Hoffmanns Erzahlungen (1916)

aka Tales of Hoffmann
Article 3779 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-7-2011
Posting Date: 12-19-2011
Directed by Richard Oswald
Featuring Kurt Wolowsky, Max Ruhbeck, Paula Ronay
Country: Germany
What it is: Opera anthology

A young man dreams three stories based on experiences in his life.

I’ve seen the Powell/Pressburger version of this movie, which recounts the same three stories as this one does, though the ones here are far less elaborate. All the stories are about lost loves, with the first one in which our hero falls in love with an automaton being the one with the most clear fantastic content. The second story had clear fantastic content in the later version (which involved a magician and a man’s soul being kept in a mirror reflection), but those elements seem to be missing in this one, though that may simply be because, with no English title cards in this version, I may have missed those elements. The third story is about a woman who dances herself to death; in the later version, it is singing that causes the woman to die. I don’t know which way the original opera went on this one, but dancing is certainly a more visually compelling choice for a silent movie. All in all, I thought this early version was quite well done; despite the fact that the title cards are in German, I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble following it because, on top of having at least some familiarity with the language, the movie does work a lot in visual turns. I particularly liked seeing the ways the events in the young man’s life dovetailed with stories in his dreams.

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