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Eventi speciali.
Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti, live music performance by Conservatorio di musica "Giuseppe Tartini", Trieste, 7 Oct 2016
Carlo Montanaro (GCM catalog and website): "An important innovator in 20th-century theatre directing, Max Reinhardt (Maximillian Goldmann, 1873–1943) came to the cinema from the stage in 1910, with a somewhat primitive fixed-camera filming of the staging of the Deutsches Theater pantomime Sumurun. An operation he repeated the following year with another pantomime, Das Mirakel, which already anticipated more realistic shooting. In early 1913 Reinhardt left for Italy with another Deutsches Theater troupe to complete two of the four film productions he had agreed to make that year for the company PAGU. The first, Venetianische Nacht, was shot in Venice while it was still being performed on stage in Germany. The second, Die Insel der Seligen, based on an original story and set around La Spezia, was the first to be released. Despite some daring pagan scenes, including nudity, it was a box-office failure."
"Venetianische Nacht, by contrast, was a notable success, particularly in America. But despite numerous plans, it was not until 1935 that Reinhardt finally returned to films, to make a memorable, magical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Hollywood."
"Venetianische Nacht is derived from a pantomime strewn with misunderstandings, which is also a dream suspended between sadness, the grotesque, and the farcical, based on the commedia dell’arte (with one character, Pipistrello [the Bat], who could be Harlequin but also Charlie Chaplin). It features a student who goes to the Venice of his dreams and thinks that a Marchesina [daughter of a marquis], the unhappy bride of a vulgar merchant, has fallen in love with him. To the extent of feeling obliged to kill her husband and get rid of his cumbersome body. While in fact the noblewoman is in love with an officer. So after “that” overwrought Venetian night fraught with excessive exploits / ventures, the student must persuade himself that he has dreamed the whole thing (including a Méliès-style ball which anticipates the visual daring of films like Vampyr). In a gondola at the end of the film, the aristocratic lady is able to put up with her common husband because her “friend” the officer is close at hand..."
"All three “acts” of the film were shot on location. Starting with the area in front of the first railway station built by the Austrians, and from there to the Rialto bridge, the churchyard of San Michele in Isola, San Francesco del Deserto, sunsets in the lagoon, and the city’s arcades, canals, and campielli [small squares] – this is Venice in a thoroughly authentic minor key. There are also interiors in which window ref lections, plays of shadow, and random bursts of sunlight reveal the sets’ improvised construction, perhaps actually within pre-existing structures (could they be the glass studio run by the Roatto brothers, pioneers of Venetian cinema?). Maria Carmi (Norina Gilli) was primarily a stage actress. Alfred Abel was, among other things, the future master of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis." – Carlo Montanaro
AA: I saw Venetianische Nacht by Max Reinhardt for the first time, but there was much that was familiar in the approach. Not so much via A Midsummer Night's Dream which Reinhardt directed for Warner Bros. in the US in 1935 but from the general experience of German cinema before Hitler. Most of the leading Weimar talents had been influenced by Reinhardt, and many had worked with him, including Ernst Lubitsch who directed and starred in a film adaptation of Sumurun, a famous Reinhardt production. I was thinking about Lubitsch during the screening and even imagined glimpsing him a couple of times (Lubitsch belonged to the Reinhardt ensemble at the time), alerted by the hint in the credits in the catalog (copied above). It does not matter if it was him; there is a spiritual connection anyway: the tender sense of humour, the magic fairy-tale approach (as in Die Puppe), the comedy of misunderstandings, the light touch in the bedroom comedy, and the general dream mode (where anything is possible as in some of Lubitsch's best German comedies like Die Bergkatze).
There is a consistent oneiric movement which draws us into a magic fairy-tale circle. There is an engaging waltz-like rhythm in the motion. This is a pantomime, and there is often an approach of choreography in the action. Venetianische Nacht emerged in the same important year 1913 as Der Student von Prag, often seen as the turning-point in the acknowledgement of cinema as an art in Germany. The somnambulistic aspects also prefigure Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Phantom, and Vampyr. From the Belle Epoque viewpoint I was also thinking about Italian Symbolist films such as Rapsodia satanica and Il fauno. And Dostoevsky's Four Nights of a Dreamer filmed by Visconti in Livorno and Bresson in Paris.
Appealing details include live portrait credit title shots for actors.
In this "120 Years of Cinema in Venice" programme we saw first nine non-fiction films by Cinématographe Lumière, some of them forming a honeymoon cycle by Charles and Marie Moisson. On the same locations Max Reinhardt filmed this fairy-tale pantomime which proves that Venice itself is a dream space.
The print is watchable but copied from sources of low contrast, high contrast and other issues.
A wonderful musical interpretation by Conservatorio di musica "Giuseppe Tartini", Trieste, in tune with the pantomime, with a sense of the rhythm, including passages of waltzes and boleros.