Sir Arne’s Treasure (1919)

aka Herr Arnes pengar
Article 3213 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-5-2010
Posting Date: 6-1-2010
Directed by Mauritz Stiller
Featuring Mary Johnson, Richard Lund, Axel Nilsson
Country: Sweden
What it is: Tragic drama

Three escaped conspirators murder a vicar and his family and make off with the vicar’s treasure, a chest of silver coins that is reputed to be cursed. However, due to the bitterly cold winter, they are unable to make their escape to Scotland, and are forced to stay in the village of the vicar in disguise. However, when one of the conspirators falls in love with a girl who turns out to be the only survivor of the slaughter at the vicarage, he finds himself torn by remorse.

This is a very effective Swedish silent film about guilt, sacrifice and redemption. It’s been recently restored, though it appears that it’s still about sixteen minutes short of its original running time; I suspect the missing footage has to do with the actually robbery of the vicarage. It’s quite entertaining, if a bit of a downer, but that’s in the realm of what you’d expect from a Swedish movie. The fantastic content is there, if not readily apparent. There’s the curse concerning the treasure, to begin with. There’s also some precognition in the scene where the vicar’s wife see’s visions of their murderers-to-be sharpening the knives. There’s also the ghost of a girl who appears on occasion; it is she who leads the sole survivor to the discovery that the murderers are still present in the village. And then there’s the implication that the reason the ice is frozen in the outlet (which prevents the ship from sailing to Scotland) is a divine message that the killers must be caught and punished.


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