The Doll (1919)

THE DOLL (1919)
aka Die Puppe
Article 3935 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-15-2012
Posting Date: 5-23-2012
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Featuring Josefine Dora, Victor Janson, Max Kronert
Country: Germany
What it is: Fantasy love story

The timid nephew of a Baron takes refuge in a monastery when his uncle seeks to force the young man into marrying. When the monks discover that the baron is offering a huge dowry to the woman who marries the nephew, they convince the young man to get the money by marrying a life-like automaton created by a doll maker named Hilarius. The nephew marries the automaton, unaware that the doll-maker’s daughter has actually substituted herself for the automaton.

Ernst Lubitsch’s movies don’t venture into the fantastic genres very often; this is only the third one I’ve seen for this series. The other two are considered his two weakest movies by IMDB; this one is easily the best of the bunch. At first I was wondering how much fantastic content there would be; the first description merely talked about the man marrying a doll who wasn’t really a doll, which by itself doesn’t make it qualify, but the elaborateness of the automatons here does push it into science fiction territory. Furthermore, the whole movie is shot in a non-realistic style in much of the same manner as THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI was, though the style is markedly different. The non-realistic approach manifests itself in some interesting ways; the horse-drawn carriage is being drawn by two sets of men in horse suits, and it’s a tribute to how well the movie works that you’re willing to buy into it. There’s also some animation and stop-motion sequences as well. I found the movie highly amusing; Lubitsch does a great job of getting wonderful reactions from his character, and Ossi Oswalda steals the movie in an excellent performance as the girl pretending to be an automaton. This one was delightful.

P.S. Actually, I discovered that I’ve seen two other Lubitsch films for this project, though this one is still towards the top of the list.

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