Thursday, October 10, 2013

Konstgjorda Svensson / [Artificial Svensson] (2011 SFI restoration)

KONSTGJORDA SVENSSON / Konstikas Svensson / [L’artificiale Svensson / Artificial Svensson] (AB Svensk Filmindustri, SE 1929) D: Gustaf Edgren; SC: Gustaf Edgren, Sölve Cederstrand; DP: Hugo Edlund; C: Fridolf Rhudin (Fridolf Ambrosius Svensson), Weyler Hildebrand (sergente maggiore/Staff Sergeant Göransson), Brita Appelgren (Mary Lantz), Karin Gillberg (Mary Björklund), Georg Blomstedt (colonello/Colonel Sixten Björklund, suo padre/her father), Sven Garbo (Harald Smith); 35 mm, 2361 m, 86' (24 fps), silent film with sound sequences; print source: Filmarkivet vid Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm. Swedish intertitles, with dialogue sequences in Swedish. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano: Antonio Coppola, 10 Oct 2013

Jon Wengström: "It’s always dangerous to label a film as being the first sound film, as it depends on what you actually mean. Perhaps it would be fair to say that the first Swedish sound films were the musical shorts presented with sound played back from wax cylinders at the beginning of the 20th century. Or perhaps that attribution should belong to engineer Sven A:son Berglund’s demonstration on the island of Lidingö in 1921, when he synchronized sound and image registered on two separate strips of 35 mm film. The first Swedish feature-length sound film is usually said to be Säg det i toner (The Dream Waltz), directed by Julius Jaenzon and Edvin Adolphson, released in December 1929, which had no dialogue, but did feature continuous sound in the form of music and effects, played back from shellac discs. However, this had been preceded two months earlier by the release of Konstgjorda Svensson (literal translation, “Artificial Svensson”), and although most of this film is silent, unlike Säg det i toner it also contains synchronized spoken dialogue – or rather, a monologue."

"In the film’s prologue, its main actor Fridolf Rhudin appears on stage to inform viewers about the industrial transition from silent to sound film, but with tongue in cheek he explains that for artistic reasons we are now about to see a silent film. Most of the film that follows is indeed silent, but there are a few instances of music, which is used for comic effect. The Rhudin character is courting a girl by serenading her beneath her window, but as his musical talents are insufficient, he mimes to pre-recorded sound played on a hidden gramophone, thus ingeniously commenting on the sound of the film itself in a self-reflective way, as the film’s sound was originally played back on shellac discs. Fridolf Rhudin and Weyler Hildebrand were two of the most celebrated Swedish comedians of their day. Later in 1929 they acted together in another pioneering Swedish sound film, the short Finurliga Fridolf (“Crafty Fridolf”), which was screened with Säg det i toner."

The Restoration. "In the late 1960s a 35 mm print and a 35 mm interpositive with flash-titles was made from a nitrate source element, which no longer exists. In 2011 a duplicate negative was made from the interpositive, with full-length titles. When originally released in 1929, the film’s sound sequences were played back from shellac discs, synchronized with the image. In 2011, original shellac discs from the non-film collections of the Swedish Film Institute and the collections of the National Library of Sweden were digitized, and from these files a 35 mm optical-soundtrack negative was made for preservation. On the 35 mm viewing print made from the 2011 duplicate negative, the sound exists in the form of a Dolby Digital track placed between the sprocket holes, which allows the original full-frame aspect ratio of the image to be intact." – Jon Wengström (The GCM Catalogue)

AA: This transitional film, "The Jazz Singer of Sweden", from the central figure of Swedish popular cinema, Gustaf Edgren, is precious because of its self-awareness. "Silence is golden." "Den stora sanna stumma konsten", "the great, true, silent art" is now coming to an end. It is the time for "nya illustrerade lögner", "new illustrated lies". Follows an irreverent concoction of military farce, electric house comedy, and romantic farce full of misunderstandings.

The reconstruction and restoration has been conducted with tender care. The result is great, and the sense of unevenness is authentic and true to the period of transistion.

Fridolf Rhudin, Brita Appelgren. Photo: Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm © 1929 AB Svensk Filmindustri. All rights reserved.

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