Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Sir Arne's Treasure|
Actors: Erik Stocklassa, Bror Berger, Richard Lund, Axel Nilsson, Hjalmar Selander
Director: Mauritz Stiller
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Kino International Release Date: 06/06/2006 Run time: 107 minutes
Pictorially impressive historical tale of guilt and doom
Michael Gebert | Chicago, IL USA | 05/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kino's release of three films by the important yet neglected Swedish silent director Mauritz Stiller, remembered now mainly for discovering Greta Garbo, is one of the year's major rediscovery efforts.
As a title in film history books, Sir Arne's Treasure always seemed like it must fall somewhere between Die Nibelungen and Ivanhoe-- an epic knightish adventure with a heavier Scandinavian feel. In fact it's a tale of guilt and doom in the classic Swedish mode, almost a chamber piece despite its grandiose division into five acts, set in an historical setting but with some of the same distilled focus and sense of inevitability as, to pick a recent example, Cronenberg's A History of Violence.
Three Scottish mercenaries escape from captivity in 16th century Sweden and, driven half-mad by the winter winds and starvation, slaughter the entire household of a local lord for his treasure. Only one young, Lillian Gish-like girl, Elsalill, who hides herself during the crime, escapes-- but, being Swedish, is consumed by survivor's guilt. The three, newly kitted out in finery, return to the scene of the crime, and one of them promptly falls in love with the survivor of his depredations and starts having guilt of his own.
While there's a stark, In Cold Blood-like quality to the initial depiction of these violent events in a remote, snowbound location, it's when the film narrows its focus to the two main characters and their guilt-racked interactions that Stiller's deliberate storytelling begins to really justify itself-- the minutely detailed depiction of everyday activities not only makes the historical setting seem vividly real, but serves to cut off the possibility of anything which would make this psychological drama into an action movie.
Mention must be made (as theater reviewers say when they can't think of a better transition) of the cinematography of Julius Jaenzon, who pretty much shot everything that was anything in Swedish silent cinema. The word inevitably attached to Jaenzon's work is "landscape," which is to say, he and director Mauritz Stiller were masterful at using the forbidding country they lived in to help set the emotional tone of their scenes. When they want you to feel that someone's lonely, they stick him out walking on an icy fjord and by God, he's LONELY.
Also, as we all know, the moving camera as an expressive device (rather than just a way of showing off your fancy set, as in Intolerance) wasn't invented until The Last Laugh in 1924, yet one of the most striking things about this film is the extensive use of the moving camera throughout. Since the moving camera tends to imply the presence of the director and thus to deny the possibility of free will for the characters (which is why it works so well in things like noirs), it's a perfect artistic choice for this story, and one that strongly reinforces the atmosphere of destiny and doom while also keeping our focus on the mental state of characters who remain front and center within the shot, rather than on how they physically move from one place to another within a shot.
A few DVD specific notes: the quality of the early cinematography is very handsome given the quality of 1919-era film stock. The music score is modern in style; I think modern is right to help ensure that the story doesn't come off like Douglas Fairbanks, but I felt that the score did not help the earlier, less effective parts of the film flow, and tended to make the film go in fits and starts. Once the film really kicks into gear, the score is effective. Extras include a short interview with Peter Cowie which quickly sketches some context for the film and Stiller's career. Don't watch it before you watch the film, as it has clips of nearly every significant plot moment."
A stunning Swedish silent adventure
Stephen H. Wood | South San Francisco, CA | 07/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
In 16th Century Sweden in winter, the landscape has snow everwhere. Three men murder all but one person in a farming family, only to discover that there is no escape; the sea is iced over. The three men pretend to be lost woodsmen, one of whom falls in love with the sole survivor of the massacre, a young woman who was hiding behind a wall panel. As time goes on, these two characters grow deeply in love. The man knows the woman is the survivor of the massacre, but the woman does not know the man killed her whole family. What happens when she finds out the truth?
SIR ARNE'S TREASURE is, amazingly, a Swedish silent adventure from 1919. The source material is a novel by Selma Lagerlof, who collaborated on the screenplay with Gustaf Mollander and director Mauritz Stiller. Film scholars may know that Stiller was the man who brought Greta Garbo to Hollywood; the question is open as to whether Louis B. Mayer wanted to hire Stiller or the young Garbo. But never mind that. A decade earlier, Stiller made several interesting Swedish silents (with English intertitles), including SIR ARNE. He also did the restored three hour SAGA OF GOSTA BERLING (1924), which marked Garbo's film debut. These silents are for sale from Kino on Video; rental is iffy, maybe at Netflicks.
If you think silent films are dull and stodgy, you should see the fast and gripping narrative to SIR ARNE. And it looks absolutely gorgeous--winter nightscapes are tinted deep blue, while warm fireglow interiors are rich amber. A town on fire is flaming orange, and wintry dawns are pink. Nothing is in B&W. The stunning cinematographer is Julius Jaenzon. And this 35mm roadshow print from Kino Video has a magnificent, pulsating orchestra score by Matti Bye and Fredrik Emilson.
This is my introduction to the cinema of Mauritz Stiller, and I am very impressed.
A fine example of Scandinavian Silent Cinema
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 06/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1919 silent film is a landmark of the Swedish silent era, being one of director Mauritz Stiller's most famous and highly praised works, and featuring fabulous photography of Scandinavia's wintery landscapes. Visually alone, this film has great impact with its raw scenes of snow and ice, as well as very authentic-looking houses and costumes of the 16th century. The entire story also fits well to the historic setting, having a touch of the supernatural and divine intervention: two things strongly believed in back then. The modern and non-traditional musical score adds to the sometimes eerie and generally chilly, gloomy atmosphere of the entire film, so that viewing it leaves quite an impression. The newly restored print is very high quality and a pleasure to watch; its colour tinting once again adding atmosphere to certain scenes, but apart from these production aspects, the story itself is an unusual, intriguing and a high quality drama - and no wonder, since it is based on a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author, Selma Lagerloef. Sir Arne's treasure is a chest full of silver coins which three mercenary escapees steal after murdering an entire household and setting it on fire. The sole survivor is a young girl who later falls in love with one of the killers whom she does not recognize due to his changed appearance; wearing good clothes bought with the stolen loot. With some supernatural and divine direction justice is done in the end, but not in the way we might expect. The entire story and its presentation have a distinct Scandinavian flavour, and for me, at least, it makes a welcome addition to my silent film collection. Also a welcome addition with this DVD are the two short (10-15 minutes) bonus features "Rediscovering Sweden" about director Mauritz Stiller and the Swedish film industry of the 1910s and early 1920s, and another short overview of "Sir Arne's Treasure", although personally I would have enjoyed a longer and more in-depth documentary. Nevertheless, the information serves as a good introduction and helps to appreciate aspects of this film and Swedish cinema.
A haunting experience
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 09/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although this film starts out a little slowly before finally getting down to the main plot and the main characters, even before things really start rolling, this film can't help but draw one in. All of the ice and snow really create a haunting mood, the perfect backdrop for such a dark depressing haunting melancholy picture. The musical score also really helps with setting the tone.
Three Scottish noblemen are put in prison in Sweden, and eventually escape. At first it seems like we're made to feel sympathetic towards them, but as it turns out, they're all up to no good. Their malintentions culminate in the murder of everyone in the family of the wealthy Sir Arne, all except for Elsalill, a young woman whom Sir Archie, the main villain, falls in love/lust with. Elsalill managed to hide during the massacre, and so doesn't know right away, after Sir Archie and his friends show up again, that these are the same people who murdered her family. Over time, she also grows to have feelings for Sir Archie. Just about everyone has been there and done that, falling in love with the wrong person and entering into a relationship which is a disaster waiting to happen, so it's very easy to feel sympathy for Elsalill and to understand why she wants to protect Sir Archie even after she finally discovers his real identity. All while she is falling love and then finding out his dark secret, the relentless Swedish winter continues, with the Scottish murderers unable to sail home, since the ship they have booked passage on is still frozen in the ice, even though the other ships at port have been able to set sail. This very dark haunting film ends with an absolutely unforgettable final reel, one of the most moving ending scenes of early film."