Friday, February 10, 2012

Genuine - 1920

Country: Germany
Language: German
Director: Robert Wiene
Writer: Carl Mayer
Stars: Fern Andra (Genuine), Hans Heinrich von Twardowski (Florian) and Ernst Gronau (Lord Melo)
Release Date: 2 September 1920 (Germany- Berlin) (premiere)
Also known as: Genuine: A Tale of a Vampire (undefined)
Filming Locations: Bioscop-Atelier, Neubabelsberg, Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany
Production Co: Decla-Bioscop AG
Runtime: 43:51 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
A 43-minute condensation of this silent film can be found as an Extra Feature on the Kino Video DVD of _Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1920)_ The full-length version can only be viewed at the Munich City Film Museum archive in Germany.
Edited into Histoire(s) du cinéma: Une histoire seule (1989) (V)
Plot Keywords: One Word Title | Vampire | German Expressionism | Expressionist
Genres: Horror
First off, I am reviewing the "43 minute condensed version" that is found on KINO's "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," so this is the longest version currently available on video.
It's hard to talk plot line since I have no idea how the somewhat tenuous plot of this version compares to the apparently complete version locked up in Germany, but I can say that the subtitle "A Tale of a Vampire" is erroneous as there is no vampire in this film. The original subtitle is "Tragedy of a Strange House," which is much more accurate to the film in the version I own.
While there is very little to go on story-wise, the set design and imagery is fantastic! While of course, the sets look like painted cardboard (because they are), one must ignore that fact and look at the pure artistry put into the set design. There are some truly disturbing images, such as a skeleton with a clock for a head. And while actual camera movement is absent, this is an early example of a film that allows some action to occur at the fringes of the lens instead of dead center (like you are watching a play). This allows for some interesting and startling entrances from Genuine herself.
Speaking of startling, there is a scene in a slave market that features two women in a gauze-like material. You can see their breasts clearly, one of the earliest examples of nudity in a mainstream film. The nudity isn't highlighted and isn't used for eroticism, but I was surprised to see nipples so clearly in a movie from 1920.
I also must mention the brilliant score. While it is repetitive, it isn't annoying. It seems a perfect fit for such a strange little film. I found the score to be quite complementary to the imagery, and very beautiful as well.
This may not be "Caligari," but it shouldn't be dismissed as it seems to have been by others on this forum. And in its full form--if we ever get to see it--it may just be another "Caligari." Short on plot, but a hallucinogenic, dreamlike, and fascinating trip into a strange world. Try it! 

1 comment:

  1. I love the soundtrack on this - twangy guitar!

    Also available on the Internet Archive as I'm sure you know!