Neue Sachlichkeit

SECRETS OF A SOUL (“Geheimnisse einer Seele”, 1926) by GW Pabst

Near the end of the 1920’s, and as far as German Expressionism’s “New Objectivity” (Neue Sachlichkeit)-style was concerned [focusing on realism, public-engagement and social issues, as opposed to the self-indulgent, intellectual ‘surrealism of ‘traditional’ Expressionism], Pabst was clearly this new art-movement’s cinematic ambassador. This was exhibited through his series of progressive, highly topical films dedicated to the portrayal of troubled women, and their plights in German society. 


Secrets of a Soul- Dream sequence with Werner Krauss (1926)

In keeping in this tradition, Pabst’s 1926, Freudian, psychological-drama, Secrets of a Soul, deals with the marital problems a happy, but childless, couple start to face when the husband- played by UFA veteran and master of creepy characters, Werner Krauss (Dr Caligari)- starts to have nightmares in which he visualizes his wife- played by the ever-sultry Ruth Weyher (Warning Shadows)- and her dashing young cousin, in ‘compromising’ situations. The nightmares started when a local murder coincides with a visit from the cousin –played by suave, English actor Jack Trevor. The husband’s inner torment eventually manifests itself in a bizarre fear of any, and all, knives! It’s when he starts to visualizes himself stabbing his wife, that he then decides it’s time to seek professional help.

Secrets of the soul - Dream Sequence

Secrets of a soul – Dream sequence with Werner Krauss(1926)

This is when the film starts to get really interesting; most of all in the way the film tackles the subject of psychoanalysis. From here on the film focuses on the dialogue between the husband and his therapist. Don’t forget the film was made in a time when most people hadn’t even heard of psychoanalysis, let alone know how it was administered. Pabst goes into great detail to illustrate to his audience how exactly this revolutionary new wonder-treatment worked.

Curiously enough, one of the team of writers for Secrets Of A Soul was an important and influential German psychoanalyst, and colleague of Sigmund Freud. As far as the plot’s concerned, I think I’ll leave it there so as not to spoil it too much for you.
I will say, however, that what I especially liked about this film is that, unlike other films from Pabst’s New Objectivity series, in Secrets Of A Soul he pays homage to his ‘traditional’ expressionism roots through a number beautifully filmed, highly-stylized, dream and fantasy sequences, synonymous with the spirit of the early expressionist cinema. Available online and DVD from the KINO collection. 8/10

Secrets of a Soul (1926). Dream sequence with Werner Krauss

This link to stream the whole movie is working as of 02/01/15:

http://vdownload.eu/watch/1124865-geheimnisse-einer-seele-georg-wilhelm-pabst-1926.html

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Master of the House (1925) by Carl Theodor Dreyer – LESSONS IN HOW ‘NOT’ TO TREAT YOUR WIFE!

Master of the House. Danish film poster (1925)

Master of the House [aka Thou Shalt Honor Thy Wife] (1925) “Du skal ære din hustru” (original title)

Director/ Writer/ Film Editor/ Art Direction/ Set Decoration: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Screenplay: Svend Rindom
Cinematography: George Schnéevoigt

Cast:

  • Johannes Meyer … Viktor Frandsen
  • Astrid Holm … Ida Frandsen
  • Karin Nellemose … Karen Frandsen
  • Mathilde Nielsen … Old Victor’s wetnurse
  • Clara Schønfeld … Alvilda Kryger
  • Johannes Nielsen … Doctor
  • Petrine Sonne … Laundress
  • Aage Hoffman … Dreng, son
  • Byril Harvig … Barnet, son
  • Viggo Lindstrøm
  • Aage Schmidt
  • Vilhelm Petersen

In complete contrast to the last film I reviewed (Nerven by Robert Reinert), instead of feeling the need to run into the street shouting “Now I’m going to die… now I’m going to die”, this one will have you feeling relaxed, rosy and content with the world. Master of the House, by renowned Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, is a minimalistic, theatre-style, comedy-drama that plays itself out almost entirely withing four walls (a set that was specially designed by Dreyer’s own fair hands), and is by definition one of the finest, and most enchanting, examples of the “kammerspielfilm” I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing.

The film centres around the Frandsen household, run by Ida Frandsen (played by Astrrid Holm, who some of you may remember as the sweet, terminally-ill, Salvation Army girl in The Phantom Carriage) and her equally sweet and obliging daughter (played by Karin Nellemose); while the tyrannical husband, Viktor (played by Johannes Meyer), requires constant attention and complains about everything. Another dominating presence is that of Viktor’s old wet-nurse, from when he was a child (played masterfully by the matriarchal figure of Danish cinema, Mathilde Nielsen), who pops in occasionally to lend a hand to the over-worked, over-tired, yet ever-smiling Ida. If viewers can get through the first half an hour of watching how appallingly Viktor abuses his wife’s kindness, without being tempted to throw something at the TV screen in frustration, then you’re in for a real treat as the plot takes a sweet turn of events.

Noteworthy is the standard of acting from the entire cast (including the two kids), which is of the highest grade -as we’ve come to expect from a Danish cast- particularly that of Mathilde Nielson, the old wet-nurse, who governs every scene she’s in with the eloquence and sovereignty of a true professional.

Although a seemingly simple concept, the film is nevertheless carefully constructed, merging canny humour with subtle psychological observation. Once again we see the familiar theme of the suffering woman coming to the fore, as was very much en vogue at the time, but it then concludes with Dreyer paying homage to marital happines founded on mutual respect. 8.5/10

Working video link as of 02/01/15