Monday, September 08, 2014

The Bohemian Girl (1922)

British silent film adaptation of the Michael W. Balfe opera about the daughter of an Austrian nobleman -- kidnapped in childhood by gypsies -- who, unaware of her royal heritage, falls in love with a young renegade Polish soldier seeking refuge in the gypsies' band from her father's troops. Upon learning her true identity, the girl is torn between her noble background and her love for the young soldier. The film boasts an impressive cast, including Gladys Cooper, Ivor Novello, C. Aubrey Smith, Constance Collier, and celebrated English theater star Ellen Terry in a rare screen appearance.

Harley Knoles' direction is generally unremarkable, favoring wide, static compositions and flat lighting throughout, and relies too heavily on title cards to convey the plot. Still, it's undeniably an elaborately-produced film with its lavish period settings and costumes, and there is one camera move -- a high-angle tracking shot across the length of the ballroom set -- that stands out as a singularly impressive bit of technical flourish. It also reflects the international talent -- both in front of and behind the camera -- that English films of this period frequently employed, and stands as an interesting work in the all-too-often neglected history of British silent cinema. Interestingly, the assistant director was Josef von Sternberg, and it's tempting to consider what he could have done with the material if given the opportunity. Originally released at eight reels, surviving copies are missing the first two reels.

No comments: