Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Broken Spring Rose (Sweden, 1912)

A fine melodrama, with good and subtle acting, good use of nature landscapes and a narrative, straight plot. That means the plot has a narrative style which would become the norm in cinema ever since, opposite to so-called “trick films” (like those made by French director Georges Méliès on early XX century). When it comes to acting, the plot developed without broad gestures or epic plot twists, differently from some other melodramas of the 1910s.
Although the plot may seem manicheist and outdated, it is not very different from what many other directors produced at the same era, such as D.W. Griffith in the United States, Urban Gad in Denmark, Yevgeni Bauer in Russia, among many others.
The film starts in a rather idyllic way, with good country people enjoying their lives in total connection with nature. The landscape helps to settle the atmosphere of tranquility to the audiences and gives an extra nostalgic touch to the film of an era that was already fading due to early XX century urbanization. Unfortunately, this tranquility is suddenly shattered due to an unsolved love story. 
The engagement between a wealthy boy and a girl who worked to his family was suddenly broken up by his father, which caused a big heartache on the couple. To make things worse, the boy’s father suddenly took an interest to the girl, until the point he started chasing her and raped her, which truly disgraced her life and made her fall into prostitution. The theme of the innocent girl who has a tragic fate due to circumstances had already been common both at the stage and cinema.
This film is also considered the first to ever be censored in Sweden. Although there were not any actual rape scenes and the event was mostly suggested rather than shown, this per se was enough to shock the censors. It was also considered a lost film for many decades until it was found in 1980 and it seems some scenes were removed from this printing compared with the original full film. 
The director Victor Sjöström, after already been successful in his native Sweden, became known worldwide in the 1920s due to his work in Hollywood, where he directed high-budget films and worked with the stars of his day. When the talkie era took over, he returned to Sweden and barely directed again, devoting himself solely to acting. This film shows that Swedish silents have already been quite well developed in the previous decade to such 1920s golden era and that professionals who went to Hollywood were already active and producing films at the same level of best silent films from Europe and the United States.