Thursday, July 04, 2013

Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru / The Outlaw and His Wife

Lainsuojattomat / I proscritti. SE 1918. D: Victor Sjöström. Dalla pièce Bjærg-Ejvind og hans Hustru di Jóhann Sigurjónsson. SC: Victor Sjöström, Sam Ask. DP: Julius Jaenzon. C: Victor Sjöström, Edith Erastoff, John Ekman, Nils Arehn. P: AB Svenska Biografteatern. 35 mm. 2253 m. 109' a 18 f/s. Col (Desmetcolor). Da: Svenska Filminstitutet. Piazza Maggiore (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 4 July 2013

Prima mondiale della partitura commissionata da Svenska Filminstitutet al Matti Bye Ensemble, eseguita da Matti Bye (pianoforte), Kristian Holmgren (percussioni), Leo Svensson (contrabbasso), Nils Berg (flauto, clarinetto e violino) e Lotta Johansson (violino)

Presentano Anna Serner e Jon Wengström (Svenska Filminstitutet)

Serata promossa da Aeroporto di Bologna

Jon Wengström: "Earlier prints originate from a previous preservation carried out in 1981, when a down-sized academy ratio duplicate negative was made from two different nitrate prints, no longer existing. In 2010, an incomplete, tinted nitrate print with French intertitles was put to our disposal by Ciné- mathèque Royale/Koninklijk Filmarchief in Brussels. A new full-frame, black-and- white duplicate negative was made from the Belgian print, in which sections from two safety print sources were inserted (one of which originates from a full-frame nitrate duplicate negative now lost). The new preservation negative also includes a more complete set of intertitles, recreated from original title cards held in the non- film collections of the Svenska Filminsti- tutet in Stockholm. The preservation was completed in 2013, when colour prints were struck from the new negative. The colours were recreated with the Desmet method, using the colours in the Belgian nitrate print as a reference."

"The Outlaw and His Wife was director Sjöström's first film after the success of Terje Vigen (1917), which marked the beginning of the so called Golden Age of Swedish silent cinema. Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru, an adaptation of a play by Icelandic writer Jóhann Sigurjóns- son, share the mode of production of the previous film which was to become characteristic for the studio AB Svenska Bio- grafteatern (and its later incarnation AB Svensk Filmindustri) in the years to come: a prestigious big budget film based on a famous literary source, shot on location showing Man's interaction with Nature. In fact the studio had planned to shoot the film on Iceland where the action is set, but due to the perils of travelling by boat on the Atlantic in the midst of World War I, the film was eventually shot in Swedish Laponia from March to September, 1917."

"The story of a man who cannot escape his past, but is forced further and further up the mountain with his loved one, remains one of director Sjöström's finest films and a classic of Swedish cinema. Sjöström, who again plays the main character himself, shows how it is circumstances of poverty and the indifference of others that force a man to become an outlaw, not any intrinsic quality of good or evil. The Outlaw and His Wife is also one of the most moving love stories ever depicted on the screen, where two people decide to sacrifice everything in order to stay together. Even the astonishing exchange of dialogue in the final reel, when the lovers turn on each other because of hunger and desperation, cannot in the end separate them from one another. The films is rightly renowned for its use of the spectacular locations, and the dramatic surroundings where the lovers build a life for themselves on the mountain, after seeking refuge from the outside world, are used to great effect by Sjöström and cinematographer Julius Jaenzon. This is not only done by staging breath-taking set-pieces (Sjöström dangling in mid-air from a rope is really the proverbial cliffhanger), but also by showing how society's threats to their existence is mirrored by the dangers which nature provides. Sjöström's humanism is expressed also by the sympathy and understanding with which he depicts the loneliness, despair and desire of the fellow outlaw who joins their camp, and who becomes a rival for the love of Sjöström's companion Halla (played by Sjöström's real-life wife Edith Erastoff)."

"Apart from recreating the colours as they existed in at least one original print, the new preservation also gives more justice to the film than previous versions as it now respects the film's original full-frame aspect ratio. The careful framings and compositions of Sjöström and Jaenzon can now be fully appreciated again, and the unfortunate cropping of the upper parts of the frame, when characters were only seen from waist down, is now avoided." Jon Wengström

The composition of Victor Sjöström's masterpiece looks right again also in its stunning mountain images (with the tiny characters visible on top of the mountain) in the authentic aspect ratio of this restoration.

I like also the way the colour has been composed in images involving faces, without losing the sparkle of the eyes and the impact of the look, essential in the films of Sjöström, in which the eyes are the mirror of the soul.

The negatives and the best elements of the film burned in the big Svensk Filmindustri fire in 1941, and all restorations are based on secondary sources.

The experience is more complete and satisfactory than in the previous restorations of this profound and pioneering film about forbidden love, preceding visions of Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray, Arthur Penn, and Quentin Tarantino. It's a "till death do us part" story shot on location in Lapland, with poetic justice, as it was not possible to shoot in Iceland.

Matti Bye had chosen an atmospheric, meditative soundscape approach to the accompaniment. It would be interesting to try Berg-Ejvind once also with the original Rudolf Sahlberg compilation score concept based on En saga by Sibelius and Icelandic music. Not forgetting the beautiful Torbjörn Iwan Lundqvist score of the 1987 restoration.

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