Article 4273 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Robert Wiene
Featuring Gregori Chmara, Henny Porten, Asta Nielsen
What it is: Retelling of the Passion
The story or Jesus Christ is told, with emphasis on the events leading up to the crucifixion.
You know, the idea of the director of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI taking on the story of the Passion of Christ isn’t a bad idea in theory; one could envision what he might do with it. However, those attracted to the movie on this basis will be sorely disappointed; it never approaches the level of audaciousness of his earlier work. This is not to say that the movie doesn’t have a sense of style; it does, but the style is far too similar to the usual ways this story is filmed. At times, it feels like a photographed stage play, and there are scenes where the characters move so slowly and deliberately that I found myself wishing the movie had been recorded at the wrong projection speed so that things would start moving a little faster. Granted, I do have to point out that my copy of the movie had no music and featured title cards in some East European language I couldn’t understand, so I can’t say I saw it under ideal circumstances. Still, it tells a very familiar story, and except for a few short segments of a framing story that were intended to turn the story into anti-Bolshevist propaganda, I found it easy to follow. But even the fact that my version runs only 72 minutes (a good half-hour short of the 102 running time listed on IMDB), I found this one rather tedious.
On a side note, the movie as I saw it qualifies for fantastic cinema in one element only, and that is that there seem to be angels in the opening scene in the manger. The miracles aren’t shown, and the movie ends with death of Christ on the cross, so we don’t have anyone returning to life or ascending to heaven. Granted, if the movie is missing thirty minutes, these scenes might have existed at one point. But if it weren’t for the angels, there would be no fantastic content here, and I’ve never been quite sure whether movies based on stories with fantastic content that have removed that content really qualify as genre. It’s a side issue, but one I’ve run into before.