Friday, 5 December 2014
Mistress of Atlantis (1932)
It might surprise you to learn that not only did Atlantis exist, but it never sank beneath the waves of the ocean, and can in fact still be found in the depths of the Sahara.
Admittedly in 1932 that premise probably seemed a lot more plausible, what with the lack of detailed satellite images of the area, and so on. Which is how we get this film, where two soldiers from the French Foreign Legion stumble across the hidden civilisation while attempting to survey an ancient road.
The two men are separated, and the one who is serving as our narrator meets two further 'guests' of the Atlanteans: a decidedly quirky Russian and a morose Swede. Both these men talk in glowing terms of Antinea, the Queen of the city, and when our 'hero' (for want of a better term) is summoned into her presence, the Swede is so upset he instigates a fight.
After that is resolved, the soldier is taken to Queen Antinea (Brigitte Helm, who also starred in a little film called Metropolis). She doesn't answer his questions about his missing friend, but does offer him a game of chess. If he wins, she will let him go free. He eagerly accepts, but she soundly trounces him. Smart lady, to have become so good at a game that wasn't even invented until 9000 years after Atlantis allegedly passed out out the knowledge of ordinary humans.
The soldier returns from his meeting as smitten by the Queen as the Swede was. So smitten, in fact, that when he learns the Swede has committed suicide, he doesn't seem to stop and consider that this sort of obsession might be more than a little unhealthy.
Alas for him, his interest is not requited. The Queen is more taken with the other soldier - possibly because he is the only man who doesn't fawn over her. She may over time find his resistance irritating rather than intriguing, however, and that will be quite bad for his health.
The main problem with this film, for me, is that having set all this up, it then seems in no real hurry to do much with it. The version I saw was 77 minutes, but felt quite a lot longer, possibly because the plot (a) is largely recounted as a flashback within a framing narrative, and (b) comes to a halt a couple of times for some rather random-seeming diversions.
Some people may find the film's dreamy, somewhat disjointed pacing to be intriguing. I did not.