Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gränsfolken / Brother Against Brother (2011 SFI restoration)

SE 1913. D: Mauritz Stiller. SC: based on [the novel La Débâcle (1892, Sota) by] Émile Zola; SC: Peter Lykke-Seest; DP: Julius Jaenzon, Hugo Edlund; Cas: Richard Lund (Gregori), Egil Eide (Ivan), Edith Erastoff (Katjuscha), John Ekman (Alexei Potowski); P: AB Svenska Biografteatern; Pri. pro.: 21 novembre 1913. 35 mm. 876 m. 45’ a 17 fps. Col. Svenska mellantexter. [Earphone commentary in Italian and in English]. From: Svenska Filminstitutet - Filmarkivet. Sunday, 26 June 2011, Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, I Cinema Ritrovato). Grand piano: Günter Buchwald. Presenta Jon Wengström.

Catalogue: "In 2009, the Filmoteka Narodowa in Warsaw announced that they had discovered a tinted nitrate print with German intertitles. The Archival Film Collections of the Svenska Filminstitutet - Filmarkivet got temporary access to this element, and in 2011 a duplicate negative was made, from which this colour print was struck. Swedish inter-titles were recreated from a re-printed title list, and inserted into the new negative. A second duplicate negative was made as a preservation element. When the tinted nitrate print of Mauritz Stiller’s Gränsfolken (1913) was discovered in 2009 at the Filmoteka Narodowa in Warsaw, it was nothing less than sensational. The previously earliest preserved Stiller films had been the 1915 Hämnaren and Madame de Thèbes (screened at Il Cinema Ritrovato in 2003 and 2007 respectively), meaning that up until now none of the films from the director’s initial three, very prolific, years 1912-14 – in which he directed no less than 20 films – had survived."

"Gränsfolken was arguably the most successful of Stiller’s early films; 41 prints were sold by production company Svenska Biografteatern to 17 countries. The script by Norwegian writer Peter Lykke-Seest deals with fraternal and national rivalry in an undefined Nordic context, but Stiller transposed the action to an Eastern milieu, familiar to him. Not only the names of the characters suggest a more or less Russian context, but clerical ornates, musical instruments, costumes and headgowns during the wedding ceremony in the first reel indicate an orthodox-slavic setting."

"The style of the film is somewhat archaic, with hardly any camera movement, and a lot of the acting is taking place frontally, straight at the camera. But Stiller creates dynamics by having characters move along the depth-axis of the frame, and he also at times has action taking place on multiple depths of field in the same shot. Stiller also creates interesting visual patterns by using geometrical figures of the settings to create frames within the frame (exteriors were shot on location in Visby with its medieval arched stone walls). The inclusion of Gränsfolken in the surviving Stiller filmography gives us new insights in the director’s thematic and stylistic development." Jon Wengström.

AA: Émile Zola's novel on the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 in Alsace-Lorraine / Elsass-Lothringen has been transferred into an unnamed East European milieu (Balkan / White Russia / Poland). The uniforms resemble those of Cossacks. The wedding is Greek Catholic. - It is the story of two brothers in love with the same woman. It is also the Romeo and Julia story of a love with a woman on the enemy side of the border post. And it is the tragedy of the brothers, now enemies in the war, who finally fall besides each other. - The restoration is fine, and this is an important contribution to the Mauritz Stiller heritage as the earliest surviving complete Stiller feature film. He has already a fine sense of composition and an ability to create vivid images. There is also a rare epic touch in the war sequences.

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