Monday, October 02, 2017

Fante-Anne / Gypsy Anne (2011 restoration Nasjonalbiblioteket)

Fante-Anne (NO 1920). Photo: Garden of Silence.

Fante-Anne (title in Finland) / Mustalais-Anna (another title in Finland) / Tattar-Anna (original Swedish title) / [Anna la vagabonda / Gypsy Anne]. NO 1920. D: Rasmus Breistein. Based on the short story by Kristofer Janson (1878), photog, des, ed: Gunnar Nilsen-Vig, cast: Aasta Nielsen (Anne), Einar Tveito (Jon), Lars Tvinde (Haldor), Johanne Bruhn (Haldor’s mother), Henny Skjønberg (Jon’s Mother), Edvard Drabløs (the magistrate), Dagmar Myhrvold (Anne’s mother), prod: Kommunernes Filmscentral, première: 11.9.1920.
    DCP (from 35 mm, 2171 m), 75 min (transferred at 15 fps), tinted; titles: NOR, subt. ENG.
source: Nasjonalbiblioteket, Oslo / Mo i Rana.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: The Swedish Challenge
    Music: Günter Buchwald, Frank Bockius.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian, 2 Oct 2017.

Bent Kvalvik (GCM 2017): "Fante-Anne is the first Norwegian feature film set in a distinctly Norwegian milieu, and the first Norwegian film adapted from a literary work. The story is an archetypal instance of Norwegian peasant tales, which often deal with love across boundaries of class and wealth. It follows a foundling, Anne, who grows up on a wealthy farmstead with Haldor, the son and heir of the owner, but is cast out when she and Haldor as adults fall in love and wish to marry. Haldor’s strict mother has found a more suitable match for her son. But Anne, with her vagabond blood and fiery temper, takes revenge by setting fire to the farm’s new building, a house built for Haldor and his new bride. The farmhand Jon, who loves Anne, takes the blame for the arson. After he serves his prison sentence, Anne and Jon are united, and the couple emigrate to America. The story presents a clear religious allegory of sin expiated by a loving saviour, with the saviour bringing the sinner to paradise. But in spite of the superstructure of Christian morality, it is also a story about a woman who rebels against her fate, makes dangerous choices, and remains undaunted by tradition and authority."

"As the first Norwegian romantic national film, Fante-Anne became the starting point for an important genre tradition in Norwegian film history, dominant in the silent period but also important for the sound cinema of the 1930s and 40s, long after contemporary and more urban stories had found their place in the repertoire. The turning point that came with Fante-Anne was openly inspired by two Swedish film adaptations of works by the Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian novelist Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson from the previous year, 1919: Synnöve Solbakken and Ett farligt frieri (A Dangerous Wooing). During its uncertain infancy before 1919, Norwegian film had mostly produced catchpenny melodramas without any specific national colour; but now people realized that they could get a much larger and more dedicated audience by giving Norwegian moviegoers pictures and stories that confirmed their own national identity. Following these two Swedish successes, filmed in Norway and in Norwegian nature, Fante-Anne came as a worthy and natural sequel. The film’s authenticity in its treatment of environment and character remains striking, as does its beautiful cinematography, and is all the more impressive considering that the vast majority of those involved in the production were making films for the first time. But the director, the cinematographer, and the actors all had a solid knowledge base in Norwegian music, literature, and peasant culture."

"The director Rasmus Breistein (1890-1976), the son of a peasant, had a theatre background as an actor and folk musician. After watching the Swedish Bjørnson films, he presented his own film plans to the production company Kommunernes Filmscentral. He received their support and was teamed with the already experienced cinematographer Gunnar Nilsen-Vig. The collaboration between these two would be fruitful; Nilsen-Vig would shoot 9 of Breistein’s 14 feature films, and the director often praised his cinematographer for his valuable knowledge and efforts. The success of Fante-Anne paved the way for further film projects in the same genre, and Breistein actually made three more films from works by Fante-Anne’s author Kristofer Janson: Brudeferden i Hardanger (1926), Kristine Valdresdatter (1930), and the sound film Liv (1934), all great successes. A writer popular for his portrayals of rural life, Kristofer Janson was also a minister who worked  for many years among Norwegian-Americans in the United States. This gave Breistein’s movies a large audience there as well when Breistein himself went on tour in the U.S. with them, accompanying them on the fiddle. With a 30-year career that encompassed the transition from silent to sound, and on to colour film, Rasmus Breistein stands out as one of the real pioneers of Norwegian film history."

"Aasta Nielsen (1897-1975) was a Norwegian stage actress and singer, mainly active in operettas. (She was a first cousin of the legendary Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad.) Her film career was very brief, with only three titles. After Fante-Anne she also starred in Jomfru Trofast / The Maiden Faithful (1921) and Felix (1921), both also directed by Rasmus Breistein.

The restoration

"The original negative of Fante-Anne is lost; all surviving copies are based on a duplicate negative from an old release print with Swedish intertitles. The National Library of Norway embarked on a new restoration in 2011, when the reconstructed film was printed in its original silent film format (1:1.33) for the first time, and the images were coloured according to tinting notations in the duplicate negative. New title cards were made based on those in a previous Norwegian version which had been translated from Swedish. Scanning and printing of the newly restored viewing copy was performed at New Digital Filmlab in Copenhagen." Bent Kvalvik

AA: I saw for the first time this foundation work of Norwegian film art.

Roles are reversed in the beginning of the story where we meet Anne and Haldor as children. Anne the foundling is the wild rascal, the daredevil, the tomboy, climbing high trees, spying on lovers, and seducing Haldor to a kiss. When Haldor, the tranquil boy, slips into the water Anne's advice is "just run till you dry".

The backstory reminds us of Der gelbe Schein screened yesterday. The mother is not allowed to stay, and she dies having given birth to the baby Anne in the barn.

Next, Haldor and Anne are a young man and woman. Anne is a milkmaid at the mountain summer hut. Haldor's mother is worrying as Haldor is constantly heading for the mountains. Haldor tells Anne that he is building a new house for them. But mother has her own suggestions. "Stop playing this game. Do not marry a girl of unknown origin".

A month goes by without Haldor visiting the summer hut, and Anne hears that Haldor is to marry Margit Moen. She overhears Haldor's cruel words of "how an unknown waif could become the mistress of the mightiest house of the village". Jon, Haldor's best friend, who has always loved Anne, warns: "there is no knowing what Anne might do".

Anne leaves the hut to confront mother and Margit: "I'm not well. Send another girl to the hut". In agony she spies Haldor letting Margit inspect the new house. Anne cannot stand Haldor's faithlessness. Having wandered desperately in the night Anne puts the new house on fire. Jon sees Anne wandering in the night. Anne plans to throw herself into a waterfall.

At the arson trial nothing is confirmed. Anne's gives cheeky answers to the district recorder. Then, startling everyone, Jon takes the guilt and is sentenced to prison. Anne confesses to Jon's mother.

Having suffered his sentence Jon joins Anne, immediately to leave for America "where every man can be himself without prejudice". There was heartfelt laughter in the audience in this year of Donald Trump.

A question of mine about the narrative: where are the fathers?

The film is impressive enough in its stately, stolid manner of storytelling. Unnecessary flashbacks were a scourge of Nordic films since The Song of the Scarlet Flower, and that is the case here as well.

Norwegians were discovering their mightly landscapes for the cinema, following the model of the great Swedes. There is a sense of the sublime in the magnificent views from the mountains, as seen by Anne from her summer hut, or as witnessed by farmers plowing fields on slopes.

The sense of composition is often very fine.

Beautiful visual quality in the clean digital copy, with a beautiful sepia toning simulation, a sometimes stuffy tinting, and an appropriately alarming red tint for the conflagration.

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