Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Pandora's Box (1929)
I've seen this silent film described as the tale of "a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring ruin to herself and those who love her". I can only assume this synopsis was written by a man.
Personally, I'd describe it as the tale of "a young woman who is brought to ruin because men are jerks". I certainly don't think she brings ruin to those around her: they manage that quite handily on their own.
Now of course, the authorial intent may have been closer to the first interpretation I posted, rather than the latter. Certainly the plays on which it is based portray the central female as an incorrigible seducer, taking many lovers while being married. The film, perhaps for reasons of what they were allowed to portray, makes her less voracious, and certainly less calculating.
Our protagonist Lulu is the mistress of a wealthy newspaper editor. He refuses to marry her, however, wanting someone more socially advantageous. She fights for him, however, and wins out. They marry, but at the reception he finds her sitting in another man's lap (she says it is her father - certainly the guy is old enough) and demands she shoot herself to save him from being a murderer.
Lulu struggles, the gun goes off, and her husband dies. She's arrested and sentenced to five years in jail, but her alleged father and some other friends spirit her away from the court room. Alas for her, the men she trusts are much better at losing money than earning it, and keep looking at her to bail them out or advance them loans. One of them is even willing to sell her to an Egyptian brothel, justifying it because the brothel would pay him 50 pounds more than the police would.
Things go from bad to worse, and every attempt Lulu makes to restore their fortunes simply seems to make the situation more desperate.
This is not a cheerful movie, not one little bit. But it made a star of leading lady Louise Brooks, and you can see why - she's ethereally beautiful on screen. It was also very controversial upon release, because the subject matter was considered very racy, and that probably didn't hurt.
Worth seeing if you have an interest in the history of film, but don't expect to feel good about humanity at the end of it!