Bergner Tradition With A Difference
Fly IRIS CONLAY, Catholic. Herald Film Critic.
I had an all-German day at thc films last week, It started with a pleasant morning at the Curzon where I watched a new and up-to-date Pola Negri put across a
strongly dramatic role in Mazurka.. It progressed in a quiet way by an after-tea call on Paula Wessely in Ernte at the Academy—a second visit, because I enjoyed this film so much. And it ended in a lighter key altogether at Regine at the Forum.
Although entirely different in character these German cousins have a strong family resemblance. It emerges superficially in the choice of one-word titles and it emerges in the more essential points. All three rely on slow, sensitive development, on devotion to tiny detail—and most attractive feature of all—they all delight in absolutely natural people with just a twist of naiveté in their construction to make them " different."
All the three heroines, Paula Wessely (Ernie), Luise Ullrich (Regine). and Ingeborg Theek (Mazurka), exemplify the German admiration for spontaneous vital beauty as opposed to the Hollywood cultured" style which the rest of Europe have been taught to find attractive.
It is all a matter of convention anyway, and if the Bergner has created a tradition of Peter-panish womanhood in Germany in which the heroines never seem to pass beyond a wondering childhood it is a refreshing change after the hothouse Dietrich style from Hollywood which appears never to have known childhood at all. In direct descent from Bergner, the Ullrich-Wessely-Theek trio have nevertheless diverged from her. They are oddly unbeautiful, technically speaking; they are even a little gauche; they have extreme youthfulness and they have all the comprehensive range of gesture and expression of Bergner. But they gain from Bergner's mistakes. Bergner, in an effort to present natural, unrepressed characters, overreached herself in spontaneity and became elfin. This trio have been beyond Bergner's gnome tricks and, with saner balance, have created responsive women.
Of the actual films and their stories there is little to say. Paula Wessely Ernie was treated at length last week, and although there arc many other things that were made apparent in a second visit which were not evident to me on the first, I think I must desist from saying more than that from every angle Ernie is the most satisfying picture that I have seen lately.
Material Does Not Matter
Regine, at the Forum, is an excellent example of how treatment is more important than material. Was it Mrs. Henry Wood who used to write mawkish stories about servant girls seduced by their masters? Regine begins in this strain, and, if not very carefully handled, could have become rather a tiresome tale without even the virtue of reality in its last sequences. Peasant seldom marries her prince and lives happily ever after, but in this version it is made to work.
But Regine is handled with the understanding it needs by director Hermann Grund from its first moment when Hero Adolf Wohlbriick meets Heroine Luisc Ullrich as she hangs out the family washing, through the vicissitudes of the polishing of the rough diamond in the first months of their marriage, until the last melodramatic sequences.
It may be true that. as a technical experiment, it lacks originality, but cutting new ice is not the only virtue of good production. The mixture as before may be equally valuable. In this category belongs Regine.
Negri Loses Nothing
Mazurka (Curzon) is stronger stuff altogether. Although the leading part is taken by young Ingeborg Theek, the picture belongs in reality to Pole Negri, who after many years. has lost no touch with the stuff of which films are made.
In the unsympathetic role of the wronged woman who takes a murderous revenge, she might have forgotten the humanity in her make-up and related a stiff story of hardship borne with bitterness. Instead, she gradually thaws our feelings for her and in the end usurps our sympathies to such an extent that the heroine is in danger of total eclipse.
Willi Forst directs competently, but there are no sparks for those who do not appreciate quiet conventionality.