Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg

Ylioppilasprinssi / Vanha Heidelberg / Gamla Heidelberg. US (c) 1928 MGM. PC: Loew's. EX: Irving G. Thalberg. P+D: Ernst Lubitsch. SC: Hans Kraly - based on the novel Karl Heinrich (1904) and the play Alt-Heidelberg (1903) by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster and the operetta The Student Prince (1924) by Dorothy Donnelly (book) and Sigmund Romberg (music). DP: John Mescall. Starring: Ramon Novarro (Prince Karl Heinrich), Norma Shearer (Käthi), Jean Hersholt (Dr. Jüttner), Gustav von Seyffertitz (King Karl VII). 2905 m /22 fps/ 115 min. Print from Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique: /22 fps/ 112 min. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 18 March 2008. The popular Belle Epoque love story filmed by Lubitsch with tenderness, Norma Shearer at her best as the Biergarten maid Käthi, Ramon Novarro acceptably nice as the Prince who tries to lead normal student life in Heidelberg in ca 1902. The director's hand is firm in the selected crowd scenes where the prince is presented as a public figure. His satire is seasoned with elegy in the refrain "it must be wonderful to be a king". Seyffertitz is good as the stern old King, Hersholt balances him as Karl's only true friend. Another refrain: Karl always loses the one he loves: his nurse, his teacher, his Käthi. There is a truth of feeling in this story of external glory and inner solitude. The film is visually charming with a lively moving camera, fine judgement in close-ups, overall assurance in the alternation of general views and intimate shots. The rhythmic montage of the denouement emphasises the irony of the story. Not bitter like Stroheim but mellow, yet equally poignant in another unhappy Lubitsch end of a loveless marriage.

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